Las Vegas: Happy Birthday

24 09 2011

It may have been the most stressful decision I’ve made in my early 20’s: leaving my job in Korea. But life pulled me in a different direction and I found myself daydreaming about the possibilities that await in the unknown. The anxiety ran high. Am I making the right decision? Neurosis is a mild anxiety disorder, and though I often slip on mild social misjudgments, I always make it work. I wanted to stay in Korea because it was safe, it was comfortable, and above all, it was more interesting than living in southern California. But  I do very well in the fray. I like being uncomfortable. I like emotional strife, because it forces a different interpretation of the world. But I had plenty of time to be uncomfortable in Korea. So I decided to head back home, and start the fight.

It was the weekend of the anticipated Mayweather/Ortiz matchup. I had just flown in from Japan, my internal clock was off, I needed a cell phone, and my family was eager to see me after 13 months. Sleep deprived and anxious, all I wanted to do was see my old apartment. I certainly didn’t feel ready to take on Vegas; worried that I wouldn’t make it through 4 days of drinking, gambling, man-eating, and family, without coming up short. I have a hard time walking away from a black jack table, even when I’m losing. The first night, at about four in the morning, a cop pushed my friend to our hotel room in a wheelchair: Does this belong to you? I knew right then I was in way over my head.

The sun was blazing, the breeze was light, affording the opportunity to sport my oversized Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, dress comfortably in jeans and a tank-top. The girl-pack headed poolside to inner tube down the lazy river at one of  many notorious pool parties. The buzz about the fight brought in a heavy crowd of middle-aged men with money to burn and dreams of meeting lady luck, a combination I find advantageous, especially when he’s dressed up like a cowboy and buying me vodka tonics. At the pool, I was quickly swept away in the current by a young man named Robert. I knew by his black Raybans and long wild hair, that we were going to get along just fine. The lazy river pulled me slowly in my inner tube past groups of young and old, baring it all for the world to see, drink in hand and ready to party. It was an awesome mix. But I had lost track of time and also lost track of the girl-pack. Where are they? Now with his legs around me under the inner tube, Robert was making it hard to accomplish anything. We rounded a curve in the river and there was my sister sitting on a white lounge chair. She was fully clothed, and upon connecting with my stare she started to mouth something that looked really scary from a distance. Do you know what fucking time it is? I got out of the pool as fast as humanly possible without spilling my drink, while Robert followed me innocently. After she was done screaming at me in front of all my new lazy river friends, I asked for her phone. Why? I’m going to give Robert my number. She was so pissed.

My father had financed my 21st in Vegas four years earlier, and now it was her turn. Family from back east had flown in, friends were invited and everything appeared to be in place. I wanted Vegas to be perfect for her. But how quickly our expectations can be thwarted by a cute boy at the pool, a misread text message, a missing credit card, or old family feuds erupting at an expensive steak house. How quickly did a 21st birthday celebration turn into the atrium of hells kingdom? About as fast as I can drink a hot shot of tequila. Vegas is no place to make plans or have expectations, especially when you are 21 and a virgin to the roulette table. Anything can happen. But it’s easy to forget that when we love someone so much.

Everyone fought. I fought with my sister. My cousin fought with me. My Dad fought with my aunt. I fought with a bottle of vodka and Mayweather beat the shit out of Ortiz in the fourth round. In the end we all walked away licking our wounds and wondering if it had been worth it. I can tell you one thing for certain, paying 500 dollars for bottle service at Planet Hollywood, was in fact, not worth it. Because I lost my wallet that night, which inside held my passport, California drivers license, and ATM card. Running around the New York, New York at 4:00a.m. without a room key is not as much fun as it sounds. Whatever happened during my sister’s 21st birthday is definitely staying in Vegas, lost somewhere between Planet Hollywood and the MGM.

Now that I step back and look at it from a distance, a safe distance back here in San Diego, I can’t help but feel like it was everything a 21st birthday should be. A complete disaster, emotional drama-fest filled with disappointment. Fortunately for me, the whole experience complimented the anxiety I was having anyways about leaving Korea. It put things into perspective. I’m inconsiderate, selfish, and I have the mouth of a sailor. All of which my family commented on while we were in the sin capitol of the U.S.. But nobodies perfect, so we just keep rolling with the punches.  I spend way too much money when I’m drunk, correlating to an alleged drinking problem, and I clearly have changed a bit while living abroad. I’m sure I’ve always exhibited these characteristics, but being confronted with people who may have unintentionally forced me to hide them, is revealing. I, like my vices, have come into fruition. The collective mentality of family, juxtaposed my new vigilante style may not have ended the way anyone planned, but that’s Vegas.

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3 responses

24 09 2011
Laura4NYC

One heck of a 21st bday, i dare say. I’m not sure if that’s how it’s supposed to be, but for some reason mine was a disappointed whirl of tears, drunkenness, and tiredness, too. Even though it is not a big deal in Germany, for you turn legal age at 18 already.

I get your thoughts on liking the unstable. It’s weird but I feel the only way I can be true to my personality, my true being, and my true life is when being in the chaotic state of unsureness and thinking about moving to another place. That is why I like traveling so much. It gives me this unsure situation and shows me how to live for and in the moment.

How has your re-adjustment back to the Western World been going so far?

25 09 2011
whitneybutler

It’s been very strange. I find myself practicing Korean etiquette when I’m out and about, and I think I must look a little strange. I can hear people talking around me, or rather, I understand what they are saying all the time now. Most of which I didn’t miss while abroad.I have a hard time relaxing because I feel like I should be working, and I am so full of introspection I don’t know where to begin. I’m glad that you feel the same way about uncomfort. It’s a difficult feeling to describe to people unless they (like yourself) share a similar taste for it. Comfort tends to accompany complacency, something I fear. I like the fray because like you said, it makes you look at the current condition in relative terms rather than the material vortex pulling us into the status quo. I’m not a fan of being sucked into anything. 🙂 Do you plan to travel more in the U.S. or else where?

Thanks for reading!~

6 10 2011
Laura4NYC

There are some times in our lives when we have these phases, though. When we are receptive to almost anything going on around us, when we feel we know ourselves so well nothing can shatter us anymore. And then, a month later, it’s gone. I hope you stil feel that way!
I do plan on traveling. The US is nice but not enough. I want to do a world tour, unfortunately the fiscal means are exhausted. I would like to see more of Asia, South America, Africa… Australia, New Zealand, Mexiko. Just a bunch of places, you know! But I guess I still have a few years to accomplish this. 😉 I don’t think I will ever stop traveling, it is such an important component of my life!

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