Overexposed: A Self-Love Project.

Overexposed: “Don’t Let It.”

Overthinking; it’s something that is embedded in my routine without me realizing it. I overthink the smallest things, like how uneven my liquid eyeliner is and how much cat hair is on my dark-colored clothes. I overthink the outfits I put on and how they make my body look; are the clothes too big on me and make me look sloppy? Are they too tight and are emphasizing every bad curve on my body? I overthink to the point where I allow it to consume and eat me alive inside until it completely takes over me.

I’m even overthinking as I write this.

Hi, my name is Liz, and I spend a lot of time in my head; an unhealthy amount of time.

A little over a week ago, my therapist asked me if I was comfortable adjusting our meeting times. She said, “You’ve made so much progress that in my professional opinion, you are ready for biweekly visits instead of weekly.” I agreed because I’ve come to a place where I felt like I didn’t need therapy as much as I did in the past. So when I showed up to our last session with the same anxious thoughts and panic behavior, I felt defeated. How did I allow overthinking to get me to a place where I was now feeling like I needed weekly therapy and anxiety meds again? I know progress is not linear, but for fuck’s sake, it felt like I reverted back to where I was before.

I’m no stranger to saying that I’m in a very weird place in my life; I don’t have the same friend group I had for the last couple of years, my interests are shifting, and I’m feeling uncomfortable in my skin; figuratively, not literally. I feel my soul wanting more, yearning for more, and it’s not because I’m not appreciative of the things I already have in my life.

I learned in therapy years ago that your soul cannot be ignored. Your soul speaks to you in various different ways to let you know you’re not listening to it. It speaks to you in your behavior, the decisions you make, the thoughts you have, and even how you act toward your surroundings. When we try to ignore what our soul is trying to tell us and not go for the things that it wants, that’s when we feel like we’re having this internal battle with ourselves. Who do I listen to? My mind and emotions and thoughts, or do I listen to what my soul is trying to tell me? Getting to this place is the scariest in my opinion, because the outcome of it all usually is losing something you cherish forever, but eventually reflecting back and seeing that had to happen in order for this to happen.

I learned it the first time I went through this, and you would think it would be easy the second or third time around, right?

Heh. I’m terrified.

See, overthinking will allow you to think that having these many occurrences of the same outcome means you failed or you are destined to live in this state of uncertainty. Things are constantly changing in my life; why can’t I just stay in one place and not self-sabotage things? What is it about me that projects this new and confident version of myself that makes the things I love in my life up for question? Am I doing something wrong? Being in this constant state of uncertainty will no doubt have you thinking about every negative thing about yourself and eventually, you fall back into old patterns. You stay silent. You blame it on yourself rather than the external things. You sit it out until you’ve slithered yourself back into your comfort zone and you conclude that it was all in your head. But you fail to realize that every time you do that, you lose a sense of yourself, and your confidence, and you allow that overthinking to take your peace away, hinder your progress, and set you back into old, bad habits.

Let’s be very transparent about something that I’ve dealt with these last couple of months; I still mourn the loss of my friend group that I had during the pandemic and who was very influential in my hobbies and interests at the time. I lost that friend group for many reasons, but the main reason for me was that I had to stand my ground and defend myself when I felt disrespected and when a line was crossed. As much as it hurt me to lose the people who I called my best friends at one point, I needed to put myself first and my feelings first. The “new me” congratulates me on that; she reminds me that there was a time in our life that I would avoid confrontation by simply allowing people to walk all over me and disrespect me just because I was afraid of losing them. But the “unhealed” me, the one that still deals with different forms of social anxiety and wants to please those she loves and emotionally take care of others before taking care of herself, she overanalyzes every little thing that happens and is afraid that the same outcome will happen again and–

Don’t let it.

I looked at my therapist when I was going on and on about this fear. “I’m afraid that I’m reverting back to the person I was. As much as I’m trying to practice assertiveness and projecting my self-worth when I feel like I’m not being respected, I feel like when I do that, everything leaves.”

“I know it’s easier said than done, but you are not giving yourself enough credit with just how much progress you’ve made. You are making these changes in your life because of that growth; that voice that keeps telling you to speak up and honor yourself means you are aware enough to know that you deserve people who uplift you and enhance those changes. You challenge these relationships in your life because one way or another, you figured out that they are making you revert.”

Overthinking only happens when my soul is telling me something in my life is not aligning in the way that I thought it was, but don’t let the overthinking consume my being and influence unhealthy self-talk to the point where I lose sight of what I need, what I’m working toward, and what my goals are.

“Keep honoring yourself, Liz. You’re doing what you’re doing because you love yourself enough to know what it is you need and want out of life, and if you ever feel like what you’re going through is familiar or similar to what you went through when you weren’t honoring yourself and are afraid of going back to what that was; don’t let it.”

I won’t let it.

The Teenage Monologues.

So, The Groupie Speaks: A Mollie Monologue.

“Ms. Castro,” I hear my math teacher call for me while she waits at her classroom door. I turn around to look at her as she points her fingers toward the inside of her classroom. I turned back around to face Aaron. He smiles at me as he nods his head toward where I need to go.

“Go before you get in trouble, Mols,” Aaron teased as he rustled my hair with his hand. I jokingly rolled my eyes as I looked toward my classroom. Aaron hugs me from behind as he whispers in my ear. “I’ll see you after class.” I feel the butterflies jump around in my stomach as his voice echoes in my ears and throughout my body. Before my math teacher calls out for me again, I run toward her class before the bell rings as Aaron walks in the other direction. I looked at Mrs. Jacobs, who looked at me; clearly not impressed that technically I was on time.

I go to the back and sit in my seat. Everyone in the class is still talking to each other before they all run to their seats as the bell rings. I take out my notebook and pen, looking around at everyone else before looking forward. The two girls who sit in the seats in front of me still continue talking with each other; they are honestly so annoying because they never shut up and then wonder why they don’t pass the Math tests.

“Did you see Aaron in the auditorium last period?” one girl asks the other. I immediately look up at the girls wondering why they are talking about Aaron. I try to not look like I’m all in their business, but I can’t help but feel angry hearing other girls talk about Aaron.

“I did,” the other girl answered. “He was in the hallway and we spoke for a little bit.” I could feel my blood begin to boil hearing this stupid, pathetic girl talk about Aaron. Why would Aaron want to talk to someone like her? She literally is the most uninteresting person ever, and she does nothing but chew gum loudly and gossips with her just-as-stupid friends.

“Oh my god! What did you guys talk about?!” the girl’s friend excitedly asked.

“His band,” the girl answered. “The last performance he did was so badass like his vocals just make you melt.”

“Bella,” Mrs. Jacobs called out. “Please let this be the first and last time I catch you talking during class.” Bella. Ugh, she even sounds like a stupid girl. As Mrs. Jacobs turns back towards the board, Bella’s friend leans towards Bella to continue talking.

“Did he invite you to his next show? Brian told me that he has another show coming up.”

“He told me about it!” Bella excitedly answered back. “He said he would love to see me there and you know I’m going!”

I felt all the butterflies in my stomach fall from the sky and hit the ground to die. I was just with Aaron in the hallway talking about that show. I was just in his band practice to prepare for that damn show. He had just hugged me goodbye before I got to my math class. Was Aaron leading me on this whole time? Was he just using me? Was he lying this whole time? Was it truly too good to be true? I couldn’t focus in class and I don’t even remember if I took the right notes and everything. I just wanted to do two things at this moment: hide under a rock and disappear forever, and tell Aaron how much of a dickhead he was. Why it had to be you?

The bell rings and I quickly pack up my things and get up from my seat, walking past the two stupid girls who were talking about Aaron. I walked out of the classroom and before I realized it, I felt tears falling down my cheeks. I quickly wiped them away; I didn’t want anyone in the hallway to see me crying over a boy like a pathetic loser. I walked to my locker and quickly opened the door to get my things before my next class. I didn’t take my head out of the locker and I didn’t want to, but I hear someone call my name as everyone is now in the hallway during passing. I slowly take my head out of the locker and see Milo next to me, opening the door of his locker now.

“Hey Mol,” Milo says as he smiles at me. I tried my best to fake a smile back just so I didn’t have to get into anything I didn’t want to get into at this moment. “Guess what?”


“Guess,” Milo said back. I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms.

“Milo, I’m not in the mood to be playing your stupid and useless guessing game,” I said as I turned back toward my locker. I should’ve just played along; now he’s definitely gonna say–

“Dude, what’s your problem?” Milo spat back; clearly, he was annoyed with me and now I was annoyed at him. Dude, you don’t get to be annoyed at me for not playing along with your stupid game. “I feel like I can’t even talk to you anymore.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I said as I slammed my locker shut. I was fuming; I swear there was smoke coming out of my ears because my face felt like it was on fire.

“I literally wanted you to be the first to know that I got back my dual major status,” Milo confessed. “Wanna know why? Because you’re my best friend, Mollie.”

“Well congrats to you,” I sarcastically said. “Now you can go back to being too busy to even be my best friend,” I spat back at him. I didn’t know where this was coming from, but it was already out in the world and I can only defend my feelings and heart from anything and everyone at this point.

“You’re such as asshole,” Milo yelled at me. “Seriously Mol, when was the last time you even tried to hang out with me?”

“Why should I try when I already know the answer’s gonna be no?” I yelled back. “You think you’re such a great best friend to me when really, you’re being just as much as a shitty best friend back to me.” I could feel the tears forming in my eyes. I didn’t want Mlo to see that I was that upset with him. To think about it, I was mad at Milo for the same reason I was mad at Aaron; they both would rather spend their time with someone else and not with me like I wasn’t good enough for their company. Aaron, I can deal with it on my own, but Milo? He was supposed to be there for every inconvenience because he was supposed to be my best friend.

“You didn’t even tell me where you were a couple of weeks ago and still haven’t said anything,” Milo counteracted. “At least I chose to keep you in the loop on what’s happening in my life when we don’t hang out. I don’t know a goddamn thing you do these days besides come to school and see you in vocal class.”

“Well maybe I just gave up on you actually caring about what’s going on in my life,” I spat back. “When was the last time you actually asked me how I was doing? Huh?” I could see it on Milo’s face that he knows I was right about that. Milo hasn’t asked me if I was okay; he used to sense it once he would see me but now, when I feel like absolute garbage that was tossed to the side of the road, he doesn’t see it. “You only care about Sophie!”

“Don’t bring up Sophie,” Milo threatened. “She has nothing to do with this–“

“She has everything to do with this!” I snapped back at Milo. “You are so stupidly in love with this girl that you do not see what you have done to our friendship! Ever since that groupie came into the picture, you’ve done nothing but ignore me, blow off our plans for her, and protect her like she’s this twig that can break at any given second!” The first warning bell rings as I turn away from Milo, walking quickly down the hallway. I don’t see anything or anyone; I just wanted to get to my next class so that I don’t dump into Aaron. I was supposed to see him after class but last this point, I don’t want to see or hear from him. I look up as I hear my name being called once more; this time it’s a girl’s voice.

“Mollie,” Sophie calls out my name and runs in my direction. I turned around as she stops in front of me. “Have you seen Milo? I have to talk to him–“

“Of course you do,” I interrupted her. “A groupie will always be a groupie, no matter what time of day it is.” Sophie scrunched her eyebrows together once I answered her.

“What?” she asked.

“Give him some space for once,” I quickly spat back. “Like seriously don’t you realize that you’re the reason why Milo and I don’t even hang out anymore?”

“How dare you put your falling out with your best friend on me?” Sophie said.

“Oh! So the groupie speaks,” I said as I laughed and turned around to go to class. “I don’t have time for this–” Before I can finish my sentence, my eyes widen and my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach.

What did she just say?

y2katalogue: The Tapes

Tape #9: Indigo Chemistry Auditions.

Milo, Jennifer, and Nicki begin to set up the studio space to hold their audition for a new drummer. Their music teacher, Mr. Collins cleans up around his desk and then directs his attention to the students.

Mr. Collins: Mr. Kamalani, Ms. Castro, Ms. Little?

The teenagers turn around to face their teacher.

Mr. Collins: You guys have until the period is over to wrap up and clean up after yourselves as I have a class next period.

The teenagers nodded their heads as Mr. Collins begins to gather his stuff.

Mr. Collins: I’ll be next door in Mr. Basile’s classroom if you need me.

Mr. Collins exits the classroom. Milo takes a deep breath and begins to talk to the girls.

Milo: Alright guys, we got to make a decision on a drummer today. Our next gig is in two months and We need to have this drummer come in and learn all of our music and new ones in time for that gig.

Nicki: What if we don’t find a drummer after the auditions though?

Jennifer: *to Nicki* We’ll find our drummer, I promise that.

Milo side-eyes Jennifer.

Milo: Remember we are not picking anyone just because we know them or whatever. *to Pep* Everyone who auditions deserves our unbiased opinions and thoughts.

Jennifer rolls her eyes and takes her seat in the middle of the table. Milo sighs and proceeds to sit in his seat as well. Nicki looks over at the two friends at her seat, gathering her loose-leaf paper and pens.

Nicki: Let’s start.

The first couple of auditions passed by as the teens cross each name off of their list. As each person leaves their audition, the group gets a little more discouraged that they aren’t going to find their drummer by the end of the period. Milo sighs loudly before the next person walks into the classroom.

Milo: We go to a performing arts high school; where the help is the talent?

Jennifer: *annoyed* Sorry that not everyone can be a dual major like you, dude.

Milo: I didn’t say that I–

There’s a knock on the door and a girl’s head pokes in. Nicki quickly gets up; she clearly knows the person at the door.

Girl: *whispers* String Orchestra has rehearsal in the West Wing instead of the auditorium.

Nicki: Thanks, Gwen; I’ll see you then!

The girl leaves and Nicki turns around the go back to her seat.

Milo: *to Nicki* Was she not auditioning?

Nicki: She plays the viola, she’s in my string orchestra class.

Milo rolls his eyes as the next person comes into the audition space. He knows exactly who just walked in: Danny Campbell. Danny walks in and stands in front of the drum set.

Danny: Hey, I’m Danny. Freshman, band major. Auditioning for the drummer position in your band.

Milo: DO you know the name of the band?

Jennifer: Milo.

Danny: Indigo Chemistry.

Milo doesn’t respond back, he starts to write something on the paper in front of him. The girls look back up toward Danny and smile.

Nicki: Go ahead and play what you prepared.

Danny smiles at Nicki before walking over to the drums. He sits down and begins to adjust the drums before he begins to play. Milo continues to roll his eyes, in which Jennifer catches and nudges Milo with her elbow. Danny takes a deep breath and begins to play a piece. Milo’s nonchalant expression turns into complete shock. Nicki also looks shocked whereas Jennifer vibes out to the music. Danny swings his hair around like a rockstar, getting into the song and doing tricks with the drumsticks. Once the audition piece is over, the girls clap. Milo sits there with his hands crossed along his chest.

Nicki: That was… so cool.

Danny: *laughs* Thanks, Nicki.

Milo looks at Nicki, who is apparently smitten. Milo faces forward and leans toward the table.

Milo: So what makes you want to join our band?

Danny: I think the band is dope; you don’t see two chicks play and sing rock music and kill it every performance. *extends an arm out toward Jennifer* Plus, Jennifer said you guys were looking for a drummer and thought to give it a try.

Milo: So you don’t really know the band as a band, huh?

Jennifer: *annoyed* Milo!

Milo: What? I’m just being honest. Like do you have what it takes to play drums for one of our class’ top groups?

Jennifer: Milo, we’re a high school rock band, not KISS. *to Danny* How’s your daily schedule looking like?

Danny: Pretty much the same as Milo’s, we have the same band schedule and stuff.

Milo: No, I also have “a vocal schedule and stuff”, you know, since I’m a dual major.

Danny awkwardly nods. Before Jennifer says anything to Milo, Nicki speaks up.

Nicki: I know we have different opinions on this, but going by your audition alone, you really do bring the aura that the band needs in order for us to succeed. Plus, it gives us all room to get to know each other and grow together as a band.

Milo: Nicki-

Nicki: I think I speak for all three of us when I say, well, welcome to Indigo Chemistry!

Milo gets up from his chair and stands in front of the two girls.

Milo: Are you kidding me?!

Jennifer: Are you kidding me? Milo, you said he needed to audition like everyone else; he did, and he was the best out of everyone! You know he’s a great fit!

Danny: You know, it’s completely fine if my joining the band would cause this much…issue. If you guys–

Jennifer: No!

Danny stays silent.

Jennifer: *to Milo* I thought you were over this dumb jealousy thing you had!

Milo: Jealousy? Over him?

Danny: *uncomfortable* “Him” is still in the room.

Nicki: *to Danny* Hold on–

Nicki turns around and faces both Milo and Jennifer.

Nicki: *yells* That’s enough!

The two friends stop fighting and look at Nicki.

Nicki: I am sick and tired of having to break up these petty fights between you two! Now, I don’t care about how you guys feel about Danny; all I care about is how much he fits with us as a band and I believe he is what we need as a band!

Milo: Nicki, please–

Nicki: *yells* Milo! I’m talking now!

Milo stays silent.

Nicki: I’m making this call because apparently, you two can’t put your differences aside to see the actual good for this band, so whether you guys like it or not or whatever your reasons are, too bad! I say Danny’s our new drummer in our goddamn band, whether you like it or not!

Nicki stops shouting at the two teens and turns around and smiles at Danny.

Nicki: With that being said, welcome to Indigo Chemistry! Practice is every Monday and Thursday at Jennifer’s place. I’ll give you the address.

Danny smiles and thanks the group of friends before the bell rings; the period is over and the teens have to clean up before Mr. Collins comes back to his classroom. Milo avoids talking to the girls; he folds the table and places it in the closet in the classroom. The girls look at him, clearly knowing he’s not happy about the decision made today.

The Teenage Monologues.

The Bearer of Earth-Shattering News: A Sophie Monologue.

“Did Mr. Harrison tell you what he wanted to see me for?” Milo asked me as he closed the auditorium door behind him.

“He didn’t,” I answered as we started walking down the hall to return to the band classroom. “How’s vocal rehearsal going?”

“Ehh,” Milo responded, shaking his hand back and forth as he did. “It’s fine, it’s just not as exciting as band used to be.” I nodded my head, understanding where Milo was coming from. Band class hasn’t been the same since Milo’s dual major status was suspended; it’s made me not want to be in band class anymore since no one but our teacher cares about the string orchestra section. At least when Milo was there, he always looked excited to hear the strings play or rehearse. Milo looked at me before saying anything else.

“Band’s not too exciting either,” I admitted as we turned the hallway’s corner. “Our rehearsal is actually making me sleepy.”

“You? Sleeping in class?” Milo teased. “The world is coming to an end.” I couldn’t help but laugh along with Milo. I really do hope he’s able to come back soon to band class. We finally get back to the band classroom and enter; the band class turns around to see Milo and I walk into the room. I can hear Davey call out to Milo as we both walked toward Mr. Harrison; he couldn’t help but wave and say hi back. Some of our other bandmates called out for Milo; he was very popular in this class when he was here.

“Alright class, quiet down,” Mr. Harrison says to the class. I return to my seat as Milo walks up to Mr. Harrison. “I’m giving you 5 minutes to go over your music before we continue our rehearsal.” Mr. Harrison takes Milo to his desk. I opened my binder of sheet music to go over a couple of trouble spots in the piece we’re doing for the rehearsal.

“So,” I hear Davy say as he sits next to me. He clearly tries to hide from Mr. Harrison as he talks to me. “Whatcha think Milo’s here for?”

“I don’t know,” I quickly answered, hoping that would end the conversation. Apparently, he didn’t get the memo.

“You think Milo is coming back?” Davy asked. “I mean, Aaron hasn’t been showing up to band practice so there’s no one really playing in percussion.” I looked at Davy, not aware of that information. The two sections of the ensemble have been having separate rehearsals, so I didn’t know what was going on with the other half of the band.

“Aaron hasn’t been to rehearsals?” I asked. Davy shook his head.

“Not that I know of; people say it’s because he’s a dual major and he gets special permission to come whenever he pleases, Davy answered. “But whatever, we already know Milo’s the better musician anyway,” Davy said as he walked back to his seat. I turned around to the seats where Milo and Aaron would sit. Did Aaron quit? I look up front to see Mr. Harrison letting Milo go, indicating that the conversation has ended. Milo turned around to walk out of the band room. I looked at him, hoping he would give me some sort of sign that things went well. He walks past me and looks at me, flashing a smile and a thumbs-up. I look forward, smiling. I think Milo’s back.

I opened my locker to take out the books needed for my next class. The hallways are full of chattering students in passing. I look up and see Aaron and Mollie walking down the hallway together; it makes my stomach turn. Something tells me that Mollie hasn’t told Milo that she’s friends with Aaron, which Milo despises. If she did, I know Milo would’ve told me about it, and it annoys me that for Mollie to be his best friend, she hasn’t really been acting like one. I quickly look away, back toward my locker. I can see that Aaron has just walked up to his locker, which is two lockers down from mine. I don’t look up or say anything, but that doesn’t mean Aaron understands the social cues of someone that doesn’t want to be bothered.

“Hey, Sophie,” Aaron says to me. I look at him quickly, barely giving him a smile. “So how was the band rehearsal today?”

“You’re asking me that?” I responded to Aaron. I was confused that out of all of the people in our band class, Aaron wanted to ask me how the rehearsal went.

“Well, you are in band, and I know you had to have been at the rehearsal,” Aaron slyly said back to me.

“Well, maybe you should start actually showing up to band rehearsal if you want to know what is happening in band rehearsal,” I spat back, closing my locker before walking away.

“I’m a dual major, sweetie,” Aaron answered back. “My time is needed in vocal as that show is coming up first-“

“It’s Sophie,” I corrected him. “And quite frankly, I don’t care.” Aaron’s eyebrows scrunched together, clearly, he was getting offended at the way I was responding to him. “Then maybe you don’t deserve to be a dual major.” I don’t know why that came out of my mouth, but it was too late to take it back.

“Why would I listen to a mediocre violinist,” Aaron spat back. “I was trying to be nice and ask a simple question about rehearsal, but clearly you’re hurt or intimidated that Mr. Harrison doesn’t get on my case as much as he does with your weak little section.” I was getting angry; I refuse to let someone as shallow and conceited as Aaron Serrano get the best of me.

“Mr. Harrison’s not on your case because he just asked Milo to come back for band, ” I said as I looked at Aaron right in his face. “Clearly, the ensemble doesn’t need you as much as you think we do.” I turn around to walk away from Aaron; I was going to be late for my next class and I didn’t have time to argue with Aaron. I knew Aaron was very self-centered, but I didn’t think he treated others like complete garbage. Something told me he only treated me that way because he knows Milo and I are friends, and clearly he has some opinions about Milo being his competition. It felt good to tell him that Milo was coming back to band and that he got his dual major status back, but the pit in my stomach tells me otherwise. Is he going to try to get Milo in trouble again? Was it my place to even say anything about Milo coming back? Was that even true that Milo was coming back to band? I mean, he really didn’t tell me anything besides that everything was okay.

Did I just add fuel to a fire that had nothing to do with me?

I get lost in my spiraling thought, not realizing that I bumped into another girl in front of me.

“Watch where you’re going,” the girl said. I immediately recognize the voice being Mollie’s. I look at Mollie and she rolls her eyes.

“Sorry, I-” I began to say before she walks past me, going in the opposite direction I was going. Mollie, from what I gathered in my own observations, was a mean girl. She has never really been nice to me unless Milo was in the same room as the both of us. Again, I don’t know why Mollie refused to be nice to me if her best friend was friends with me; but then I quickly realize that Milo is not nice to Aaron and vice versa. Maybe Milo does know about Aaron and Mollie? Maybe that’s why Milo and Mollie have been so distant from each other lately?

“Ms. Lee,” I hear a teacher call out. I look at the teacher standing at their classroom door; it was Mr. Kamalani leaning against his classroom door frame with his arms crossed across his chest. “Get to class.” I nodded my head before I quickly walked past him.

I need to find Milo before Aaron does.

The "Something" Series: Season 3

“Need Something for that Burn?”: A Grace Monologue.

I must’ve been the first person to run out of tonight’s rehearsal once the director dismissed us. It was nearly 15 after 9 by the time we ended our rehearsal, which meant I had little to no time to get ready for dinner with Sahim. I ran out of the venue toward the hotel that we were all staying in; good thing it wasn’t too far from the venue and I knew where I was actually going.

I ran into the hotel room, hoping I was able to get to the elevator in time. Maybe Sahim isn’t waiting at my door thinking I stood him up or something. Maybe he knows that our director is a literal nutcase. I wanted to believe that just maybe I had some time to change and clean before Sahim showed up, but then again I wouldn’t be surprised if I tried talking to Sahim tomorrow at rehearsal and have him brush me off, thinking I ditched him for dinner.

I race out of the elevator and run to my room, quickly opening the door and entering it. Before I was able to turn on the lights, I immediately trip over my suitcase still full of luggage that I left on the ground. Face first; no protection whatsoever.

“Fuck!” I yelled out loud as I fell to the ground. I get up and feel a pain coming from my face. I walk into the bathroom to look in the mirror and see a cut brushed across my chin. I touched it, and of course, I winced in pain. What the hell were you expecting, Grace?

I didn’t have time to put 500 bruise creams on it for it to go away; I reached inside my bag of luggage and pull out a loose bandage. Something told me I needed to bring these. I slapped a bandage right on top of my chin, again wincing in pain.

“You know you’re accident-prone, right?” Sahim said as I tripped on my way to the rehearsal space; of course, I was late. He extended his arm out to help me get up from the ground.

“Please,” I began to say as I brushed myself off. “If you don’t see me fall at least once at every rehearsal, then that’s not really me.”

“Another Grace?” Sahim teased. “That’s too much Grace to look after.” I looked at Sahim and rolled my eyes, his award-winning smile flashes across his face. “Are you going to be okay for rehearsal?”

“Of course,” I answered as I started to walk toward the rehearsal space with Sahim. “As long as I don’t bruise, I’m fine.”

There’s a knock heard on my front door. I run out of the bedroom, tying my hair up in a messy bun after drowning it in dry shampoo. Aimee had told me that I must’ve been living under a rock for not realizing that dry shampoo is the savior for all dancers who sweat out their hair. Personally, I don’t like to use it but for the sake of saving time, it has to be done.

As soon as I straighten myself out, I open the door to see Sahim standing there. 9:30pm; he must’ve known.

“What happened to 9 o’clock on the dot?” I teased Sahim as he smiled.

“Something told me that you weren’t even here at 9,” Sahim teased back. The smile fades once he looks at my face. “You need something for that burn?” Sahim asked. I touched my chin out of reflex, once again wincing in pain.

“Nonsense,” I answered back. “You know that it wouldn’t be me if this type of stuff didn’t happen.” I tried to play it as cool as possible even though my chin was on fire like it was some sort o burn. I grabbed my coat from the chair and began to put it on. “Let’s go, I’m starving.”

The good thing about the area was that there was always a late-night spot open to eat. I had done my research before coming here; it was only right to get familiar with my surroundings since I’ll be here for the next year. Sahim was quite shocked that I knew the area so well already, but the secret of looking like you know where you’re going is to stay close to home… or the hotel that you are calling home for the time being.

Sahim and I ended up going to a Korean beef restaurant nearby that was still open. We were seated at a small table, surrounded by a small grill for us to grill the meat once we ordered. There was a long period of silence between us; I couldn’t tell if it was because we don’t have anything to talk about or if we were just exhausted from tonight’s rehearsal.

“This is a nice spot,” Sahim started to say. “How’d you know about it?”

“It’s always good to do a little research,” I answered. “It’s important as a traveler to be familiar with your surroundings.” The waitress came back to our table with drinks to start off with.

“You must travel a lot then,” Sahim said, taking a sip of water from his glass.

“This is my first time out of the country, but I did some traveling in the US,” I explained to Sahim. The truth of the matter was that my mom was the one that suggested I do some research before my trip here. Before I left, she told me that the one thing she wished someone told her when she was in India for the dance production she was a part of was that she had no idea where to go or who to ask for directions on her free time. She emphasized the fact that she ate solely convenience store food before actually being comfortable enough in her surroundings to explore.

“Oh? Anywhere story worthy?” Sahim asked. I looked at him and it was no surprise he was looking directly back at me. He was inventive, not really aware of his surroundings besides the fact I was sitting in front of him. It was kinda cute since I doubt that Sahim really know what’s going on around him. He looks so focused on the words coming out of my mouth. Sahim has always been that way, but I never seen it happen so up close before.

“Not really,” I laughed as I responded. “I just have family across the country that I tend to visit.” Sahim nodded his head and noticed the waitress coming back with the raw meat on a platter. I bowed in front of me and thanked her in Korean. I looked up to see Sahim trying to figure out what to do with the platter of raw meat in front of us.

“Sahim,” I giggled as I watched him examine the grill at the middle of our table. He quickly looked up at me once I called his name. “You never grilled meat before?”

“Not like this,” Sahim answered. I laughed and took the meat platter from Sahim, starting up the grill and lining the pieces of meat on top of it. Sahim watched me as I did so. “Did you research how to do this as well?”

“Ha ha,” I deadpanned. “I’m just well cultured.” Sahim laughs at my response as he grabs my hand holding the tongs.

“I’ll do it,” Sahim insisted. I gave him the tongs and watched him flip over the pieces of meat. “So Grace,” he started to say as he was completing his task. “Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

“Like what?” I asked as I watched the grill. Sahim looks up at me for the moment before going back to cooking the meat.

“How did you get into dance?” Sahim asked. I wasn’t surprised that was the question he was going to ask. I feel like you always ask someone that you work with that question; how did you come to this point in your life where we finally meet each other and enjoy each other’s company so much? I was used to questions like this; I even answered them when I was a lawyer.

“My mother is a world-renowned dancer,” I began. “She was a part of one of the original dance productions.”

“She got you into the craft?”

“No,” I answered back quickly. “I was introduced to dance young when my father put me into dance classes. I guess I just really enjoyed it to make it a career,” I explained. This was one of those situations where when you tell people in your life who don’t know about your past whatever you want to tell them about yourself. I didn’t want to get into the whole “my mom left me for her dance career” story. The more times I tell it, the more I have to sit back and close those open wounds and at this point in my life, I was tired having to do so.

“I guess it just runs in your blood,” Sahim responded. He began to remove the cooked meat off of the grill and place them in the plate before me. He begins to put more meat on the grill; I noticed that all of the meat he grilled was on my plate and none on his. I took an extra pair of chopsticks and take a piece of meat from my plate and hold it out towards Sahim. He looked up and smiled. He allows me to put the food into his mouth; I felt my face to get hot. I tried to change the subject to get the attention of of this… tension.

“How about you?” I asked as I started to put some garnish with the meat on my plate. “Tell me about Sahim before he got the tech job for the dance world’s most famous production.” My comment makes Sahim laugh.

“Well, I grew up in St. Louis, oldest of 4,” Sahim began to explain. “I moved to California for school to study film. I helped with lighting in a couple of short films here and there, but this is something I didn’t expect to get.”

“How’d you find out about the production?” I asked, genuinely curious. Sahim smiled and laughed a little; I’m guessing there’s more to the story.

“My mentor,” Sahim began to say. “Ex-mentor. She had suggested that I apply for the job.” Sahim finished grilling the last of the meat, placing some on his plate before putting the last piece on mine.

“Ex-mentor? What happened?” I asked as I continued to eat. I didn’t realize how comfortable I was getting because of the questions I was now asking Sahim. He looked at me before answering, but I immediately saw his face shift; maybe he was uncomfortable talking about it. “I’m sorry if it’s too private or-“

“No, no,” Sahim interrupted to answer. He took a deepbreath before saying anything further. “She was my ex.” I raised my eyebrows, not expecting that to be the answer. I nodded and continued to eat without responding. Sahim laughed at my lack of response. “Did you not date a choreographer or someone that was in the same field you worked in?”

“Please,” I began to say. “I was engaged to a lawyer.” I quickly looked at Sahim after saying that; I didn’t realize I was telling someone something that I tried to keep in my past. Sahim looks at me with wide eyes; he clearly did not see that one coming.

“Wait, you used to be a lawyer?” Sahim asked. Ironically, he doesn’t mention the fact that I was once engaged, y’know, suppose to get married at one point. In all honesty, it’s easier to explain my broken-off engagement to new people than explaining how me, a dancer, was once a damn lawyer.

“Yeah,” I answered shortly, hoping to not get into too much detail about it. “I went to law school after college and got licensed.” I could tell by the look on Sahim’s face that he was thinking the same thing everyone else did. I sighed, knowing I needed to explain myself further. “I was a lawyer for two cases, but realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to continue doing.”

“What made you want to be a lawyer?” Sahim kept his eyes on me as he asked me all these questions.

“My father was in law enforcement, so I grew up around a lot of it and was interested in pursuing it,” I answered, finishing up my plate of food. Sahim nodded his head, continuing to eat his food until he was finished. Both of us leaned back in our chairs, clearly full from our meal.

Shortly after, our witness comes to our table to gather our empty plates. I look up to the waitress before she leaves to ask her for our bill.

Cheong-guseoleul bad-eul su iss-eulkkayo?” I asked in Korean, in which the waitress nodded her head and said she will return to our table with the check. I bowed and thanked her as she left the table. Sahim looks at me and takes in what just happened. He laughs in a way that he’s shocked, yet not surprised that he just witnessed what just happened.

“When did you learn Korean?” Sahim asked as he flashed his award winning smile. God, he’s adorable.

“Back in college,” I said, altering my past to not only make other people believe it as true, but to also make myself believe it as well. “I just took it as an elective, but who knew it would come in handy after all those years?”

“I’m… learning a lot about you tonight,” Sahim responded as he smiled.

“Am I everything you thought I’d be?” I playfully teased just so I can see his smile stay on his face for a little bit longer. Sahim plays with his tongue inside his mouth, clearly thinking about what to say next.

“You completely surpassed my expectations,” Sahim flirted back, in which I felt my face get hot. I laughed at his response, nodding my head. Sahim continues to look at me as he leans forward on the table to get closer to me.

“Say something to me in Korean,” Sahim said. I looked at him as he smiled in a flirtatious way.

“Say something,” I said as I sat across the table from Jamie at dinner. He looks up to me, confused.

“What?” Jamie asked.

“In Korean,” I answered. “Say something in Korean.”

“Dangsin-eun wanbyeoghabnida,” Jamie softly said to me. “You are perfect.”

“Grace?” Sahim called out. I looked at Sahim and see that the smile has faded; he looks concerned and worried.

“Oh I’m… sorry,” I said, trying to get my composure back. “mianhaeyo.” Sahim smiled, looking relieved that I was okay. He gets up from his seat and extends his arm toward me.

“Let’s go back to our hotel,” Sahim mentioned. Back to our hotel; oh how romantic does that sound?

Overexposed: A Self-Love Project.

Overexposed: Being My Own “Plus One”.

I remember wanting to go to this concert back in 2018 as a graduation gift for myself. At the time, I was really into this duo group, Superfruit, and they were going on a small tour around the U.S. One of the stops was New York City; a 45-minute train ride to the venue separated me from seeing a group I really wanted to hear sing live in concert. Two things: I was unemployed and broke, so I wasn’t able to afford the $25 tickets for the show, and I was deathly afraid to go to a concert on my own. I asked my sibling if they wanted to go, but they weren’t interested in seeing a group they didn’t really know. I didn’t know anyone else that would want to come with me to this concert, so I felt discouraged and ended up not going. I still remember looking at the group’s Snapchat stories and seeing footage of them performing at the NYC show. Major FOMO put me in the saddest mood that night. I told myself that if there was ever an artist or show I wanted to go see in concert, I would prepare and have friends to d it with and blah blah blah; needless to say it was an empty promise. I missed out on a lot of major events because I was just too afraid to go out and do these things on my own.

Hi, my name is Liz and I am now my own “plus one” to shows and events.

It took some experience and rewiring of my brain to finally master the art of being my own company. It’s funny; I had this conversation at work one Monday afternoon with Christine, my former temporary supervisor before my current supervisor came. She expressed to me that she thought it was empowering for me to go out and do things on my own, and I couldn’t have agreed more. You see, I’ve dealt with social anxiety long before I was medically diagnosed with it; I still remember being a senior in college going to a friend’s birthday gathering, and having a full-blown panic attack because I was anxious to the point I couldn’t even get up and use the restroom for 5 hours straight. Mind you, that was in 2016; two years before I sought out therapy and officially got the diagnosis. I always had a hard time existing in a social space, so I avoided them at all costs. As I got older, I started to feel like I was missing out on a lot in life; I was already in my mid-20s when I stopped being a college student and got my first job; needless to say, I’ve been a late bloomer for a lot of things in life. It wasn’t until I was truly socially alone that I started to declare myself as my own “plus one” to things that I wanted to do.

ITZY Showcase Tour – January 2020

Back in early 2020 (pre-pandemic), I decided to buy tickets to a concert of a group that I was really into at the time. They were going on their first U.S. tour and the last stop was in Brooklyn at The Kings Theatre. I contemplated whether or not I wanted to go; I knew I was going to have to go by myself as I didn’t know anyone else at the time who was into K-pop. I took a chance to go and enjoy myself listening to music that I enjoyed at the time. I went, by myself, and had the best time. In a way, it kickstarted my solo adventures, and to this day I still live off the philosophy that if I want to do something, I am able to do it by myself and still enjoy my own company.

Bicenennial Beach, FL – March 2020

This mission of experiencing life in my own company allowed me to even go on my first solo trip! Before going to Florida in 2020, the only trips I ever went on were with family or with my partner at the time. During this time, I was still learning how to be alone; I was discovering myself in a way that was very new to me, so when I decided that I was traveling on a plane (for the first time ever) to Florida alone, I was conquering and challenging all of the social fears I had. It was one thing to avoid any social space because of my social anxiety, but to face my fears of social spaces and do them on my own was, in Christine’s words, very empowering.

Game Grumps Live! – June 2022
Demi Lovato: HOLY FVCK Tour – October 2022

In 2022 when the world decided to “unofficially” open back up, I took advantage of the tours of the acts on my bucket list. In June 2022, I went to see the Game Grumps at the NYC stop of their tour and literally had the best time of my life by myself. They have been a YouTube duo that I’ve been watching for nearly 7 years now, so needless to say it was surreal to finally see these two in-person acting like their complete selves as if they were simply recording another episode of Game Grumps for their YouTube channel.

In October 2022, I went to see Demi Lovato while she was in NYC on her “HOLY FVCK Tour”, and when I say that was possibly the best concert I’ve been to thus far. I’ve been listening to Demi Lovato since her Disney Channel days back in 2008 and needless to say that her vocals are some of the best to come out of that generation of Disney stars. It’s been on my bucket list to hear her sing live in concert one day, and when she released her latest pop-rock-influenced album of the same name, I fell in love with it. It was only right to see her perform some of her new songs and even her pop-rock classics from back in the day and feel like I’m 14 years old again. Something was in the air that night of the concert; it was like everyone was together and having fun; dancing in their seats and singing along to the songs. I sat next to two girls who were clearly friends and even though I did not know them, the three of us danced in our row and just connected through the music that we loved and adored. Again, something that I would’ve missed out on if I was too scared to go to concerts and gatherings on my own.

It’s really my biggest goal when tackling my social anxiety; I want to be able to do things because I want to do them. If going on these solo adventures is what it takes to go and make memories by seeing the artists I admire and enjoy, then that’s exactly what I’m doing. It has taught me to go after the things I want, and speaking of which; tonight I’m going to see NMIXX in Brooklyn for their “Nice to MIXX You” Showcase! It’s funny and very ironic that I am going to the same venue where I saw another JYP girl group, ITZY, a little over 3 years ago! I’m really excited to be going to another K-pop concert on my own! K-pop concerts always give me a little more anxiety due to their nature of them (aka, they can be quite chaotic), but I’m so ready to sing and dance and see another talented group in concert

Oh, and in true Liz fashion: solo. ;D

The "Something" Series: Season 3

Something Professional To Talk About: A Grace Monologue.

It was a humid, rainy night in New York for rehearsal, and of course, I forgot an umbrella on my way. I guess that’s what I get for assuming that the weather during the day would stay the same at night in the changing seasons. I got to rehearsal drenched in rainwater ad my hair was slowly turning into a red, frizz ball. I dropped my bag on the ground and sat on the bench in the dressing room where Aimee looked down at me as she placed her things in a locker.

“Damn Grace, you don’t look at your weather app?” Aimee asked. I looked up at her, not really wanting to get into this conversation once again. “Do you need to borrow leotards for rehearsal?”

“No, I’m good,” I said, unzipping my bag and taking my things out to change. “Good thing it didn’t start to rain until I was only a few blocks away.”

“You sure it was only a few blocks?” Aimee questioned. I looked at her and rolled my eyes, tying my frizz ball of hair into a manageable bun. I sarcastically laughed, to which Aimee shook her head; clearly, she was not pleased with my response.

“I’m just glad I made it on time,” I changed the subject as I undressed into my rehearsal outfit. Aimee turned around to help me out; she could see that for every rehearsal, I struggled to hook or suck or place something on correctly.

“Yeah? Got the little one home on time?” Aimee asked, referring to Willow.

“She’s staying with me while Max and Miriam are on their honeymoon,” I answered, zipping my bag and placing it into my locker. Aimee looked at me.

“Honeymoon?” she asked as she began to tie her hair back into a bun. “They finally got married?”

“Yeah,” I said, swallowing hard right after. I was happy for Max for finally setting down with someone who was looking to settle down with him. It doesn’t bother me that he was able to find someone to do that with first, but if I allowed myself to think about it too long, it does remind me that I was once Max’s fiance and that we were close to getting married at one point before everything turned to shit. Before I ruined everything.

“How do you feel about that?” Aimee asked. To her knowledge, Aimee believes that the last man I was with was Max since she knew he and I had Willow. The beauty of getting to know a completely new group of people is that you can tell them what you want to tell them about your past. You can completely bypass a part of your life like it never happened; maybe the more you avoid talking about it, the more you can act like it never did, and maybe one day convince yourself that it truly never did.

“I’m fine,” I simply answered. “I went to the wedding and everything. It was a beautiful ceremony,” I recalled as I finished getting ready for rehearsal. The other dancers were beginning to exit the dressing room to head out toward the rehearsal space. Aimee shuts her locker closed, not amused at me or my response.

“Mhm,” Aimee answered. “Well as long as you’re okay, that’s all that matters.”

“Please,” I scoffed. “I’ve been okay with it longer than Max knew Miriam. I’m happy for them,” I said as I close my locker. “Plus, I get two weeks to spend time with Willow.”

“Yeah, whenever we’re not in rehearsal,” Aimee pointed out. She walked away from me and towards the exit of the dressing room. I sighed loudly, gathering my things to also get ready for rehearsal. I hate how right she is.

As I walk out of the dressing room, I see a group of people at the end of the hall with tech equipment. I can hear the cinematographer talk to the group of people about the rehearsal. When the group of people began to walk toward the stage, I immediately try to get to the space on time, knowing that rehearsal was going to start. I get on the stage with the first set of dancers for the production; the lights were hitting us, practically blinding every dancer up on stage The director starts to call out for the cinematographer to adjust the lights. I take a deep breath, getting ready for another round of rehearsals.

“Alright, dancers get into position,” the director called out. I walk over to my place on stage and wait for the music to start. The first set was a contemporary piece, accompanied by a song that at first listen felt like it was all over the place, but the choreography made the song come alive. “5, 6, 7, 8!” The director called out, and the dancers started to dance. In the middle of the song, the beat changes, and I’m now center stage. I always get nervous with this part of the piece. I try not to close my eyes every time I dance to this part of the piece, but I can’t help but be myself being the center of attention for a minute and a half, which every other dancer transitions to a new spot on stage. This time is no different. “Cut!”

“Fuck,” I mouthed to myself. I opened my eyes to see the director looking directly at me.

“Ms. Ashmore,” the director called out. “We’ve gone through this too many times for it to keep happening.”

“I’m sorry, it won’t happen again,” I said back, wanting nothing more than to disappear.

“Good, because if it does, someone else will take the position instead,” the director said as she looked away and began to critique some of the other dancers in this set. I let out the breath I was holding in, finally not feeling as sick to my stomach as before.

“Alright, I need my first set on stage,” the director said. I was nervous to finally be on the stage that I would be performing on for the next year; even more so rehearsing the piece I always mess up on. I’ve gotten better as the rehearsals went on, but every now and then I catch myself making the same mistakes. Thankfully, I catch them before the director does, so I’ve managed to keep the position for this long in this particular set. “Dancers, get into position.”

I walk on stage and get to my first position for this set. I look around the stage; it is noticeably bigger than the ones we rehearsed on back in New York. I look out toward the empty sets, not realizing that they go further and further back and even up the balcony. I swallowed hard, realizing that this would possibly be the biggest venue I ever performed at to date. I didn’t get too much room to snap out of my thought since the music of the first set began to play, and the dancers had already started dancing. It was like my body was trained to immediately get into the routine, and before I knew it was almost time for me to take center stage and begin the second half of this piece.

I stood in place, waiting for the song to pick back up again for this half of the routine. I kept my eyes open, remembering to keep them open and to go along with the dance as best as I could. You got this, Grace. The music picks back up and I began to dance, letting the notes of the song spin my body around and the lyrics portray the emotion on my face.

“I saw Jamie at your showcase tonight,” Skylar admitted to me. I looked at her, my face stood frozen at the sound of his name. “Even after everything that happened, he showed up for you tonight. He said you were born to dance.”

I closed my eyes before hearing the director call out cut. I was too afraid to open them up and face forward.

“Ms. Ashmore, you know what I’m about to say,” the director yelled out, slamming her clipboard on the seat in front of her. Fuck, I ruined it. Before I could say anything, I hear Sahim call out from backstage.

“My apologies, Sonia,” Sahim walked out onto the stage and said to the director. the dancers all looked at Sahim; including me. I was confused as to why he just randomly showed up on the stage during a rehearsal. “I accidentally adjusted the spotlight too bright after that first half.” I looked at Sahim as he spoke, and he looked at me before returning to the back of the stage.

“Alright, take a 10-minute break! Dancers be back for the third set before time is up,” the director announced. The dancers on stage begin to grab their water bottles and other belongings, exiting the stage. I could feel exhaustion finally hit my body. I take a couple of sips of water as I exited the stage. I see Aimee and Maurice talking in the hallway between the two dressing rooms. They stop what they’re talking about and look at my direction.

“Hey, girl,” Maurice called out. “You good? Miss Sonia almost ripped you a new one on that stage.”

“Don’t remind me,” I said, wiping the sweat off of my face. “I don’t know why I always get so nervous in that half.”

“Because you overthink that half every time we get into rehearsal,” Aimee pointed out. I looked at Aimee as she took a sip of her water.

“Thanks for pointing out the obvious,” I said as I rolled my eyes. Aimee nodded her head, accepting the sarcastic response.

“Well you’re lucky that your beau took the blame for you,” Maurice said. “Like honey, those lights were not as bright as they used to be back in New York.” Aimee laughed at Maurice’s comment. I look at them, not amused by the conversation whatsoever. They immediately stop laughing and look down the hall. “Speaking of your savior, here he comes.” I turned around and looked in the direction Maurice and Aimee were looking at. Of course, it would be Sahim.

“Hey, Sahim!” Maurice called out. I looked at him, hating his very existence for calling Sahim like that. I turned around and saw Sahim walking toward the three of us.

“Hey, guys,” Sahim greeted us. He looks at me and smiles. “Hey, Grace.”

“So those lights, huh?” Maurice jumped in to say. “It’s always those damn lights messing things up.”

“Always,” Sahim laughed and grabbed the back of his neck; he seemed shy. That’s cute. “Anyway, do you guys mind if I pull Grace aside for a moment?” Maurice and Aimee looked at me, and then back at Sahim.

“We don’t mind,” both Maurice and Aimee answered. Both of them walk away and laugh to themselves. I watch them walk away before I look at Sahim.

“Thanks for saving me out there today,” I said to Sahim. “I would’ve been on the next flight back to New York.”

“We don’t want that,” Sahim responded back. “Then who’s going to be my buddy to explore Ulsan on our time off?” I looked at Sahim, taken back.

“Please take Aimee and Maurice off of my hands,” I teased. “I already have one child to look after.” Sahim laughs and flashes his pearly, white teeth. That smile.

“It looks like they both have different plans for their time here in Ulsan,” Sahim whispered and nodded his head toward their direction. I looked over at Aimee and Maurice, making it very obvious that they were watching Sahim and me. “But I know how hard Sonia can be, especially since the show is coming up so soon.”

“Tell me about it,” I emphasized. “I just have to get used to the venue and I’ll be okay for the first set. First rehearsal in Ulsan jitters, you know?”

“Of course,” Sahim agreed. “Even the best dancers have bad days.” I feel my face get hot. I am totally blushing.

“Even the best videographer can have bad days too,” I said back, not realizing that I just flirted back with Sahim. I look at Sahim and see his pearly white teeth make another appearance. He totally looks like he’s blushing too. I can’t help but feel comfortable around Sahim; it’s like he makes me feel like we’re outside of this rehearsal space and are just two regular people just enjoying each other’s time. I think about what Aimee told me back at the hotel: you said that Sahim is a great guy, which tells me you thought about him as more than just friends.

The director calls for a 2-minute warning before rehearsal begins again. Sahim takes a deep breath before he says anything to me.

“I’ll let you get back into place for the rehearsal,” Sahim said. Before he walks away, I can feel my impulsivity creep up to the tip of my tongue. It wants what it wants.

“Hey, Sahim?” I called out before he walked too far away from me. He turns his head around, looking at me attentively. It was too late to turn back now, and maybe, just maybe, I need to start moving on with my life. I have a year in this country, and the thought of spending it with my two good friends and Sahim excites me. I haven’t felt this eager and excited about anything since–

“What’s up?” Sahim asked.

“I should be ready by 9,” I finally answered. “My room number is 320.” Sahim smiled brightly as if saying this made his entire day. It was cute to see him get all nervous but excited at the same time.

“I’ll see you then, Ms. Ashmore,” Sahim said before walking back to his post. I hear the director call out our 1-minute warning before rehearsal began again. Fuck. I ran past Sahim to make it back onto the stage on time.

The Teenage Monologues.

Foe in Love: A Milo Monologue.

“Alright guys, get in your positions on stage,” my dad calls out to the class as we drop our things on the auditorium seats. I look around and see the other vocal majors in my class slowly walk up to the stage. I haven’t seen Mollie since last week, and something tells me it’s because she’s grounded from not checking in with anybody. I’m still annoyed that she never even checked in with me or told me where she was going. Some best friend I have.

I walk toward the stage to get to my spot when I see Aaron enter the auditorium. He holds the door for someone else coming into the auditorium. I notice that it’s Mollie he’s holding the door for. She smiles as she walks past him to rush toward the stage. I don’t understand why she would be nice to a two-faced punk like Aaron. Aaron only cares about Aaron, so I don’t know why he even tries to be nice to Mollie, and why Mollie doesn’t see past the bullshit.

“Ms. Castro,” my dad called out for Mollie. Mollie runs to her spot on stage. She looks at my dad. “Try to make it to class on time, please.”

“Technically I am on time,” Mollie explained. The late bell rings, in which my dad looks at Mollie. “Now I would’ve been late.” My dad doesn’t argue with Mollie; he walks to the front of the stage as everyone else gets to their spots.

“The winter showcase is 4 days away,” my dad begins to say. “We have to clean up any spots in the songs that do not sound clear, confident, and coherent.” My dad looks at one of the students in the back of the formation who just dropped a bunch of papers from his binder. Before the guy can pick them up, my dad speaks directly to him.

“We are also not using our sheet music this week,” he continued to say. “Music must be memorized by now so if you don’t know it; learn it.” Sometimes I really think my dad turns into a completely different person when he’s teaching. How can I go home and my father dances around with music playing from Jennifer’s portable speaker in the kitchen? How can he be a chill dad but an uptight teacher within the same day? I know passing his class isn’t easy, but if I know my dad well enough, he makes everyone work hard in their craft; even the weakest link. My dad flips through his binder of music and looks up at us.

“All for Love,” he says to us, which is the song we’re performing as a whole choir as our finale. “Mr. Serrano and Ms. Castro, take your spots up front for the solo.” I watch Aaron walk past me and I can’t help but roll my eyes. I don’t know why out of all the people in this class, my dad decided to give Aaron the solo. I can understand Mollie; she’s easily the best vocalist in our class, but Aaron is mediocre at best in my opinion.

Both Aaron and Mollie stand in front of the choir, facing out toward the empty auditorium. There’s nothing but silence before my dad lifts his arm for us to get ready to practice the song. The bass section starts off the song, followed by the altos. Then, Aaron starts the song with his solo part. He and Mollie start off singing the solo parts back to back before the choir comes in and follows.

“And so I say hey,” Aaron belts out, which starts the chorus of the song, and now everyone is singing their part. My dad continues to direct the different sections, rocking and bumping to the beat and getting into the music. This is more so the guy I know as my dad.

No one expects Mollie to hit the high note so early in the song, but it definitely catches some of our choir mates off. My dad stops us when he realizes that the choir loses energy at this point. He walks to the individual sections of the choir to assist them. Mollie turns her head to look at me.

“Was I off?” Mollie asked me. I shook my head before answering her.

“That was dope,” I said. Mollie smiles before she turns back around. She looks at Aaron who smiles at her and gives her a thumbs-up. It bothers me that Aaron and Mollie seem to tolerate each other, and I don’t know if that’s because they have to rehearse the solo parts, but I expect Mollie to see that Aaron only ever does things for himself. Maybe Mollie is doing the same?

I don’t know, but Aaron always looks at Mollie the way I look at Sophie. Wait.

“Alright, let’s start from the chorus,” my dad calls out. The choir focuses on my dad, who then counts us off to start. Aaron starts off the chorus, and the choir follows right after. I look at Aaron and Mollie as they go back and forth sharing the solo parts. They look at each other as they sing the lines.

As we get to the most complicated part of the song, the choir does a good job of keeping the tempo even when all the parts are different. The chaotic noise comes to a halt when both Aaron and Mollie belt out the highest notes in the song. They look at each other as they do it. Aaron smiles as he stares at Mollie at this moment. They sound… Clear. Confident. Coherent.

Does Aaron like like Mollie?

“Mr. Kamalani,” my dad calls out for me. The choir stops singing and my eyes jolt back to my dad. “Please try to pay attention so that you do not miss where you come in.” I didn’t bother fighting back with him; it was bad enough that the last time I did, it gave me a strike on my dual major status. My dad starts up the song again from where we last left off. I can’t help but look at Aaron and Mollie throughout the whole rehearsal; it bothered me that they were so friendly with each other, let alone think that Aaron actually might like her. Does Mollie like him back? I know when Mollie likes a guy, and she doesn’t really seem to be acting all boy-crazy over Aaron. Maybe Mollie can see the bullshit for what it is because Aaron wears it proudly without even knowing.

We finally finish the first song of rehearsal; my dad starts off the unit rehearsals and this particular one I sit out. It’s a small group of baritones and altos that are now rehearsing for their section. I sit next to Mollie in the auditorium seats; I feel like it’s been forever since we actually got to sit down and hang out.

“Hey, Mol,” I said as I sit in the seat next to her. I held my fist out for her for a pound; Mollie smiles and returns the fist back.

“Hey, Milo,” Mollie greeted back. “I’m glad we’re done with that first song, it kills my voice.”

“I can only imagine,” I said back. “It messes up the whole choir after the first couple of tries.” We both look at the stage where the baritones and altos are rehearsing their songs. Aaron is one of the baritones rehearsing up on stage, and I see Mollie watching the rehearsal happen. God, I got to ask.

“So,” I started off the conversation. “Did Aaron allow you to get more lines in the solo part when you guys were dividing them up?” Mollie looked at me, clearly confused at what I was asking.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“It’s just that you definitely outshine him in the solo,” I explained. “It must’ve been hard for him to give up some of the parts.”

“Your dad split up the parts,” Mollie corrected me. “But thanks for the compliment!” I shake my head and laugh. I watch Mollie go back to watching the rehearsal happening on stage. I fidget around in my seat until I see my dad look at the back of the auditorium and stops his rehearsal.

“May I help you?” my dad talks to the person at the back of the auditorium. I turned around and see it’s Sophie; she looks nervous to be down here.

“Uhm, Mr. Harrison is asking for Milo Kamalani,” Sophie answered. Me? I turn around to look at my dad; I’m not surprised that he’s looking at me as well.

“Go,” my dad said. I get up from my seat and look at Mollie, then back at Sophie. I walk down the aisle up toward the exit of the auditorium. “Please be back before your unit comes up for rehearsal.”

“Okay,” I answered. As I got closer to Sophie, I felt my mood instantly change for the better. Thanks for saving my day, Scout.

The "Something" Series: Season 3

Getting Over Something to Get Under Something: A Grace Monologue.

The sun was setting on my first day here in Ulsan. I fell back onto the bed and exhaled loudly after taking out all of my belongings from my suitcases and putting them away. Even though this place was just temporary until we started the production next month, I knew that no matter where I stayed it was going to be permanent for the next year.

I sat up from my bed and looked around my room; the city at night surprisingly feels so similar to the city in America and it somewhat adds a level of comfort for me. Maybe I can never escape city life, no matter where I go. I looked at my phone for the time; I had about an hour to kill before I had to go to tonight’s rehearsal. It wasn’t until shortly after that I got a call on my phone; it was my mom. Isn’t it like 5 o’clock in the morning in New York?

“Hi, mom,” I answered the phone getting up from the bed to gather my stuff for rehearsal.

“Someone forgot to call when they landed,” my mom pointed out. I couldn’t help but smile at her response; sometimes I forget that she has motherly tendencies with me.

“Sorry,” I began to say. “Check-in was crazy and I just wanted to relax before rehearsal tonight.”

“They have you guys going to rehearsal already?” my mom asked, shocked. “They gave us at least 24 hours when I was a part of the production.”

“Yeah, well that was back in the old days,” I teased. “When was that; in 2023?”

“I was 15 in 2023, smartass,” she corrected me. I couldn’t help but laugh; it was nice to finally feel like I can talk to my mother and joke around with her. Maybe it was because she’s the only one that understands the position I’m currently in. “How are you adjusting to everything though? They don’t have you living in a shoe box?”

“No, mom,” I answered. “They have us at this hotel before we move into our apartments,” I placed my phone on the table and put my mother on speaker as I got ready.

“Did you eat anything yet?” my mom asked. I rolled my eyes at her question; I already know where this was going.

“I’m going to get something after rehearsal,” I answered, looking at myself in the wall mirror. “I had a couple of snacks on the plane.”

“Grace,” my mom simply said. Here goes the “mom scolding” thing she likes to do nowadays. “You’re going to rehearsal on an empty stomach. You need to eat something.” I know that my mom worries the most about my eating habits; it was something she also struggled with when she was a dancer in her younger days. Ever since Skylar told my mom about me not eating for the first couple of weeks during my time in California, she’s been on my case about eating. When I was in New York for the short time, I stayed with my parents and my mom made it apparent that she was going to make me eat like a regular person. I’m trying, I really am, but this is just a habit that doesn’t go away overnight, especially when I’m rehearsing for one of the biggest productions of my dance career.

“I will, mom, ” I said, trying to change the subject of this conversation. I suddenly hear a knock on my door. I walk towards it, still talking to my mom on the phone. “Plus, I hear that Korean food is like some of the best food to have.” I open the door and see Aimee standing there. I invite her into my room, walking back to where my cell phone is.

“Well you better eat something before your damn rehearsal, Grace,” my mom sternly says. “I’m not there to make you eat when you need to eat!” I look at Aimee, who looks at me with her arms crossed along her chest. Oh boy.

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Ashmore,” Aimee begins to say. “Maurice and I will make sure she eats.” I can feel my face get hot. If there’s one thing that I wish never happened, it would be the moment that I brought Maurice and Aimee over for dinner after a rehearsal one night and noticed that I barely didn’t have anything on my plate. Of course, my mother had to bring it up in front of them.

“Hi, Aimee,” my mom’s tone completely shifts. “Thank you for looking after Grace!” I sighed loudly, I walked away from my phone and continued to get ready for rehearsal. 30 years old, and yet I’m still being treated like a child in one way or another.

“Okay mom, I gotta get going; I’ll talk to you later if I’m up,” I said, trying to end the conversation right then and there. I take my mom off of speaker and placed the phone near my ear. “Yes mom, I love you too. Have a good day,” I said and quickly hung up. I looked at Aimee, who then started laughing. “What?”

“Your mom will be a mom no matter where you are in the world,” Aimee stated, as she walked toward the small table in the room and takes a seat. “But speaking of eating; how about you obey mother’s commands and go and eat with Sahim after rehearsal?”

“Why are you on this agenda to get me to go out with him?” I asked, a little annoyed. “I thought you would be more understanding than Maurice about this.”

“The only thing I understand is that Sahim is a great catch and you’re letting a good opportunity go to waste,” Aimee emphasized.

“Then you go out with him,” I said, wanting to just end this conversation and get ready for rehearsal.

“Oh you know I wouldn’t pass on a free dinner,” Aimee laughed. “But sadly, all that Sahim wants to eat is you.” I looked at Aimee, a little disgusted. “Sorry, I meant ‘eat with’.”

“You’ve been hanging out with Maurice for too long, ” I mentioned. Aimee gets up from the seat and grabs me by the shoulders to grab my attention.

“Girl,” Aimee said in a more serious tone. “I don’t know what’s holding you back from just having dinner with this man, but whatever it is, you gotta stop letting it control your life.” She walks me in front of the wall mirror and turns me around to face myself. “You deserve to have fun and to make experiences in your time here. Whoever, or whatever, is holding you back from doing so isn’t deserving of you.” I look at myself in the mirror in my sweatpants, sneakers, and over-sized sweater. My hair is in a messy bun and if there’s any sort of makeup on my face, it’s been on my face for longer than it should’ve been. I turned around to look at Aimee. Having Aimee as a friend was different than any other friend I had. She was never pushy, and she understood a lot of the anxiety I had regarding the production as a dancer. If anyone knew how hard it was to balance a social life with this career choice, it would be her. Aimee was only ever “pushy” when she felt strongly about something. I trusted Aimee, yet she doesn’t know anything about my past before this production; all she knew was that I had a daughter and a mother who was well-known in the dance community.

“Look, I think Sahim is a great guy,” I began to say. I wasn’t lying; I enjoyed hanging out with Sahim with the little time we both had. It made the time pass in a way that I haven’t felt in a really long time, and that’s what scares me the most. What if I actually like Sahim more than I’m leading onto? What if I’m giving Sahim the wrong impression? What if Sahim actually likes me? “But it’s more complicated than what it really is.”

“So there’s an ex I have to fight, or?” Aimee said, balling up her fists together. I chuckled, appreciating Aimee not making this conversation too sappy.

“No, no, nothing like that,” I answered. “I’m just afraid of ruining a perfectly good friendship.” I was hoping Aimee would buy what I was saying. I wasn’t to admit that there was an ex that is holding me back from going through this whole mess again, but more so I was afraid of allowing another man that close to me again. What are the odds I mess up a perfectly good man again? Sahim is better off with someone else that wasn’t me.

Aimee cocks an eyebrow; she doesn’t believe a word I’m saying, but she doesn’t push me any further. She grabs her rehearsal bag from the small table, getting ready for us to leave.

“Whatever the real answer is, Grace, you deserve to move on with your life,” Aimee stated. “You said it yourself that Sahim is a great guy, which tells me that you’ve thought of him as more than ‘just friends.'” Aimee turns around and waits for me to grab my bag from the bed. Before we both walk out of my room, Aimee looks at me. “The only thing holding you back from moving on is yourself.” Aimee turns around and starts to walk down the hotel hallway. I sighed, locking the door behind me.

Overexposed: A Self-Love Project.

Staying True To Yourself in a Transitional Phase.

I remember my temporary therapist asking me to describe myself in the weeks after ending a relationship in my life that made up my identity for the last decade. Well… uhm, I’m a writer. I graduated with my Master’s last year, and… uhm…

Who the hell was I? Was I only a person in other people’s shadows?

I was entering a new environment of people at a job that I got a couple of weeks ago. If I couldn’t even explain to my therapist who the hell I was, then how was I supposed to introduce myself to a group of people at my new job? Now that I reflect back on the time, did I ever truly introduce myself to my coworkers at the bookstore when I first started working there? I love to believe that I eventually was able to introduce myself properly, later on, during the time when I spent so much time on my own that I was finally existing as a standalone person, not just a shadow of someone else.

I was Liz. I was 26 years old and I just started my weight loss surgery journey. I had just gone on my first solo event to a K-pop concert; oh yeah, I was a big fan of K-pop and listened to all the 3rd-gen groups and started to introduce myself to 4th-gen idol groups. I was a K-pop collector; I bought and traded photocards to complete a collection. I was “SikLiz” in a community where people instantly knew my favorite K-pop idol was named Seungsik, and the group I loved the most was Victon. I followed new releases like I was 10 years old again listening to the Top 40 hits of the current week. I was Liz; a person who finally found a sense of identity on my own time.

When my therapist asked me to describe myself the other day during our session, I had to take a moment to think of an answer. Well, I work as a college assistant at my old college, I write fictional stories on my blog, I also write pen pal letters to those in the community, and I’m a K-pop fan. I also, uhm…

Who the hell am I?

Hi, my name is Liz, and I’m back in my “transitional” era. Phase.

When I talk about a transitional phase, I mean I’m in a space where I’m a little uncertain about who I am. A lot in my life has changed since I last had to ask myself who I was and what defines me as, well, me. It was a lot easier to define myself when I felt like I belonged in a community. I’m no stranger to being a part of a small community of people who shared the same interests and hobbies that also (in a way) defined them. I was a part of the community that lived solely on Twitter for The Killing, a true-crime drama that aired on television from 2011 – 2014. That community came together to fight for another season after the show got canceled after Season 3, in which a couple of months later Netflix picked up the show and gave fans a fourth and final season, closing (and answering) any lingering questions about the overall story and the characters involved. In 2020, I entered a community where I was able to connect with people that shared the same interest in Kpop and its collection aspect of it. Shortly after, I was introduced to the pen pal community, which not only gave me a creative outlet for crafting, but it allowed me to talk to new people in a low-stakes matter in ways I wouldn’t normally if done in person.

I don’t very much feel like I belong in any community right now. It doesn’t bother me that I feel that way but it has made me realize that for me, a huge element of identity comes from feeling like I fit in or belong to a community with an already established identity.

The problem with that is that being a part of a community is a temporary moment in life. You find the community when you’re interested in a particular thing, but it’s normal to leave it once you’re not interested in that particular thing anymore. Our interests and hobbies are constantly changing, and I’m realizing that I’ve allowed these communities to create this identity for me; I solely didn’t exist outside of these communities, so it’s been hard for me to stay true to myself as I transition out of these communities and discover my identity without any influence or belief that external things identify me.

I’m still trying to figure things out and I know that even this phase of my life will most likely change in the future as I get older. The thing about transitional phases is that they are constantly happening. You graduate college and have to figure out who you are outside of being a student after being one for the first 22 years of your life. You turn 26 and realize you are now closer to 30 than 20 and have to figure out what career path you desire to follow, where you want to take your social and romantic relationships, and pretty much have to decide where you want to be by the time you hit the next major milestone in your life. A lot of being in a transitional phase means that you start realizing the things that make up your identity are the intangible things; the things that you’re interested in and your hobbies are just the “DLC” to your identity.

So, hi! My name is Elizabeth, but I prefer to be called Liz because I feel like I identify as “Liz” more than my actual first name. I am experimental, but only because I now have the confidence to try things I was too afraid to try in the past. I am festive and colorful; my style is influenced by colors and patterns that were popular in the late 90s and early 2000s. My style has also been influenced by K-pop fashion, as I am a very avid K-pop listener and casual K-Pop collector. So yes, you will see me rocking platform Converse sneakers because every K-pop idol in every group has had them on at one point in their careers and I love them.

I very much embody self-love, even if people tend to see it as me being selfish. I am selfish, but I am selfish with myself. I am an empath, yet an assertive person; I listen and put myself in other people’s shoes in situations that I may not understand at first, but I will be honest and open about things if I feel like I am being talked down at or if I am not getting the same level of respect I give to people. I am loyal to my morals and beliefs, but I do not judge anyone else for contradicting ones to my own. I have social anxiety, but not the kind that is afraid of people or social gatherings; it’s the social anxiety of specific social situations like fearing what other people think of me because of my lack of social skills and how I come across when interacting with people. I also will say that a part of my social anxiety is that I avoid a lot of social situations due to my fear of confrontation and for the worst-case scenarios to happen.

On a lighter note, I am a writer. I feel like my words are the most coherent and impactful when they are written down in the form of a short poem on my phone, a blog post exposing myself in ways that I wouldn’t verbalize, in letters to pen pals, and in the form of original characters that have been created in my imagination. When everything else in my life has changed, writing has always been something that was an interest and hobby that was solely mine. I studied creative writing and writing studies when I was in school and became a first-time published scholar two years ago when I wrote an academic article about the importance of expressive writing in college classrooms.

I am self-aware, and I am constantly finding ways to better my mental and physical health as I realize by doing so, self-love and self-confidence begin to come to play. I realize that I do very much like the person I am, and I’m only trying to live my life as contact as possible because I know just how fast time flies as I get older. I am not perfect, and I know that I am still very much flawed and that I don’t make the best decisions because of those flaws. I’m growing and accepting the path of life I am currently on, and I am always wanting to learn whether it’s a new interest developing, going through a life lesson, or if it’s something that I never really knew about myself.

As long as I remember the things that truly make up me as a person, any transitional phase of life I’ll go through will be okay; it’s just another sequel of the book series waiting to be written.

I am currently writing it.