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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Growing Pains



The start of a new month is coming up soon; this one especially is an important new beginning. Today is the last day of September, the first full month of the semester, and this is a benchmark point for how I'm doing, settling in and going about this semester. This past week was particularly brutal — all the glamour, and the trauma, and the f*cking melodrama — but now that it's over, I feel like I can take a deep breath and release all the anxiety in my chest, the burden on my shoulders, and the noise in my head.

I'm currently extremely satisfied by how I'm managing my academics, my extracurricular commitments, my health, and my aesthetic. I'm still working on squeezing a social life in, but even though it could be more robust, it's mostly sufficient. In doing so, I need to reassess where I'm putting my time and effort, and only continue putting my time and effort into places that I feel good about it going toward. If I don't feel good about it, it's time to let go. I will choose to be with the people that choose me, however painful it may be to outgrow the people I love.

There's really no certainty at this stage in life — everything is temporary, ever-changing. College is a time of development, transitions, and growth. As long as I have integrity in my character, being genuine and intentional in my actions, constantly striving for introspection and self improvement, I can be confident that everything will be okay. I'm not sure if there's any certainty ever, but I'm learning that a good thing doesn't have to last forever. ◊

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Green Beans


My friend Wei-Wei was making green beans the other day, and we talked about how green beans are so good, so wholesome, any way you cook them. I hadn't had any in a while, so our conversation inspired me to get some. As I was meal prepping the chicken, potatoes, and green beans, I was struck by a sudden wave of nostalgia in the middle of preparing the beans. It wasn't quite uncomfortable, but I was slightly shaken by the intensity of the feeling. For what only feels like a split second, I am six years old, sitting on a little wooden stool on the backyard deck, the sun on my shoulders and on the worn, musty wood, making everything smell warm. The AC unit is humming behind me, a slight breeze occasionally rustles the leaves on the vine canopy beneath the balcony. I'm with my mom, and we're snapping green beans, pinching off the ends and then snap! snap! snap! breaking the beans down into small, same-sized segments. Sometimes we talk, about school, about summer; sometimes it's silent. When we're done, my mom takes the strainer full of beans inside to cook, and I sprint down three stairs, out the gate with the bell, and look for roly-polies while I wait for the food to be ready. Soon, the fragrant smells of green beans cooked with pork wafts out of the kitchen, and I run back in without being called. A spatula of sticky rice in a bowl, the green beans and pork and all the juices on top, running into the rice, first to shove into my mouth with complete disregard of etiquette, and then to savor. I always ask to leave some for the next day; I still maintain that leftover green beans and pork tastes even better as the flavors have had more time to sink in.

Then it's back to my task. I finish prepping the green beans, and it's time to cook. I don't have pork, so I make a mental note to myself to pick up some bacon the next time I decide to cook green beans. I inexpertly tend to three large skillets, the struggle of trying not to burn anything burying those memories as quickly as they were unearthed. The food turns out okay, but it's a shame I didn't have pork.

Later that night, I remembered it was also the day of my little sister's birthday, and even though I called her, I couldn't think of a single thing to say. I struggled to figure out how old she was, mistaking her birth year for that of my little brother at first. I felt terrible, but sometimes I forget I have a family. It's been over two years since I've lived with them, a tenth of my life. The one thing that is more or less a constant structural support in most people's lives does not exist in my personal landscape. Usually, hearing my parents' voice is a source of anxiety, and is something I happily do without. Most of the time, I don't feel like I'm missing something. But sometimes, there are little moments, like when I'm snapping green beans, that I think about what could have been, what I had before, but not anymore. ◊

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Knowing My Limits (Update)

An addition to last night's rather frantic post:

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. I believe the cause of feeling like I was "hitting the wall" was a mild hypoglycemic crash. For context, in the absence of professional medical evaluation, I was probably hyperglycemic for most my life eating so much sugar and chocolate. It might not have been diabetes but I had all the symptoms: hunger and fatigue, drinking water all the time but still being thirsty and having to go to the bathroom frequently, dry skin, and vision problems. I've had these concerns for a number of years but they remained unaddressed because my parents were somewhat neglectful regarding my medical issues. I'd bring up concerns and they'd be dismissed, and I wasn't encouraged to bring up my concerns to the doctor at regular checkups. Now that I'm responsible for my own health, I'm determined to take care of things properly.

So, suddenly, I've decided to take action. In changing my lifestyle so abruptly, the healthy eating and exercising intensity caused a hypoglycemic crash, as my body couldn't adjust to the lack of sugar. All I could feel was frustration when I couldn't figure out why, but now that I've recovered and I think about it, it all makes sense. It wasn't that I was mentally incapable of writing, it was a physical issue, not something I could address through discipline and willpower alone.

I might not be able to fully control how and when my depression and anxiety manifests but there are things I can control, like my diet, exercise, and sugar intake. I used to not bother, but now I have the autonomy to make decisions about my life, and these are things that will be important to me. I now know to make these changes gradually and to be forgiving to myself when I'm not able to adjust instantaneously, but eventually I will be at a comfortable balance. Until then, I'll have to be careful and do what I need to to keep myself functioning. ◊

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hitting The Wall

It's 1AM, which is by no means an appallingly late time to be up on a school night, but I have been sitting at my desk starting at this essay for, oh, about six hours now. Truthfully, I should have realized that I wasn't going to get anything done by around 9PM, by when I had done everything I could to avoid working on this essay: showering, eating dinner, cleaning the kitchen, clearing off my desk, facetiming my friend, eating twenty chicken nuggets, buying six sports bras (yes, six), browsing Buzzfeed endlessly, etc, etc, etc. It would have been much more effective if I had gone to bed early and woken up early to work on this, yet somehow I insisted on getting this done tonight and couldn't see that it was a bad idea to do so.

It's been a wildly successful week by any measure, as was intended. I went to the gym, caught up on all my readings, stayed on top of my reading responses, attended all my classes, worked at my internship, and forced myself not to procrastinate so I could go to sleep by 10PM. I figured that if I hopped on the work grind for a week, it would be enough to catch up from the confused mess left by the beginning of the semester, and reset myself to a sustainable schedule for the rest of the year. For a while, it worked. I got all of my work done, exercised, ate healthy, and slept enough. But suddenly, today, confronted by a single Classics essay of which I had three pages left, everything stopped. I did everything I could to avoid working on that essay. I ended up binge eating and stress shopping because I was so distressed that I wasn't doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I wrote in my journal. I wrote this blog post. Nothing could pull me out of the academic writing rut, which seemed to come out of nowhere.

I keep reminding myself that everything is okay. Even though I spent a lot of money on my stress shopping, it was arguably for things I needed that were on sale. It might be a bit financially irresponsible, but as soon as I check off things on my list like selling the extra iPad I received this summer, those finances will be in ship-shape. The binge eating was a small blip in an otherwise healthy routine. Yet still, even though I know it isn't, everything feels like it is out of my control.

Moving forward, I think it's important for me to be aware of my limits. As much as I try, there is only so much I can do until I hit a mental wall. What should have been an easy essay was the straw that broke the camel's back after a grueling week. I am only capable of being on a productive grind for so long until I get worn down. When that happens, I need to stop and let myself recover, because I can't do my best work if I am not my best self. For now, this means going to sleep and getting up in the morning to try again. If that doesn't work, then there are always other options, like asking for an extension. Even if that's not possible, there's nothing I can do right now except make taking care of myself my only priority. ◊

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Girl Has Needs



There's a boy and he was everything I wanted. Six foot one, built like a demigod, dark hair, hazel eyes, smart, and kind. He liked archery and the color purple and cats and he laughed at my puns and held my hand and took me out to dinner, and he liked me too, until it all crumbled before me like a sandcastle at high tide, for seemingly no reason at all. I watched what could have been slip away like sand between my fingers. It felt like a big, "Fuck you," from the universe, to be shown something so beautiful and magnificent, and to have it all washed away like it never existed.

I keep trying to figure out what went wrong. Part of it was my fault — I rushed into it, I couldn't help myself, I couldn't stay chill. But I tried, I tried, I tried, I tried everything I knew, and nothing was getting a response. He'd talk to me some times, and then he wouldn't. I grew frustrated with every interaction, the on and off conversations where nothing was being said and it felt like he didn't care. It wasn't out of any malicious intent; it was just who he was, somewhat oblivious and too much in his own head to consider how other people felt. I struggled to accept this, and part of me still hasn't, but it's past time for me to let go. But the worst part is I know I'd throw myself back at him in a heartbeat if he made any effort at all.

The fact of the matter is I'm alone again, and I need to be not alone, just not in the way you think. I thought I'd be growing my circle of friends in college, but instead I find myself losing people. One friend temporarily for some business travel, another off to study abroad and no longer speaking English, one former friend to the complicated matter of a possibly non-consensual encounter between us, one friend to his own anxiety, one friend to her numerous other obligations, and countless others to distance and time and no reason to talk. I fill my time as much as I can with classes and notes and work and exercise and digital distractions but still I am faced with empty weekends. Nobody blowing up my phone. The people I make plans with don't invite me back. All the discipline in what I eat, when I exercise, how I study, how I live my life, has no impact whatsoever on how other people live theirs and whether they choose for me to be a part of it. Maybe it's a bad case of FOMO but I think there's something more there: I need that connection, I need communication, I need a sense of security that people care. Regardless of my self worth, I am only human, and humans are social creatures. I have no idea what to do about this but to continue to reach out, and hope that someone reaches back. ◊

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Settled In



It's been a full two weeks into the school year and I already feel comfortably in the swing of things. I just got in to my last waitlisted class, my internship has started, I've finished my shopping, my finances are in order, and I'm ready to try new things. For the first time, I don't feel apprehensive about how things are going to go, and I don't have that lingering feeling of not doing enough or being caught up enough, even though it is true that I'm still behind on my reading. I believe part of this has to do with my experience in DC; I was constantly challenged and pushed beyond what I felt capable of, but now I feel a lot more comfortable with who I am. I am a changed person: I don't take things so personally anymore, I made a whole lot of mistakes, and I did a lot of growing up. These are all new feelings and it's nice to feel so settled in for once. Perhaps it's odd to do a blog post like this, but I don't have much to share except that I'm happy right now and looking forward to things to come. ◊

Monday, September 4, 2017

#obsessed: Good Nights — Whethan & Passenger Seat — Clueless Kit





If my rate of blogging and my general mood are correlated, then evidently I've been in a great mood lately. I suppose this is true: my schedule is settling in with the exception of one last waitlisted class, my room is set up exactly to my expectations, and I'm starting to see my friends again. I feel like I'm already in the swing of things, unlike past semesters or summers where the time is halfway gone before I feel ready to begin.

Good music is also extremely effective at mood boosting. These two are from the Spotify Pop Chillout and Discover Weekly playlists, respectively. I really couldn't choose which one I liked better, so I'm #obsessed with both of them. "Good Nights" has lyrics about a good thing with an old friend ending, but the tune is carefree, evoking a feeling of savoring happier memories of past times. "Passenger Seat" is about reconnecting with an old friend on a drive by the ocean, filled with hopeful and uplifting vibes. I find that both of them are fairly relevant to my life right now, as I try to become comfortable with letting old parts of my life go and welcome new things in at the same time. We'll see where this new year takes me, but I'm excited for good things to happen. ◊

Friday, September 1, 2017

Types of Guys You Date in Your Twenties



I was really obsessed by how alone I was over the summer — in retrospect, pathetically so. This led to a lot of bad decisions in my quest for a fun summer fling. But, as I quickly found out, the vast majority of guys are not worth the time. I'm glad that I at least made all of my mistakes early on and all at once in one summer, so moving forward, I won't be having the same awful experiences over the course of several years. Starting off this semester, I am still single, but happily so. The following caricatures are sadly based on real life experiences.

1) the Liberal
-fights for higher taxes on the wealthy and $15 minimum wage
-only talks about himself
-interrupts you in the middle of a sentence
-doesn't pay for your food in the name of equality
-never asks any questions
-expects you to walk around to meet him
-casually low key racist

2) the Hookup
-decent first date and conversation
-invites himself over without really asking
-thinks he's a really good singer
-doesn't want to use a condom "because it doesn't feel good"
-thinks the best thing a guy can give a girl is sex
-kicks you out at 8am because it's "inconvenient"
-messages you two weeks later about how he's over you

3) the Boring Corporate Guy
-has a great job, his own apartment, and car
-takes you out to brunch without a reservation
-is incredibly stingy with money
-can't hold a conversation
-not as tall as you think he is
-doesn't take a hint
-a dead fish has more personality

4) the Philosophical One
-first question he asks is, "what is your definition of happiness?"
-shows you cool libraries
-can't be bothered to comb his hair
-is happy to just cuddle
-a Buddhist, even though he is white
-always saying how beautiful you look
-really chill, like maybe too chill

5) the Techie
-slightly awkward and nerdy, but cute
-lives for his work
-is really smart, going places
-not aggressively sexual
-takes you out for lots of food!
-actually fairly interesting in terms of life experiences
-doesn't text you back
-lasts six seconds

6) the Fuckboi
-seems perfect, almost too perfect, at first
-most likely a gym rat trying to get swole
-room is messy af, almost a biohazard zone
-says he likes you but doesn't make an effort
-having a conversation is too much of an emotional commitment
-ghosts you for three months two weeks after you start talking
-messages you to hook up at 1pm on a Wednesday
-is emotionally unavailable, probably because he misses his ex

Friday, August 25, 2017

Nausea



There wasn't enough time. Back from DC, unpack, set up, help people, sleep alone at night, go to meetings, sleep alone during the day, shop around aimlessly, rinse and repeat. Start classes, figure it out, go through the motions, have an emotional talk with an ex-friend (minus the emotions), have a talk with a friend (again, minus the emotions), feel confused, feel ignored, feel confused, feel hurt and upset and say nothing.

Girl, it takes guts just to survive.

I'm feeling like a computer and there's a setting in my control panel that's wrong. I don't know how to process emotions, don't know how to make conversation, don't know who I am. Everyone is going out and hanging out and having fun, and it feels like I don't know how to do that myself and no one cares enough about me to show me how. I know this is something I can work on myself but goddammit it's difficult and I'm so tired and scared. People in their twenties are awful and selfish and oblivious. So am I. Don't take your friends for granted. Don't stop showing your friends you care. Things get bad but that doesn't mean you stop caring.

Finished the first week, really just half a week, and I'm already out of it. Nausea, headache, fatigue, whatever this is that's keeping me down, I'm sick of it, but I don't know what to do about it. Actually, I know what to do. Do better, do better, do better. Goddammit it's difficult and I'm tired and scared.

There's always that part of me that tells me to accept this emotionally stunted aspect of myself. I can't change the way I was raised. I could forego the entire struggle of feeling like I don't know how to fit in. I don't know if that's possible in this kind of society. I could move to a small farm with some cats and paint in my spare time. I'm already familiar enough with being alone, and this way, at least I won't have to struggle with being lonely if I have no one to miss. It's probably not going to happen, but I can always wonder.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Summer in Review

As you may have guessed from my previous posts, I've spent ten weeks of this summer in Washington, DC. Going to DC came at a good point in my life because I'm stepping into my twenties and learning how to be really independent, without the structure of college to hold me in place. At the same time, doing the Cal-in-the-Capital program gave me the support I needed when I needed it.

As much as I enjoyed it, this summer was also incredibly difficult. However, the challenges also made me learn and grow tremendously. I found myself more confident in my ability to take initiative to make things happen. I've always been fairly independent and capable of managing my own affairs, but this summer really forced me to put those skills into practice. I found myself confronted with many new questions: how do I network? what do you do with your free time? I realized that it is perfectly fine to enjoy doing nothing for a bit, but ultimately it is up to you to take the lead with opportunities. Nobody is going to give you anything until you ask for it.

Speaking of networking, I experienced firsthand the power and necessity of it. My first two weeks at my first internship just didn't feel right, and I'm certain I'd have been miserable all summer if I had stayed. Instead, I took a risk during week three, when that internship was on a break, and started looking for new places through networking. It was simple enough once I got the hang of it: talk to a person, who introduces you to another person, who introduces you to another person...

Somehow, in week four, I started at my dream internship at the National Education Association. The networking had paid off, and had landed me at the perfect opportunity to explore American education policy. Things were still kind of slow and I had no real work for two weeks, but this was an organization that had the potential and connections to introduce me to new things. At this point, it was over halfway through the summer, yet somehow I was still just moving in. I received a new placement in the Center of Communications after I took it upon myself to march down to HR for more assignments and finally receiving some work instead of waiting around for events.

In week six, a wave of loneliness suddenly hit. I was familiar with feeling alone but not lonely, but now I was definitely lonely as well as alone. Now that I was all settled down, with no one to hang out with, I took it upon me to explore the city on my own. Looking at the list of all the places I intended to visit, I was shocked me how few items I had checked off. My first destination: the Library of Congress. Initially, I was almost deterred by the amount of effort required to get a library card, navigate my way around, and figure out what I was going to do there. Though I was physically shaking from social anxiety, I trekked around and (after getting lost a gazillion times) made it to the main reading room. The view was breathtaking, and even though I was still shaking, it was worth it. I felt so privileged to be sitting underneath that resplendent domed ceiling. I meant to do some work in there, but all I wanted to do was to soak in every detail so I'd never forget the feeling of being in that space (what can I say, I'm a sucker for high ceilings). Emboldened, I made it my mission to do all the things I wanted to do that summer, regardless of if anyone else would be doing it with me.

The rest of the summer flew by. I made new friends, explored more of the city being comfortable on my own, and learned so much with the most amazing people at the NEA. I cried on my last day, but at the same time, I was struck by a disgusting sort of homesickness and terror. The unknowns of the upcoming semester loomed in front of me, but I missed California desperately as well. But there was no time to dwell on that as I scurried to pack, and then was whisked across the country at a five hundred miles an hour. There was no time to reflect amidst the frenzy of unpacking.

Tomorrow, the first classes of Fall 2017 semester start. I have some baggage in the form of essays I have left from incomplete classes for Spring, but overall, I'm looking forward to the incredible potential to do good things with good people around me. I feel confident to start on the right foot, mostly because my packages finally came in the mail and I have my shelves and lamp up. My roommate made me realize that this is my last first day of the school year for a very long time (technically, I have another first day next semester, but that doesn't really count), and I'm determined to savor every bit of it. Here's to adventure and friendship and love and joy and identity and everything that could possibly happen in this upcoming year. ◊