An Open Letter to My Advisor

Admittedly, this situation is partially my fault.  More than just partially my fault.

I loved the validation I received from you, even my therapist acknowledged this on multiple occasions.  I fed on praise from you, and from my other professors, because I wasn’t used to it.  I was never a good student until I was a junior in college, and I really began to depend on praise from my professors to keep me going.  I’m not close to my father and he knows near to nothing about me; I’m close to my mother but she’s basically uninvolved and uninterested in my academic life; my friends and boyfriend were also uninvolved in my academic life.  My professors were the only people in my life who cared about such a big part of my life.

My graduate advisor and I had known each other prior to my being assigned under him.  I had taken one of his Indian history courses a year or so before I graduated.  He was the one who really convinced me to go to India.  He told me I’d learn a lot and that it’d be a really, really good experience for me.  I had actually wanted to apply for the Delhi Study Abroad program two years prior, but I always chickened out, even though I had completed over half of the application.  I finally decided to go.

A few nights before my advisor had left to go to Delhi, we had dinner together at a Japanese restaurant down the street from our university.  He walked me back to my car and hugged me, and said he’d see me in Delhi.  We had a really good relationship and we were really comfortable with each other.  Paragraphs-long emails, friendly texting comfortable.  We had dinner together a few times at an Indian restaurant down the street from our university, and I’d spend a fair amount of time in his office after I had finished classes for the day.  We’d talk about history, Hindi, food, anything, and when the sun set we’d realize it was time for us to head home.

When I finally got to Delhi, my advisor was so MIA even though I had two classes with him.  I told him I felt like shit the first three weeks and that my anxiety was acting up, and he knew I had anxiety disorders and still failed to really reach out to me and show me that he cared that I felt like shit.  Basically the rest of the semester was like this.  When I got home for the following semester, I was struggling a lot and I emailed him since, you know, he was my advisor and all, and he sent me a one-line reply simply telling me to set up an appointment with the graduate chair.  I understand that he was still in India on a research sabbatical, but I just needed some encouragement or advice from him…anything.  I felt as though I had done something; why was I suddenly on the back burner?  Why, one year ago, were we emailing and texting each other constantly and grabbing dinner after class when now it was almost as though we were strangers, an advisor and student thrown together based on similar research interests?

I never told him that I withdrew from the program, though I’m sure he was informed by the current graduate chair since I was at one time the graduate chair’s student (I aced his class and he tried to talk me out of withdrawing) and they’re close friends.  I was going to write him a detailed email as to why I decided to withdraw, but I never sent it because the thought of him reading it and just saying “okay, best wishes” hurt.  Maybe I’m too emotional, sure, but I really needed my advisor for that year of my life and he was not there.  We saw each other almost every day of the school week while we were in Delhi and he acted like he hadn’t met me before.  We had lunch with my roommate (also a student from our uni studying abroad with me) and Thanksgiving dinner at a colleague’s house, but that was the extent of our friendly interactions.  I don’t know why he suddenly decided to do that to me (sorry for sounding overly dramatic).  A friend of mine who is also on friendly terms with him suggested that it may have been because he had a girlfriend while we were in Delhi and that she may have played a role in the lack of our communication.  A fried of mine also informed me that my advisor’s girlfriend is “psycho” (his friend dated her for a while).  Either way, it irked me to no end that someone who encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree and who encouraged me to study abroad now acted like I was just some student in class.  All of our inside jokes were gone, all of our conversations about growing up and life stories had disappeared.  I just went to class and did what he asked of me, and that was that.  Even when I tried to be lighthearted in my emails to him, I got nothing.

I don’t know why I’m so angry, but I am.  And I’m mad that he’s back home and suddenly liking my things on Facebook like he used to last summer.  He hasn’t asked me about school, either.  I’m just…hurt and confused.

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C

While I was in India, a friend of ours killed herself.  We weren’t close friends, but still friends.  Her husband used to tell us that we were his favorite couple, and I’d tell them they were pretty much couple goals.  

I had a huge girl crush on her.  She reminded me a lot of Tegan Quin (physically).  She was really funny and always had something outrageous to say.  She was an artist and their walls were covered in her canvases.  The first time I met her was at Aloha Tower, at a rave.  I saw my boyfriend talking to her and at first, I was like “who is that girl?!” but when she turned around my heart jumped out of my chest.  A few weeks later we went to their house for a party.  

She was like me in that we both suffered from anxiety disorders and depression.  She had a few other things that I didn’t have on top of those things.  Once when I was having a hard time, she told me that she had recently gotten into Buddhist meditation and that it really helped her.  Reciting mantras would calm her.  I never tried it.  

She killed herself a few weeks after Diwali.  A few weeks after the holiday she messaged me and asked if I could buy her prayer beads from India and that she’d pay me back.  I said she didn’t need to.  I bought her saffron beads from Majnu ka Tila.  Less than a week later I woke up to messages (Hawaii and Delhi are 15.5 hours apart) telling me she’d killed herself.  It felt surreal because just a few days before, she had asked me for those beads, and the beads I purchased for her were sitting right on my nightstand.  I had to go to class that day and I felt fine all day, but when I came home I reread the messages and just cried on the edge of my bed. The sense of loss I felt didn’t feel justified, and my other friend just told me that a loss of anyone you like feels that way.  Especially in the way it happened with her.  

We weren’t that close but it still hit me really hard.  She was a really great person, but I know too that unhappy people are often times really outgoing and funny.  All of my friends who tried to kill themselevs are like that.  They laugh a lot and make a lot of jokes, they never take things seriously, they’re extremely witty.  I’m like that and I wanted to kill myself for a long time.  

She passed away in November.  Her birthday was last week and her husband posted a photo of a birthday cake for her on instagram and it made me feel sad again.  It’s hard to articulate how seeing photos of her feels.  Her funeral was very her.  At the door you were greeted by a life-size cutout of her scrunching her face and posing funny, and each person, along with a program, received a cutout of her face as a mask.  The videos looping throughout her service were of her dancing or irritating her pets, but mostly dancing.  That’s the hardest I’ve cried at a funeral, but it’s also the most I’ve ever laughed at one.  She was really beautiful both inside and out.  

I’m a Lover, Not a Fighter

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post or two, this semester was extremely difficult for me.  I cut back my hours at work a bit, working twenty-four hours per week while taking nine credits at school (the minimum load for graduate students at my University is eight credits).  Still, this did not seem like enough.

I spent my entire weekend studying and doing my readings, only to get to class armed with my notes and not fully comprehend what I had read, despite how many times I had gone over it.  Seminars aren’t my favorite, and all of my classes this semester were seminars.  I had two in Museum Studies — “Museums and Education” and “Public History and Commemoration” — and a World History research seminar (my field is WH).  My Museum Studies classes were problematic because I had no experience with Museum Studies prior to registering for these courses; my advisor had recommended I take those classes in order to get a feel of the department and program, and to apply for my University’s Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies, offered through the American Studies department, if I felt it was appropriate.  My WH research seminar was something totally different.  There was only one other student enrolled for the course, so there was never a class session where I was not put on the spot.  I can’t speak on the spot; I realize this is something expected of me in graduate school, but I really like to have time to mull things over.  I did not have that privilege in that class, so I always left wanting to cry.  In fact, I left class almost every day wanting to cry.  Between January and mid-March I was pretty much just having a mental breakdown.  My official academic advisor was gone as he was in India on a research sabbatical, and my undergraduate history advisor was also gone, as she  had obtained a year-long fellowship in California.  I ended up talking to one of my past professors from the Religion department (my BAs are in History and Religion), and as I spoke to him choking back tears — visibly — he just said, “Can I ask you something?  If you already have a job you like, why are you in graduate school?  Most graduate students aren’t in the same boat as you, and they’re in school to get a job they like.  But you already have that.  So why are you in school right now?”  He didn’t mean that in a mean way, as to question my intentions.  He knew that I had been working at my credit union for over five years and that I loved working there.  I just said, “I don’t know.”  He said his door was always open if I needed to talk.

His comment has stuck with me since then.

In May, I quit my job.  My position was “Office Assistant.”  Basically, I was hired in because my mom was the Teller Supervisor at the time (she’s now the Branch Manager) and she has a good rapport with the President, and she’s known to be an extremely good worker — starts work early and leaves late, comes in when she’s sick, very strict with attendance and balancing, etc.  At the time,  I had just quit my job at a crack seed store at my local mall (if you don’t live in Hawai’i or don’t know what it is in general, crack seed is dried plums, cherries, lemons, etc.; despite working there, I’m very bad at explaining this).  The President asked my mom to extend a job to me, and I took it.  I first started out in Marketing but was later moved to the Loan department when they needed a receptionist.  I was in the Loan department for four years.  During my summer and winter breaks, I would adopt full time hours just to make some extra money.  During these times, I would help other departments every other day, like Accounting, HR/Admin, and mostly New Accounts.  Last year in May, I was sent down to New Accounts permanently until I left for India because they needed help.  I hated it.

As a student, I really love learning, and I wasn’t learning anything in New Accounts.  I was scanning for eight hours straight and they didn’t trust me enough to do actual meaningful work, like opening accounts, address changes, etc. (i.e., the help they actually needed).  Eventually I left for India and came back right before Christmas.  I asked the HR VP if I could go back to Loans, and she arranged for me to work half the week in Loans and half the week in New Accounts.  Since I was a part timer, I was administratively under Admin, not Loans, so she had the final say about my scheduling.  She felt New Accounts needed the help, so that’s just where I had to go.

In addition to hating the “bullshit” work I was doing down there,  I also didn’t get along with the supervisor.  The supervisor of that department is close to my mother, and she has made negative comments to my own mother about me (in 2015 a guy worked in her department that she couldn’t stand; we were close, and at one point she said to my own mother, “She has a boyfriend, right?  Because people are, you know, starting to talk about her and C”).  My mother was obviously outraged, but my mom is very good at keeping her personal and work lives separate, and I admire that about her.  I actually would have been upset and more embarrassed had my mom taken it upon herself to say something to that supervisor or any of the other managers.  Anyway, she made that comment about me and I just know she does not like me.  It’s understandable, because I am also indifferent about her.  I’m the kind of person where I either really like you or I’m indifferent; there was just no interaction, no quality about her that made me like her.  I may just be thinking this, but I think her indifference, probable dislike for me comes from that fact: I’m close to a lot of people around her, but unlike the rest of her staff who treat her like a mother, I just interact with her when work requires me to.  I can go the entire day without saying more than “Good morning” and “Bye, have a good evening” to her.

In May I asked the HR VP if I could adopt my full time summer hours.  She said okay.  I then asked, nervously, if there was any chance I could go back to Loans.  She said, verbatim, “I’m sorry, but with the way staffing is, that isn’t your decision to make.”  I said I knew that and that I was just asking, not demanding, but she just repeated, “It isn’t your decision to make” and walked away.  I was upset and insulted.  Why would she think I thought it was my decision to make?  I would never harbor that kind of entitlement toward a company that had done so much for me.  And on top of that, I just felt that the tone in which she spoke was completely inappropriate for a Vice President of Human Resources.  The straw that broke the camel’s back that day was when she went into the lunch room and told my manager, in front of another manager, a mortgage officer, a mortgage assistant, a teller, and a loan officer — my manager being the only relevant person in there — that I had requested full time hours, but only in Loans.  I felt that that was an inappropriate environment for such a discussion.  I quit the next day.

The week of my last day, the mortgage officer that was sitting in the lunch room the day the HR VP talked to my manager about my hours came to me and asked me why I was quitting.  He said, “I heard her say that you wanted more hours, and then a few days later your memo came out, saying you were leaving.  Why?”  I just shrugged at him with a grin and said I didn’t know.

In March I had acquired an internship at a local National Park Service monument.  Since quitting my job, I’ve been going there about twenty hours a week.  I really like the people with whom I work, and I enjoy the work I do there, but I’ve still really missed my old coworkers.  I’ve seen them regularly at things like Trivia Night, dinners, and just when I’ve stopped by.  I also can’t see myself getting used to the structure at the Park.  It’s the opposite of micromanaging, just as my boss said, but there’s too much freedom for me.  I don’t really ever need to be in the office except when students from contact schools are visiting; other than that, my work can be done from home.  I just choose to physically be in the office every day to make sure I get my work done.  At my old job, I worked a strict 8:00 – 4:15 day with a set lunch and no work to take home.  I knew what I was supposed to be doing every minute of the day, and if I ran out of work at the moment, I knew more would always come.  At the Park, once I’m done, I’m really done for the day.  I don’t like that feeling.  My boss at my internship entrusted me with a lot of things, and I’m extremely grateful, but I was told by the coworker whose position I’m prime to fill, that the position is classified as “Temporary,” meaning it ranges from one to five years.  Five years, especially as a maximum, will come and go quickly.  It also rubs me the wrong way a bit that I was promised a paycheck by the end of April.  It’s July and I still haven’t been paid once.  The experience there is more important to me than the money, but considering I haven’t received a paycheck in over six weeks, this is a major issue now.

About two weeks ago, a mortgage officer from my old work place, with whom I am close, asked me if I would come back to the company if I knew I would be permanently placed in Loans and never sent out to another department to help like I used to.  I thought he was joking because earlier in the night, the President, from across the table at which we were sitting, said to him, “It’s your job to get her to come back!” and I just smiled.  That same night, my old manager asked me, “Why didn’t you like New Accounts?” I just said, “It isn’t that I didn’t like it…” and he said, “No.  Don’t give me an amiable answer.  Be honest with me.”  I said, “Well, I wasn’t fan of being there,” to which he chuckled and said, “That’s still an amiable answer.  Be honest: if you hadn’t been sent downstairs to work with them, would you still be upstairs with us?” and I just rolled my eyes, smiled, and nodded.  He said okay and walked away.  The week prior, the President pulled me to the side and said, “Let me know whenever you want to come back.  We like you.  If you get bored there, let us know and we’ll be glad to have you back.”  I thought he was being playful.  He wasn’t.

A week ago I had lunch with the mortgage officer, and he said, “We all knew you didn’t want to leave.  We knew something must have happened since you left so abruptly, but that you just weren’t telling us.  I had a hunch that we pushed you out, and that’s why you left.  I told [the President and our manager] that, and they said ‘We believe you, now it’s your job to get her to come back.'”  I fought it until he had me in a corner, and I finally told him everything about why I quit: the boring work downstairs, the feeling of my brain rotting, and the conversation I had with the HR VP (I omitted my beef with the New Accounts supervisor only because I feel this is now a personal thing, not a work thing).  At the end of our lunch, he said that he, our manager, and the President agreed that they wanted me to come back and at a different capacity (a promotion), and that if I did come back, I would permanently hold a Loans position, which would transition to consumer or home lending when I felt I was ready.  I would be under the management only of our Loan manager, and HR would no longer have a say in my scheduling.  I agreed immediately.  At the lunch, when he proposed this, my professors voice rang in my head: “If you like your job, why are you in school?

I loved working there and I loved nearly everyone I worked with, save a handful of people.  There was never a day I didn’t want to go to work (okay, save those days in New Accounts).  The company had done so much for me and I really never wanted to leave in the first place.  I quit because I was unhappy, and I wanted to quit before I really began to hate the company.

When everyone asked why I never said anything, I just said I didn’t want to say anything that would reflect negatively on another department (turns out, another supervisor’s daughter is working in that department for the summer and said the exact same things as I had).  HR also questioned my mom and manager, asking if I was being forced back.  My mom had no idea what was happening since she doesn’t meddle in my work life, as I am her coworker more than her daughter at work, and my manager retorted, “No, she is not being forced.  She is an adult and we gave her options, and we told her to make her own decision after hearing what we needed to say.”  Apparently, my manager was not happy about such an accusation…

As a result of this, I’ve decided to take an indefinite break from school.  To be honest, I was in graduate school out of obligation.  I felt like I needed to be there because I knew I couldn’t do anything with a BA in Religion or in History.  I felt like I needed to be there because my advisors expected me to be there.  I felt like I needed to be there because I had broken out of my shell and gone to India.  I felt liked I needed to be there because my mom wanted me to be there.  In order to succeed in graduate school, especially in a field like Humanities, you need to be passionate and clearly driven — I am only one of these things.  I love my area of study.  I get so giddy talking about history, but I’ve lost my direction.  My proposals for my thesis have been shot down by my professors, saying they’ve been too general.  August would be the start of my second year, the generally expected date of completion for my MA.  I’m not even close.  I don’t even have a topic.  I was already shutting down between January and March.  I don’t want to keep taking out loans for almost $20,000 a year for schooling I feel I need but am fumbling through.  I love school and school has shaped a large part of who I am.  If it weren’t for my graduate program, I would have never gone to India.  But thinking about my thesis gives me this odd feeling, as if I were sitting in a dim root, lit only by a dull lamp with a crooked light shade, as the walls cave in.  Graduate school is done out of passion, not obligation.  I’ll return when and if I’m ready.

As for now, I’m ready to work and learn about loan processing, then slowly move on to decisioning and lending.  My manager chuckled when I said I would be happy to come back because I really like the company and people.  He added, “…and because it’s safe.”  It is, I won’t deny that.  On of my major personality flaws is that I’m always looking for confirmation, a guarantee, definite answers.  The credit union is a safe place:  I know I like the company and the way it works; I know I like my coworkers — Hell, I love them more than I love some of my own family; I know what I’m supposed to be doing every minute of the day; I know I can’t lose my job unless I embezzle money or make a huge mistake.  People applaud me for taking a huge step out of my comfort zone by going to a foreign country for almost half a year and living with a family I’d never met, but that’s different.  I’m tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck because I need to dedicate so much time to my studies while also trying to pay for my phone, car, credit card, food, and other miscellaneous things.  I think traveling and a job are different.  Maybe I’m rationalizing.  But even if I did complete my MA and graduate certificate, who’s to say  I would get a job in my field?  I would probably need to leave Hawai’i, that’s almost guaranteed, but what if I don’t get a job right away and my student loan repayment begins on top of all of my other financial obligations?  What if I do get a job but it isn’t anything that I had prepared for in school?  What if I do end up in a museum, but I feel unfulfilled and burnt out from the creativity needed that I can’t produce?  At this moment in my life, graduate school is a series of “what ifs” while this job is a stable income, a company I like, a job I know I’ll do well, and almost a hundred people I love.

It’s embarrassing to me that I couldn’t pull through this, but I know I can’t force a thesis.  My professors have told me I cannot do this.  I know I cannot do that.  Since my job is a set 40-hour-a-week schedule, Monday – Friday, I know I’l always have time after work and on the weekends to start research and to start thinking about my thesis.  My professors know me well, and they know that although I love academia, I’m also finicky and need approval, and that I’m hard on myself.  I imagine they will be disappointed but not surprised, but will expect that I will continue to do research outside of my program.  I don’t feel like a failure exactly, though I am disappointed that I couldn’t finish this the way I expected to.  Working in the Loan department for five years has also taught me, though, that loans snowball and two more years at $10,000 per semester will be a huge burden in a few years, especially if I don’t have a sufficient income shortly after I graduate.  I am taking the safe route and I know this.  But I’m willing to sacrifice adventure for safety that I know and love.  Fighting for something I’m unsure about is tiring and terrifying, and for now, I just want to do things at my own pace and to give myself time to figure out what I really want.

 

My Beef with “Fitspo” and the World of Exercise in General

As someone who has recovered (or is still recovering?) from an eating disorder, it’s infuriating for me to see these accounts on Instagram (under “Explore,” which suggests accounts for you) that sometimes showcase inspirational, transformative people who have overcome anorexia and/or bulimia and have become these really fit, healthy people.  They went from restrictive eating and/or binging and purging and intense cardio to lifting weights and increased calories, gaining twenty or thirty pounds in the process.  Sure, that’s great and I’m glad they no longer deprive themselves of food, but it’s also still problematic.  Here’s why:

Eating disorders do not only come in the form of restrictive eating.  Yes, it may be called an eating disorder, but eating disorders don’t only affect a person’s eating; an eating disorder is something that may affect every aspect of the person’s life.  An eating disorder doesn’t stop at the dinner table — it’s an entire lifestyle.  As someone who was bulimic for over five years, it is a lifestyle.  Mine started off as purging only what I deemed unhealthy (i.e., french fries, chips, baked goods, ice cream, etc.) and slowly progressed to purging anything that made me feel “overly full,” even if it was something like salad.  Eventually this escalated to purging almost anything, and I was purging about three times a day, at the least.  Family lunches and dinners around the holidays were especially stressful, coming from a Japanese family in Hawaii where almost everything is eaten with rice, and I couldn’t dismiss myself from our traditional New Year’s whole roasted pig, so I had to eat my fill and run off to the restroom immediately after.  Going out to eat at restaurants was a whole different monster as I would either need to make a meal out of an appetizer or force myself to only eat a quarter of my dish as to avoid needing to purge in public.  Sometimes I failed, and there were many times I had to try to hide the fact that I was indeed throwing up in the stall next to someone just trying to use the restroom like a normal person.  I got very good at being quiet, but it’s obvious you aren’t using the restroom when your feet are facing the toilet.  It becomes a lifestyle.  An eating disorder disallows you from freely enjoying food anywhere — work, school, home, out in public.  And as someone who loves to eat and who loves the culinary artistry, what is life without food?

I thought exercise would be something to cure my eating disorder.  “Okay, if I just exercise regularly, it’ll counteract the food I eat.”  Well, I was still restrictive and I wouldn’t allow myself to eat rice, noodles, chips, french fries, bread, peanut butter, etc.  Basically, all of my favorite foods.  On the days I did eat those things, I would either purge or force myself to go for a run.  I was running a minimum of four times a week and if I missed a morning run before school, I was fighting tears.  I also started a regiment of obsessively-counted squats, sit-ups, reverse crunches, leg lifts, etc.  I was sometimes late for school because of these.  The thing I thought would off-set my eating disorder and make me better was only a new addition to it which further complicated my relationship with myself.

I graduated college in 2016 and that was a very intense semester for me.  I was working 25 hours a week while taking fifteen credits, including my Senior Thesis and a non-introductory foreign language (Hindi).  The research for my thesis took up a lot of my time in addition to that professor’s regularly weekly readings of a minimum of 60 – 70 pages of really dry (yet interesting) court and other legal documents regarding the Nuremberg Trials and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and related war crimes.  I had very little time for exercise but I was also determined to not fall off the wagon again (by this time I had gone about two or three months without purging).  I had also just completed my second marathon, so I was still in relatively good shape since I had spent the last six months of my life training.  By the time I graduated in May, I had gained almost fifteen pounds.  I was terrified of gaining more weight when I went to India in the Fall, but I managed to keep my purging to a bare minimum (maybe two or three times a month, down from three times a day) and I started running again during the summer.

As I prepared to leave for India, I needed a few medical clearances.  One form asked if I had received mental health counseling in the last two years, which I had.  I had to disclose to my University and academic advisor (who also happened to be the Resident Director for the particular Study Abroad Program) that I had multiple anxiety disorders.  No big deal, besides it being a little embarrassing.  Another form asked if I had ever been treated for an eating disorder.  My PCP was the person filling this form out, so he checked “no” because he didn’t know I had also been talking to my psychiatrist about an eating disorder.  I kept mum and went to India.

I lost about seven pounds within my first month there, which I’m attributing to the food there being way fresher than the food I eat at home, and most of it being vegetarian.  About a month after I arrived, my host family’s son took me to his gym and I signed up for a three-month term.  I started going twice or thrice a week, and eventually I would do my laundry accordingly, so I could go as often as possible.  Around October, I began going to the gym for up to three, almost four hours at a time.  I wouldn’t leave before I had hit two hours.  Even the gym personnel would suggest it was time for me to go home, but I would insist that I was fine and had the time and energy for two, three more rounds of circuit training, plus exercise classes (kick boxing, aerobic dance, power yoga).  This was then paired with re-introduced restrictive eating, and eventually, purging.  If I  felt I had overindulged at dinner and eaten one too many one-cup bowls of daal, I would run upstairs to purge, because in my head, one extra cup of daal undid three hours at the gym.  My friend, with whom I had all of my classes and  would catch the metro daily, would also tell me I was looking thinner and thinner and that I should probably cut back on the gym.  I said I was fine, but he said, “I exercise just as much as you in the morning, but I also eat more than you.  You’re looking thin and pale, please eat more.”  I don’t think eating disorders are as big of a problem in India, or that is not the impression I got.  I realized I was getting sick again, but I loved how I was starting to look after picking up almost fifteen pounds over five months.  By the end of my gym membership, I was back down to about one-hundred and six pounds and I loved how my body looked.  My three-month term was up and I didn’t want to pay for another three-month term when I would leave in a month, so my restrictive eating came back full force and if I had a roti at school for lunch, I couldn’t have any at home for dinner; if I did, I needed to purge it.  I was like this up until I  left.

When I came home, I was determined to stop.  I would exercise more and just let my body take its course.  My second semester of graduate school was even more stressful than my last semester as an undergraduate; the work load wasn’t as bad, but I wasn’t comprehending my work.  I spent just as much time just reading, re-reading, re-reading, and re-reading, and I took a break from exercising for pretty much the entire semester.  Miraculously, I was able to stick to my guns and I just told myself, repeatedly, and sometimes it was unfathomably difficult, that the anxiety about eating, the pain of throwing up when there’s nothing left in my stomach, burning my throat, depriving myself of nutrients, stressing myself out over something so trivial, was not worth it.  Whenever I would get the urge to purge, I would remind myself that I always wanted to cry while I was doing it.  When I wanted to binge, I would remind myself that the feeling of not “doing it well enough” felt worse than not eating to begin with.  I slipped up a couple times, but since I came back, I would say I’ve purged less than five times over almost seven months.  That’s impressive.  I still combat with the “need” to run.  I registered for the Honolulu Marathon again, so I do need to train, but I try not to be motivated by the need to burn calories.

I never got proper treatment for my eating disorder.  I tried, but the program I found here, even with insurance, would cost me almost three hundred dollars a week.  I couldn’t handle that financially, and I could not ask my parents as I had never told them I had an eating disorder to begin with (I come from a very mentally strong family of mostly women, so this would be mind-blowing to them).  I would have to attend every single day, and to be quite honest, I was put-off by what I perceived as force feeding (though I understand): each meal would include protein, starch/carbs, a caloric drink like soda or juice, and a dessert.  I couldn’t stand the thought of carbs, sugary drinks, and dessert, in addition to paying three hundred a week for it.  I knew it would help despite how uncomfortable it would make me, but I never followed up with the woman I spoke to.  My psychiatrist also said he was not qualified to treat eating disorders but that he would do his best.  I was extremely lucky and between the two of us, we were able to figure this out.  Very few people around me know about this.  I told my two best friends I had an eating disorder, and that was back in 2012.  I told my fiance the same thing, so they all think it stopped years ago, not a few months ago. I don’t think I’ve purged in about four months, which is probably a record for me.

Now I don’t know how much I weigh because I don’t check every day like I used to.  Sometimes I gasp at the doctor’s office and think the scale must be wrong, but there are things much worse than weighing almost one-hundred and fifteen pounds.  I still fit most of my clothes, save a few pairs of needlessly tight jeans.  I still feel guilt pangs when I eat a bagel or when I miss a run to watch something on Netflix, but it doesn’t drive me to the toilet, throwing up a scoop of rice and an egg.  I just tell myself, “Oh well, you won’t gain five pounds overnight.”  I still stress out about eating out too many times in a week, but I can control it.

In short, exercise and “gains” are not immediate cures for eating disorders in my eyes.  To me, exercise can serve as a new mask for an eating disorder.  All it is is a more active form of an eating disorder, one that parades around with the facade of healthiness and fitness, but underneath is fueled by the fear of gaining weight or gaining back weight.  Whenever I see those types of Instagram accounts, I question if the person can miss workouts during the week without feeling that really disgusting, turning feeling in their stomach telling them they’ve done something terrible, that missing a workout said something about their character and worthiness as a person.  I would not say I’ve completely recovered.  As I said, I still experience feelings of fear and guilt, just to a far, far, far lesser extent.  I don’t think someone ever really fully recovers from an eating disorder, but that may just be my opinion.  I think it’s extremely difficult to un-do that kind of thinking.  As I had also mentioned earlier, an eating disorder is an entire lifestyle, so it cannot be easily undone, or even with much difficultly.  Feelings that a person experienced during the eating disorder may still linger, just not as strongly.  I pity anyone who has ever gone through this.  There is a lot of strength in overcoming it, but that strength had to come from a bad place to begin with.  Nothing is worth the suffering an eating disorder brings.  I thought it was worth it because I was constantly complimented on my looks, and  I relished when it came from people who called me fat in high school.  It was a false ego boost and  I was far more insecure when I was a hundred pounds than I am now at probably one-fifteen.  An eating disorder needs to be treated with therapy, in my opinion.  An ED-affected person needs to have the workings of their mind changed, not their eating and exercise habits — a change in eating and exercising don’t come close enough.

 

Happy Belated Father’s Day

As a child, we were extremely close.  You’d take me fishing in the harbor behind the Ilikai.  Once when we went fishing, I was playing too close to the ledge and despite your scoldings, I liked to play by the ledge, hovering just above the water.  I slipped once and you caught me by one belt loop, keeping me from falling in.  Every weekend you would take me to Fun Factory and I’d burn through all of your money playing those crane machines, which, to this day, I still love and play whenever I have loose change.  In elementary you were always the one who would come to my after school performances for A-Plus, and you would aways show up at my May Day performances while mom had to work.

When I was in middle school you changed your work schedule so you could pick me up from school every day.  You also got me my first cell phone while I was in seventh grade so I could contact you in case something happened.  We stopped going fishing and to Fun Factory, but you would buy me whatever I wanted, though within reason.

In high school, as through elementary and middle school, you would always buy me a rose for both Valentine’s Day and Girl’s Day.  You were nice to my boyfriend when you met him, and you both came with me the day  I had to pick up my prom dress.  You bought both of my prom dresses for me.  After I had convinced mom to let me enroll in Driver’s Ed, which was a difficult feat, you were the one who taught me how to drive because we drove each other nuts while I was driving and you also paid for it.

When I got caught with a boy in my closet when I was fifteen, mom kicked me out of her house and made me live with you since grandma and grandpa lived with you and there would be more “structure” at your house.  A week or two after I was kicked out, I crawled out of my bedroom window and ran to the bus stop to meet my friends to go to a Chiodos concert.  I got caught just as I was about to get back to my room, and you just said, “Fuck you,” and made mom drive all the way to your house the next morning because you didn’t want to discipline me.  A few weeks later I skipped school and you found out because I carelessly left the receipt on my desk.  You just said you found it, got mad, and avoided disciplining me because you neither wanted to discipline me nor call mom again.

After I started dating my now fiancé, you hated him right off the bat because he is older than me.  Eleven years is a stretch, but we get along so well and he treats me well.  We treat each other well.  At first, you refused to meet him and kept talking about how a man interested in a woman eleven years his junior is sick.  Did you forget you tried to date someone well over eleven years younger than you?

Your wife worked with someone who knew my fiancé and according to everyone around us, she liked to “talk” and had a big mouth.  For God knows why, she said my fiancé sold drugs and you ran an ultra marathon with it.  Nobody believed you, not even your parents — my grandparents — and they just told me to ignore you because you were being “crazy.”  You confiscated my car and made me sign the title after I had forgotten to get the safety check.  I was the one who did drugs and I was the one who left that empty roll bag in my car, but you assumed it was my drug dealer boyfriend, so you went off and called mom.  She argued with you and said I needed to make my own mistakes.  If I got caught with an expired safety check, I needed to eat the ticket.  If I got caught rolling, I needed to deal with it.  I was 18, and I was an adult.  She yelled at you and accused you of forgetting you had a daughter when you got remarried.  I was always the center of mom’s world, even after she got remarried, but your wife did take precedent over me.  And you did become more distant and “crazy” after you got remarried.  Mom told you that, if your wife was so important to you and if you thought I was such a lazy person who made bad decisions, and that your love for me was conditional, to remove yourself from my life completely.  I agreed with her.

After mom yelled at you, you needed to talk to me.  You sat me down and asked me if I was sleeping with my boyfriend for drugs.  I was taken aback and just stared at you.  I said, “…what?” and you just repeated your question.  I said “No” and stormed off.  What kind of father asks their daughter that kind of question?

I told my boyfriend to stop.  I commanded him to stop trying to get you to like him because he didn’t deserve the abuse he got from you.  Why should he try to get you to like him after you told everyone around us that he sold drugs?  But he was persistent because he said it was important that you and he at least be on good terms since he really loved me and couldn’t have his girlfriend’s father hating him.  I just said, “whatever, good luck.  I don’t care about him.”

Over the next few years we saw each other on holidays and birthdays, and that’s about it.  You would always say, “I’ll call you for lunch” and you never did, yet you would complain to grandma and grandpa that I never saw you, that I never made time for my family.  I did, just not you.  I saw mom every day since we worked together, and I always spent at least one weekend day with her.  If I didn’t call her first, she would call me.  You never did.  Instead, you helped your wife at the bakery, did things for and with her nieces and nephews, and never called, but would tell your family I never saw you.  I tell them it’s because you never call.  My cousins would always ask if I was coming to the annual family reunion in Vegas.  I know you go, but I’ve never even had the opportunity to go since I don’t know when it since as you do not and never have told me.

Your wife is a whole other issue.  The first day we met, it was fine.  But after that, she came on too strong.  My stepdad had a stepmom so he knew how it was.  He never tried to raise me and he never told mom what he thought she should do in terms of her parenting of me.  But she, on the other hand, always gave her opinion about everything, she believed her employee and said that my boyfriend sold drugs before ever even meeting him.  Her birthday one year fell on Mother’s Day so I didn’t tell her happy birthday because I was with my mother.  You called, angry, and asked profusely why I did not wish your wife a happy birthday.  I said I was with mom, and you said, “That isn’t how I raised you.  You should have called to tell her happy birthday.  This is so embarrassing for me.”  I couldn’t have cared less about your wife’s birthday, it was Mother’s Day and I dedicated that entire day to my mother.  A year or two later you then had the audacity to insinuate that you and your wife wanted me to call her “mom.”  I flat out said no, and then you suggested I call her “aunty.”  I’ve never called her anything but her first name because that is who she is to me.  I call my stepdad by his first name and he has never cared.  I think your wife thought she was getting a family with you and me; it’s unfortunate that she biologically cannot have children, but she came on way too strong and is two-faced, and that is not how you gain a “daughter.”  She also made you stop talking to one of your oldest friends because in middle school — what, some thirty years ago? — you dumped your wife for her.  Even your ex-friend tells me, “That was so long ago, we were in middle school.  Who cares?  He’s remarried and I’m remarried and have a daughter.  I just want my friend back.”  I cannot fathom why she even still cares about you.  I went to her stepdaughter’s graduation party since we were in the same classes, and have known each other since we were six years old, and I never told you I saw her.  That was last summer.

Quite honestly, the biggest reason behind me not being able to stand you is what you said about my mother.  After your argument with her and your continued arguing with me about my boyfriend and our age difference, you asked me how mom felt about him.  I said, “She was cordial to him from day one.  She likes him and my aunty and cousin like him.   It’s you.”  To which you said, “Well your mother is like that.  You know why we got divorced right?  She cheated on me.”  I’ve known that mom cheated on you since I was in middle school.  She told me herself.  Yet you felt that you needed to air your dirty laundry to me, out of spite, because you were upset with the both of us.  I don’t care that she cheated on you.  I remember the both of you fighting when I was little, it was better for you two to be apart.  You had a good relationship post-divorce until you confiscated my car and told me that I was lazy, irresponsible, and a poor-decision maker, and she defended me.  She ripped your head off because you ripped off mine, to her.

You said I was lazy, irresponsible, and so, so spoiled.  Who made me spoiled?  You gave me everything I asked for and bought me whatever I wanted, yet you got mad at me for being spoiled at eighteen years old.  Mom was the one who disciplined me.  She signed all of my failing reports from school, she signed my poor report cards, she got the phone calls about me not being in class, she found the boy in my closet, she found the cigarettes in my bag, she found out I was doing ecstasy.  She never talked to me in the way you did.  She dealt with my poor behavior all throughout high school since I lived with her and you got the “good” parts of me.  Yet you had the nerve to tell the both of us how horrible I was, how difficult it was to be my parent, when she dealt with it more than you did.  You then had the nerve to tell me that mom didn’t love me because she told me to move out of the house when I was twenty-four or to start paying rent.  She made that rule so I wouldn’t end up living at home until I was forty years old like everyone else in Hawaii.  You also insinuated that mom probably did not care about me as much now since she had a younger child.  What kind of parent says that?  I was almost sixteen when my brother was born, so I obviously understood how the family dynamic would change.  He gets more attention because he is a child and I have never felt less loved by mom.  Our needs are different — he needs more attention, all I need from mom is lunch and conversation.  Is that your guilty conscience projecting?

Mom loved me through every single bad thing I did, and you stopped when you realized I would do things you didn’t always agree with.  She put up with my mistakes, you never did.  You condemned me for them but she always scolded me but said, “you need to learn from your own mistakes.”  You tried to enable me, she tried to help me.  She has helped me.

I love my mother more than anything.  I cannot go a day without thinking about her, and I tell her I love her every single time I see her or when we speak on the phone.  I see her at least once a week and spend an entire day with her.  I cried when I was in India because my host mother was so kind and loving, but she was not my mother.  I cannot imagine what I will do the day my mother dies.  She told me that when her mom died when she was twenty-nine, she felt like her world ended and like she was utterly lost, and that she couldn’t imagine things ever getting better.  That’s how I feel when I think about her dying.  When I think about you dying, I think about just not seeing you at grandma’s house for the holidays.  It isn’t much different than it is now.  I’m never happy to see you.  I’m either irritated or indifferent.  I love my mother with all my heart.  As a child I thought I loved you more because you never yelled at me or hit me (like a parent hits a child, not abusively), but she loved me through every bad thing I did.  As I grew older I realized how much I put her through and how much she loved me despite all of my mistakes and imperfections, and I love her more every day for that.  I cannot put into words how much I love my mother.  When my anxiety and depression were really bad and I constantly thought about killing myself, it was the thought of her and my brother that kept me from it.  I could not cheat myself out of time with her and my brother.  You never once crossed my mind.

I’m getting married next year and I do not want you there.  I need to invite you out of obligation, but you will not walk me down the aisle.  If we go through with getting married in Seattle at my cousin’s house, one of my best friends will do it.  If I get married here, I will ask my past coworker with whom I am incredibly close.  It is not to punish you, it is because I do not want to make my own wedding day uncomfortable by including you out of obligation.  You haven’t wanted to be part of my life for easily five years now, and now I do not want you in it at all.  Remember, losing your relationship with me means losing your relationship with your only child.  Losing my relationship with you means I have more time to dedicate to my mother and less stress about feigning happiness to see you.  You lose more than I do.  Even now, my fiancé constantly tells me I need to patch things up with you because I will regret it if I don’t.  See how he still considers you while you could not care less about him?  Yes, I am spiteful and I am petty, but this is something different.  It isn’t like you forgot my birthday so I happened to “forget” yours, you spread rumors about my boyfriend, you made me the black sheep of your side of the family, you said nasty things about my mother to my face, you accused me of sleeping with someone for drugs, you let your wife turn you into a robot.  Who in their right mind would want to fix a relationship like this?

Happy Father’s Day again.  I said it to you on Father’s Day at grandma’s house but you probably didn’t process it as you were watching baseball the entire time while I talked to your brother and sister-in-law since they had actual questions about my work, school, time in India, etc. and said all about three words to me.  You had one daughter — one child — and you seem to have forgotten that a bit.

History, New Orleans, and World War II

The semester is almost done!  I couldn’t be happier.  Tomorrow I’m turning in my final paper for my World History Research Seminar, and after that I have two final papers and that’s it (also two ten-minute and fifteen-minute presentations on them).

This evening was the last meeting of the semester for our PAT chapter.  At the closing of the meeting we discussed the 2018 Biennial which will be hosted in New Orleans.  The 2016 Biennial was at Disneyland but it came at the beginning of my graduating semester, so months before my senior thesis would be completed.  I’m in better shape now to speak at a conference, and the pres said that they may be working on a World War II panel at the Biennial and my heart leaped when he said that.  They especially want Asia/Pacific content, which is what my recent research has been on.  I haven’t presented at any conferences yet so I know that’s something I need to start doing.  I’m hoping I don’t lose the courage to apply when the application deadline actually rolls around (October).

I’ve also started interning at a historic site near my neighborhood.  I’m part of the education team and I just do research for program content and will be given to choice to work with school groups that come to the park or to go to school visits (I’m going on one next Thursday to a private school near my university).  Right now my current homework is to do primary source research, looking at the Japanese perspective on Pearl Harbor and plantation immigration.  Things are going great. 🙂

Marching Along…

It’s March 31st and I have roughly one month left of school before my final papers are due.  This semester has been extremely stressful and I cannot wait for it to be over.  Since both of my history advisors are off island, I sought solace from academic life in my past Religion professor who basically told me that it’s okay to tack an extra year on to my MA program if it means less stress, especially if I already have a job — even one irrelevant to my academic interests — since I won’t necessarily need my degree to get a job at the moment.  I currently work twenty four hours per week, but he said with a full graduate load, I should not exceed sixteen (this is impossible if I want to continue to feed myself and pay my bills).

As much as I love my job, I’m starting to feel differently about it.  I love my coworkers the most, and when I really think about it, I would not want to continue to work at my current workplace if they were to leave or retire.  I’m basically there because of the emotional attachments I’ve formed.  That being said, when two education coordinators from a National Park Service site came to speak to my Museum Studies class last week, I casually asked the director if they ever take on interns (a mandatory internship is part of the MS program).  To my surprise, he said he would work something out with me and gave me his phone number.  We met today over coffee and he basically told me that he’d have me shadow twice — once at the site and once to a school visit — and after that, would work out a pay for me and start me off at eight to ten hours per week and increase it as we go.  He asked what kind of pay I’d be comfortable with and I gave the pay I currently receive, and he laughed and said they’d pay me a few dollars more per hour, as they won’t make me work for free.  I love my workplace, but I do work for love, not money there.  I’m really excited and I hope it pulls through.  I’d be working with students, elementary through high school, and teachers, both at the site and in classrooms and also conducting research at the State Archives and other sites for program content.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed until he calls me back next week to finalize everything…

Back Home in Beautiful Hawai’i Nei

I’ve been home for about a month and a half now!  I’ve been back at work since December 12th, and tomorrow — Friday — wraps up my second week of school.

I miss Delhi a lot.  More than things like the pani puri, metro, rickshaw rides, phalwalas, etc., I miss my host family and my friends.  Since I’ve been home my host family has called me three times, just to say hello.  I talk to my two good friends quite regularly.  One of them went home shortly after I left (that is, to Manipur) and I didn’t talk to him once while he was gone; turns out, there was some upheaval in Manipur during the time so the state blocked the Internet and all SMSs, allowing only phone calls (we talk through WhatsApp).  I figured he was busy with his family, but as soon as he got back to Delhi, he explained what had been going on and why he hadn’t talked to me in so long.  I really hope my host family and friends can make it out to Hawaii one day; I’d love to show them around and introduce them to novel foods and all that fun stuff.  Delhi was easily one of the best experiences of my life, if not the best. I learned a lot about myself there.

School is hard.  The MA program in Delhi was really different (though, my advisor did warn me about this).  In India there is the BA, MA, MPhil, and finally PhD; as a result, my MA program there was basically an extension of a BA program, which, despite collecting a wealth of knowledge while I was in India from my classes at Ambedkar that I can’t access in Hawaii, it hurt me because I am currently having a hard time adjusting to my work load for my MA program at my home university.  I’m sure I’ll balance everything in out by the end of next week.

I’m enrolled in two Museum Studies courses (Museums & Education and Public History & Commemoration; I find the latter far more interesting), a World History seminar, and third-year Hindi.  So far, quite honestly, Hindi is giving me the hardest time.  While I was in India, I did not hone my Hindi very much.  My listening improved by leaps and bounds, but my speaking really took a blow because I was always listening, but very rarely speaking.  Since the two good friends I made were from Manipur, they only spoke Hindi when they absolutely needed to; my host family only spoke to me in Hindi occasionally (I understand that it must have been difficult to bring their Hindi down to my amateur level).  Very few of my classmates knew that I could understand and speak Hindi, so they never spoke to me in Hindi (and this was not something I bragged about, just in case they did attempt to speak to me and I couldn’t understand).  As a result, I’m struggling in class, especially since I have not formally learned Hindi since last May.  It doesn’t help that I don’t like the TA.  She’s another linguistics scholar from JNU, but she’s different from the other two we had; to me she’s a bit condescending, as if she can’t quite understand why my Hindi isn’t as fluent as one of my other classmates (a Second Language Studies graduate student who taught English in Chennai).  She’s also laughed at my mistakes, which is something I don’t think an instructor should do, and which I took very personally and resented.  The other two TAs would laugh when I’d make silly mistakes, but they’d never blatantly laugh at a mistake I made purely as a result of a cognitive struggle.  I was contemplating dropping the class altogether but this is already the home stretch for me; I’m in Hindi 302 and 302 is the last of the sequence and I know I’d regret giving up just because I don’t like my TA.  I’m not quite sure why my professor isn’t teaching my class since she’s no longer on sabbatical.  My Hindi class is adding unnecessary work to my already heavy workload (I only need four semesters of a language for my degree) but I want to keep learning it because: 1) I genuinely enjoy learning languages, and 2) Out of spite, I want to do well and “stick it” to my TA.  Oh, and since it’s a 300-level course, the course is taught entirely in Hindi which makes it even more difficult for me.

Anyway, I’m happy to be home but I really miss everyone in Delhi.  I think of my friends daily.  Both of them called me while I was waiting for my flight at the airport and I cried at the gate talking to my friend on the phone, the stranger awkwardly sitting across me trying to avoid eye contact (haha).  But my friend and I had all the same courses, and we’d ride the metro home together every day after school (I’d get off at Rajiv Chowk and he’d continue to Hauz Khas).  On December 1st, I slept over at his house and we made typical Manipuri food for dinner with his sister and cousins.  The next day he took me on a whirlwind Delhi tour since I had done 0 sightseeing the entire time I was in Delhi; we went to the Red Fort and Qutab Minar.  We tried to get to the Lotus Temple but we missed it by ten minutes.  Driving me home, I asked to go to India Gate but the lights were off (it was about 7:00pm) to show respect for attacks that had occurred in Kashmir.  I went home the next day but I managed to go to one of his Church functions a few hours before my flight.  I surely did leave a big chunk of my dil in Dilli.

4th India International Tattoo Convention

I went to the convention today and yesterday.  The convention was in Faridabad Sector 12 and ran from November 11th – 13th.

I had met my artist twice in the studio in Gurgaon and ended up doing my tattoo at the convention, especially considering that I had never been to a tattoo convention before despite Hawaii holding one every year in August.  I designed my tattoo and my artist, Raju of Funky Monkey, polished it off and added a sacred geometry backdrop.  The main focus of my tattoo is my two dogs, Logan and Myron.  I’ve been toying with the idea of a dog tattoo for a while despite everyone telling me not to do it.  Sure it’s a commitment, but I love my dogs very much and love for a dog is completely different than for that of another human.  First, a dog will never hurt you the way a human will, so that’s reason enough for me!  I think dogs are just magical creatures that deserve to live forever in a garden full of dog treats and an ever-flowing river of gravy.  Anyway, so my tattoo is based around their faces, and they are surrounded by five hibiscus flowers, each representing a member of my family.  I picked the hibiscus because throughout my time in India, whenever I saw a hibiscus, I thought of home.  The flower will be a joint reminder of home and my extended time away from it.  I also have the phrase “Jahan dil hai, vahan ghar hai” in devanagari, which is a loose translation of “Home is where the heart is,” literally “Where the heart is, there is home.”  This tattoo is special to me because it’s the first tattoo I’ve ever really conceptualized and designed myself, and it’s very meaningful to me.  I love my dogs of course, but I also really love my family more than anything else in this entire world and it’s about time I do the Hawaii thing and get an ‘ohana-themed tattoo.  I think it’s also fitting that the tattoo ended up covering a keloid I have as a result of self-harm (which hurt terribly; tattoo over scar tissue is a pain) We finished the outline for the tattoo yesterday which took about 3.5 – 4 hours.  We just need to color in the flowers and tattoo Logan and Myron’s faces and we’re done.  Raju estimated about another four hours or so, especially since he wants to add dotwork to the geometry filler.

I really loved Raju as an artist; he really listened to what I wanted and he was so light handed.  My tattoo did not hurt at all until he reached a small part of the ribbon that dipped into my armpit.  Other than that, no pain whatsoever!  If you’re in Delhi, I’d definitely recommend Raju at Funk Monkey, or just Funky Monkey in general.  They are located in DLF City Centre Gurgaon, second floor.  I was initially going to go to Devil’z Tattooz in Greater Kailash but ended up at Funky Monkey through  recommendation (a friend of a friend recently got a tattoo done there and used to work there).  A recommendation is always better than Internet searches, I think.  Devil’z Tattooz was also at the convention.

As I was waiting for Raju to prep my tattoo, I dangerously strolled around the convention (I say “dangerously” because with so many tattoo artists staring you in the face, it’s hard not to get another, and another, and another…) and found myself looking at a bunch of cute traditional-style flash tattoos.  I flipped through the portfolio and decided, “I’d love if this guy did my peonies!”  Just then, one of the artists came up to me and said “Hi, you lookin’ to get tattooed?”  This was Alex from Kids Love Ink in London.  I told him what I wanted and he took a look at my arm and said he could draw something up for me overnight.  The only issue here was that I did not have any money considering that PM Modi thought it would be a great idea to demonetize all 500 and 1,000 bills overnight.  Luckily, Alex said I could pay him through PayPal, which worked out perfectly.  So I went home, slept excitedly, and went back to Faridabad today for my peony piece with Alex.  This piece took about 2.5 – 3 hours.  Alex, just like Raju, was a great conversationalist and the time flew by.  There was another artist from the shop there with him who started a tattoo just about halfway through mine.  Alex’s style is traditional, and he enjoys doing floral and animal pieces.

It’s always important for me to get along well with my artist because I do not want someone who is going to affect my body forever to be someone whom I do not like or am indifferent about.  I’ve always been lucky with my artists in this regard; they’ve usually always been nice, funny, and witty.  Alex and his shopmates are actually the first Brits I’ve ever met, so that was fun for me (and my suspicions have been confirmed — America is the butt of the joke most of the time).

I’ll also digress (maybe) for a bit: I think it’s important for your artist to enjoy what they are doing just as much as you should enjoy what you are receiving.  While Alex was doing my tattoo, we (him, his shopmate, and myself) began to discuss the differences in tattoo culture between India and America/England and one of the things we noticed that most was that India is very into realism (photorealistic tattoos).  It takes immense talent to do things like that, but that isn’t my taste.  I’m more in the traditional line, fawning over bold outlines and subtle colors.  But a lot of the people at the convention were getting photorealistic tattoos done, and from people who did not do photorealistic tattoos (judging by their portfolios).  For example, Alex’s shopmate also does traditional but ended up doing a tribal-style tattoo with devanagari.  Personally, that did not make sense to me since there was another artist from Italy who did specialize in tribal tattoos (really amazing, Tribal Tattoo Torino) and many other India-based artists who could to both the tribal design as well as the devanagari.  I picked Alex because I saw his portfolio and it matched what I wanted; when I went to Funky Monkey, Raju was called out into the shop to consult with me and as I talked to him during my tattoo, said he enjoys doing the type of tattoo I wanted to have done.  My point is that although an artist does tattoos, there is often something they enjoy doing over all else, and I think it’s fair to go to the appropriate artist for a certain type of tattoo.  You don’t go to a cardiologist for nephrological issues.  Also, be respectful and do not try to get another artist to duplicate someone else’s work…while we were doing my tattoo, a man asked to take Alex’s portfolio to the booth across the walkway to which he said, “No, that has to stay here.  They can come here” and he really did want to get one of Alex’s works duplicated by the other artist.  That’s bad tattoo etiquette if I’ve ever seen it!  I’ve also noticed that Indian tattoo culture is based off of duplication; it isn’t so much custom tattoos, but portraits, celebrities’ tattoos, or images pulled off of the internet.

Anyway, I spent half a lakh on tattoos over the weekend.  My host family said the 35,000 FM charged me was too much since the girl who stayed with them last year got a very intricate tattoo for 17,000, but I said, “Well you said her tattoo was done in Paharganj, right?” which it was.  FM has a good reputation and is a well-known shop.  I’m willing to pay for that when it comes to something like a tattoo that can adversely affect my health if not done by the best people in the best conditions.  I’m used to spending in that neighborhood for tattoos, anyway (I only go to upscale, nice shops; I’m a snob about this and would never get a tattoo in Paharganj).  I don’t mind paying a lot for a tattoo because it’s something that will last forever, and what’s a hefty price tag for a beautiful piece of artwork on your skin and someone’s talent?

In two weeks I will be heading back to Gurgaon to finish off my tattoo, and Raju said he’ll also be drafting something up (geometric floral dotwork) to fill the gap between my shisa and the tattoo he’s working on.  As much as I do love tattoos, I’m not quite sure if I’m ready to cover that much of my body quite yet.  We’ll see when I get there.

 

PS. My fiancé does not like tattoos at all.  He said that to him they are “uglier than cellulite” and I did cheesily retort, “Well it’s my body, so…”  I love tattoos and this weekend confirmed it.  I love sitting there and seeing ink being put into my skin, and I’ve grown to love the hum of the machines.  The tattooed community is also amazing in general and everyone at the convention was so friendly and curious about everyone’s tattoos.  People frequently ask me two things concerning my tattoos: “How will you get a job?” and “What will you look like when you’re older, though?”  Aside from the medical and teaching fields, I’m not sure how much more conservative a job can get than where I work right now — a credit union.  How do my gross, offensive, criminal, unsophisticated tattoos go undetected at work?  Because I wear clothes.  I wear long sleeves (or a light cardigan if I wear a short sleeve/sleeveless blouse) and slacks; it’s as simple as that.  As far as what I will look like when I get older, I will look like an adorable old Japanese obaachan with tattoos who may or may not have yakuza ties.  What if my children want them?  They can get them.  My mom has had tattoos for as long as I can remember and I always admired them.  She doesn’t like the way I do my tattoos, but she never tells me that I cannot get them (unlike with facial piercings).  I think tattoos are beautiful, and if you don’t like them, that’s your deal.  We realize that what we’ve done is pretty much permanent.  We do not regret them and most people love their tattoos to bits, but what makes you think it’s okay to point out how unseemly, unprofessional, unsophisticated, unbecoming, or what have you, these pieces of us are?

2016 Presidential Election

I am proud to be an American and I’m happy to be an American, and I know I am lucky to be an American.  I’m greatly privileged for just having been born in America.  But I am so saddened by the fact that we’ve pretty much elected an intolerant, Islamophobic, misogynistic bigot for President.  We have made so much progress in the last century as a country, and Trump + Pence will – if not bring it to ruin – take us back to the 1950s where women had no control over their own bodies and those with non-heterosexual preferences lived in fear and even great inequality.  It’s 2016…how did this happen?