Our Last Valentine’s Day

letting-go-hands1-669x272(This post was featured on Thought Catalog)

Had I known this was going to be our last Valentine’s Day, I would have stayed in that restaurant with you. Long after the check was paid. Long after the patrons, the waiters and the chefs had cleared out. I would have taken you to the dance floor and swayed to the sound of your voice, the dim lights glowing above like stars in the night sky. The band played, the waitress kept the drinks coming, and our hands held amidst a table full of food that we barely touched. Holding onto you, I felt so at peace. I stared into your eyes, smiling, murmuring how odd the night began, and how perfectly it ended.  Continue reading

Shouts Into the Void

coffee2I walk into a coffee shop and I am greeted with faces obscured by phones and laptops. No one bothers to look up. Typing, the sounds of fingers endlessly typing on screens fills the room. At the counter, three baristas walk past me as they, too, fiddle with their own devices. “Excuse me?” I say, waving at each of them. This is me making my presence known in a world dominated by touchscreens. Finally, a woman acknowledges me. She takes my order and asks for my name. “Adrian,” I tell her. “Say again?” she asks. I take a deep breath, but she doesn’t hear me. She’s back on her phone. I turn around and see everyone else in line doing the same.

In a world where modern technology affords a greater sense of connectivity, we are strangely disconnected from one another. We are tiny squares in fluctuating screens, easy to scroll on by. Social media has become a platform to promote the best versions of ourselves. Our accomplishments, our engagements, our pregnancies. I myself have a Facebook, and, like so many others, I frequently post about my personal achievements, all for the sake of a systematic “like.” Clicking. Constant clicking. I am amazed by the click of a mouse. I might as well shout at everyone around me, begging to be noticed.

At the coffee shop, I ordered an iced coffee. I check my phone while I wait. After a few minutes, my order comes sliding across the counter. I can now get back home and resume my work, which consists of me staring at another, larger screen, typing the day away. I grab my drink, but I’m disappointed to see the name scribbled on the cup. “Angel,” it says. It seems the barista misheard me.

I searched my name on Google and discovered that there are over 200,000 people who share my name. One of them is a fashion designer. Another, a football player, a lawyer, a teacher. Alas, it was on the 8th page of results where I found a heartbreaking truth: I am but one Adrian in a sea of Adrians. I wondered, then, if any of them had trouble ordering a cup of coffee.

As a writer, I strive to make a name for myself. Recently, I had an article published in an online magazine, an article that came and went in less than a day. On Facebook, I got three likes. This didn’t surprise me. Months earlier, I witnessed the same thing happen to a fellow burgeoning writer. She had articles published on a similar magazine. Almost immediately came the outpour of comments like “Good job!” and “Congratulations!” More praise came her way as she went on posting more articles. One day, the comments stopped. No clicks. No likes. Her audience suddenly found her uninteresting, no longer trending. Yet, she continues to write. Most of her articles go virtually unseen. And still, she writes.

It’s not just her. We are all struggling to matter, to stay relevant. We want our voices to be heard, our stories to be remembered. Someone to notice us. The sad thing is, no matter what we do or who we become, it all comes to pass in the blink of an eye. We are but one among thousands of others who share the same name. We are a tiny photo in an archive of millions of portraits. We are little specks in an infinite universe.

In some small way, our lives do matter, even for just a moment. Our actions, our words, mere cogs in an ever-growing network of actions and words. If this is our only shot at making ourselves matter on a planet hovering in the void, then we might as well make a huge raucous. One great big shout across the universe.

It’s a new day. I walk back into same coffee shop and I am greeted with familiar phones and laptops. I head over to the counter. The barista meets my eyes for a brief second. I take a deep breath. “Adrian,” I tell her, “my name is Adrian.” She nods. I think she heard me this time.

My Life is a Beautiful Mess

My room is a mess. Clothes litter the floor like memories tossed away, and the books I have yet to read continue to crowd my desk. My bed remains unmade. Pillows and blankets lie crumpled and used, exactly the way I left them this morning and the day before. The blinds, too, remain shut. My way of closing out the world. Or perhaps it’s me shutting myself in. My room, my own personal cave. A tomb of forgotten ideas and broken dreams. It’s a monument of all things unfinished.

My life is a mess. I’m due to graduate college a year later than I had planned. I have stories lying dormant in my computer just waiting to get to that next draft. And I have a daughter whom I barely get to see because I’m at the mercy of her mother, my ex. On top of that, I’m in the middle of a long distance relationship. That, in itself, presents its own challenges. In a perfect world, I’d love to have graduated on time, preferably with a degree in Journalism, Biology, anything but English. I’d love to have my stories completed and ready to be sent off to publishers. And I’d cherish the opportunity to see my daughter every day, while also making my relationship work, distance not included. Everything in my life, it seems, is scattered all over the place. Or maybe I’m looking at it all wrong. Maybe they’re exactly where they need to be.

I am not a perfect person, more so like a draft of one. I keep tinkering with the little things hoping that I’ll somehow get better. We all have these expectations of ourselves. To have everything accomplished. To be, in some sense, perfect. In that pursuit, we blind ourselves from the fundamental truth of life. We will never be the best. We will never be perfect. And I feel like that’s okay. Because it gives us something to strive for, like a dream hovering in the air just inches away from our grasp. That’s not to say that it’s unattainable. It simply gives us something to chase.

There’s beauty in conflict. We just don’t see it right away. These obstacles, they’re all a part of life. We need conflict like a plant needs water. How else are we going to grow? We all have a choice: either settle into complacency or embrace conflict. Which one do you think allows us to evolve? That’s right, I’m picking number two. We learn. We gain a greater awareness of ourselves. We become. Over the course of time, we change, and conflict is simply the pathway that leads us down that avenue.

As I stand here looking at the mess I’ve made, I find myself oddly at peace. Yes, I am the one responsible. But I am also the only one who can get myself out of it. So as strange as it is to say, I am grateful to have these conflicts. They’re part of who I am. And they will determine who I’m going to be. Now, it’s true that when we overcome one hurdle, we face another. I know that as eager as I am to graduate college, I still have to face the harsh reality of finding a job, a place to live, etc. Other hurdles already in place. The point is to keep on going, to sort through the mess. After all, a messy room isn’t going to sort itself out. Neither will our own problems. We can let them pile up. Or we can manage them one at a time. That, at least, is in our control.

Of course, I don’t have all the answers. And that’s okay because I’m not perfect, nor am I striving to be. I just want to live. I don’t know what’s going to become of me further down the road. But that’s the exciting part. The uncertainties. The possibilities. That’s entirely out of my hands. I can only hold onto what I’ve got right now. My daughter. My girlfriend. My English degree. They’re more than enough to keep me going, to see me to whatever end that awaits me. For the first time in my life, I am embracing the chaos. I am finally managing the mess. Will I allow this room to get cluttered again? That remains to be seen, like an unfinished story. My life is an unfinished story. Then again, I should be grateful for that.