Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hell Week (MDIP)

Usually I do MDIP posts in list form, but I feel like changing it up and trying some narration instead. This is the week before AP testing, which I have come to realize is "Hell Week," especially for seniors, who have senior finals in addition to APs. Yesterday I had a WPA during tutorial, an AP Stats final during fourth, an AP Bio quiz at lunch, and the middle schoolers for speech and debate after school. If that wasn't difficult enough, I couldn't sleep last night because I was anxious and stressed, and this morning I woke up to Larry vomiting again (I don't think it's a major health issue, just some bad food he ate, so he's okay now).

Today I had the AP Bio final and it feels like such a relief to have that over with. Now the only thing I have to worry about is AP Art and finishing the portfolio for that test, which is due in a week. I still have four pieces to make, but the last few are going to be ramshackle filler pieces that won't matter much anyway. I'm not stressed about any AP tests at all to be honest, because I've already gotten into college, and I'm not going to be able to use many of those credits anyway. In other school news, the book we're reading in English is Into the Wild, and I'm actually really enjoying it.

The weather has transitioned to a wicked, suffocating heat. Since Thursday is the late day of Diana and I, after we finished with out work, we went to Yogurtland. I went for a fruit theme, with mango, strawberry, blood orange ice, and pom berry lemon tart, topped off with coconut, gummi worms, two flavors of popping boba (highly recommend), and of course, the essential waffle wafer.

I came home to a surprise today; the grad gifts have started coming in. I actually don't know if it's a grad gift, or a "Congratulations on Berkeley" gift, but a colleague of my dad's gave me a small Tiffany necklace, which is tremendous, as Tiffany's isn't exactly cheap. To be honestly, I am more in love with the box than I am with the actual necklace (I was a little mad when my mom opened up the box before I even saw it and ruined the bow, but I tied it back together). I'm not sure if it's because I'm not used to wearing necklaces, or if it's because the chain is just that short, but it does feel a bit tight. It is very adorable, and I plan on wearing it constantly because it's the only real necklace I own.

Before going to Yogurtland, we also stopped by Diana's house, and I picked out some nail polish that I plan on wearing to Senior Ball – purple with silver detailing. Ideally, I'd like to do a purple-white-purple ombre pattern with some silver detailing, but I've never tried ombre nails, so I think I'm going to play it safe. Since the theme is "A Spring Affair," I'm also excited to attempt making some flower crowns with fresh flora from the front garden. If all goes well, I'll post on that and maybe even do a tutorial. I'm feeling a lot better about going to Senior Ball now, even without a date, and I plan on having fun no matter what!

Tomorrow is College Day at school, so I will be proudly repping Cal. That's actually my little brother's shirt, as it's still too big for him, and it's going to be too hot to wear my hoodie. I'm feeling so much better about everything about college, despite hearing a few more academic horror stories (burning the valedictorian's notes?) and finding out that it is possible that I cannot have fairy lights in my room (this summer, all I will be doing is designing my dorm room, I swear). I'm so excited to take on this next challenge in life, and finding out that quite a few of my friends will be going to Berkeley next year as well is extremely comforting.

On a side note, I'm still experimenting with taking pictures, and I actually think I am getting a little better. I know some of the tricks of editing and playing around with the settings on the camera to get clearer results, but that still needs some work as you can see from the blurriness in some of these pictures. Berkeley students are apparently able to get the entire Adobe Creative Suite for free, though I have followed the link and have yet to find out how to download it. A perk of having a parent work for Apple is also free software from the App Store, so I want to get FinalCutPro soon so I can start making videos (iMovie works for that purpose, but it's more basic). My goal is to blog all the good food I eat at Berkeley, and attempt to make Food Friday a weekly thing, so I can force myself to get out and socialize and try new things. I also want to vlog, so I have videos of the next four years of life, for better or for worse. It's a hobby, and I want to commit myself to it.

In summary, life is tough but life is good at the moment. There are a lot of big events coming up soon, from AP tests to Senior Ball to graduation and beyond. When I have time, I want to redesign this blog again, and I have so many big plans for this summer. It's exhausting but oh-so exhilarating. ◊

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

#obsessed: Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran

It's been a while since I've done a #obsessed music post because I haven't been into much new music lately. I probably could have posted on FourFiveSeconds or some Of Monsters and Men songs because I've only just listened to their full album and I actually really liked it, but that was more of a quiet mood playlist than something that's been utterly stuck in my head. That said, I can't stop listening to this song. I've never been a huge fan of Ed Sheeran but there are a few songs of his that I've enjoyed in the past. This one is a bit old but is probably one that they're definitely going to play for a slow song at senior ball. The dancing is beautifully choreographed and the set pulls it all together. It makes me kind of sad that I won't have a date at senior ball (#foreveralone #catlady) but it'll be a fun time with friends anyway.

At the end there's a link for "Don't," another song of his that I've loved, but it's so interesting to see how there are these super sweet songs of his, but also sharp, fresh, biting songs with epic burns hard enough to drop my jaw for a solid minute. It makes me find it hard to believe that both songs are by the same person. For now though, I'm just going to enjoy nice, slow Sheeran as I cry about my lack of a love life (but who needs love anyway when people can be so cruel? You heard the man. Don't **** with my love.) ◊

Monday, April 27, 2015

Utter Abject Failure // What Do I Want Out of Life

This is a compilation of musings from two posts over the culmination of a lot of stressful things that have been going on recently. In my last post, I tried to talk about happy things to focus on the positive, but I don't think that works for me necessarily as well as it does for others. Denial isn't healthy anyway, and to be honest, I do prefer venting and getting all the toxic stuff out of my system.

For now, I'd like to talk about utter, abject failure. It's not that I'm failing at anything right now – I've talked to my teachers to update the grades, I've accomplished things in day to day life – but rather the fact that utter, abject failure is ...  appealing?

Author J.K. Rowling of the Harry Potter series once said,
"Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
It's a quote I always come back to when I'm feeling down, but I have yet to reach rock bottom. While rock bottom is quite the opposite of a goal one should strive for, it's quite nice in that there's nothing lower than that. No one expects anything out of you, you have nothing to lose, and that gives you the freedom to try anything, anything at all. Once you're past that situation you'll never be afraid of failure again because you've been there and you've survived.

Yet what I'm worried about now is that I have too much. Too much to risk, too much to lose if something goes wrong. And a lot of that stems from my parents. I fear failure, not for what it means to me, but for the consequences I am conditioned to react to. In regards to failure, I have been threatened with homelessness, starvation, and all means of a miserable life and painful death.

I initially started writing this draft around the beginning of the month. At that time, I still had not decided on a college, and was worried about the fact that "if they can control what college I go to, how much more of my life can they control?" Now, I have made my decision, and though it aligns with what my parents wanted, it was entirely my own decision and I am satisfied with my choice.

Yet again, I revisit the idea of "What terrifies me?" Is it failure? Is it becoming exactly like my parents? If I had made another decision, would it be sacrificing my economic freedom for life freedom? What is it?

I don't know. I can't put a finger on it, but I think I'm scared of becoming passive, of becoming dependent. 

"Stay here, buy a house, we’ll pay your down payment. You don't have to worry about a thing."

"Get this job, you’ll make more money."
"Marry this person, it’s better in the long run."

As much as I'd like to think otherwise, to a degree I still fear my parents. Because I know that I can fall for their trap so easily, thinking everything is all good, until it all explodes, and I think it's an isolated incident, and the cycle of abuse continues, just like I've learned in all those cautionary tales in English class, yet here I am, living them, still in denial. All they'll be is manipulative, abusive control freaks, masquerading behind concern and good intentions. It is not pretty language, but this is not said with malice, it is a simple fact. Yet, because it is a fact, I fear them. And I'm scared of continuing the cycle unknowingly and become as toxic to other people as they are to me.

I operate at 100% or 0%. This is what I was trained to do. Don't attempt something until you are willing to go all the way down the road, or else it's just not worth it.

I'm slowly teaching myself to accept B's and C's. They are not failures, they are average. It's more healthy to forgive yourself, but I will not forget to aim high and push myself towards what I want, because rebelling for the sake of rebelling is immature and won't help me succeed (but there goes that mindset again, I just can't break out of it, but is it really a bad thing?)

But how about failure? Can I teach myself to accept failure? I remember my first mental break down in middle school, screaming, crying, kicking, pulling my hair, wanting – praying – to feel the moment when the threads of sanity would snap inside my mind so I wouldn't have to endure the agony of thinking anymore, the agony of knowing that the horrible things were wrong but not being able to do anything about it. But even still, I was nowhere near failure. I was at the top of my class. A 4.0 student. As perfect and as lifeless as plastic. Yet also, resilient and flexible, though if I actually did snap, there would be no way to put it all back together, at least not perfectly, ever.

For now, I don't need to face any of that yet. And true, I don't know if I ever will, but there's nothing to do but fall when the time actually comes. It's like ice skating, where the first thing they teach is how to properly fall, so you don't hurt yourself. That way, in a real accident, you know exactly what you need to do. I've never learned to fall properly, so maybe I will get hurt. But when I hit those rocks, I'll remember that it's time for a new beginning, and start fresh on a solid foundation.


I want to be happy.
I want to make a difference in the world.
I want to help people.

Therefore, I would like to pursue my passion in my career and go into education policy to help with education reform in this country. But then I'm reminded of the sheer size of the bureaucracy and I'm worried that it's all going to be a pointless battle against textbook companies and standardized testing lobbies in which I'll end up miserable because I can barely make a dent in the world. Oh, the humanity!

I'm at a point in my life where there is so much to do, so many events, so much going on that demands my attention, yet I am also experiencing the traumatic undertaking of reinventing myself. The two go hand in hand (the world continuing to progress, and my own internal struggle) but it's so overwhelming. I'm seeking perfection but I don't even know what that looks like. I'm working towards my ideal lifestyle but I don't even know what my ideal lifestyle is. I only know that I am unsatisfied with who I am now. I want to be glamorous, not awkward. I want to be captivating and interesting, but I have nothing to offer but enigmatic musings that confuse more than clarify. Those things take time to develop, time I don't have, time in midst of chaos. Once there is no more chaos, there is no need for change. What then?

I often feel like I'm being held back from achieving my true potential, but what is my true potential? What are the extents of my abilities? I want to experience the full spectrum of human existence, but what is holding me back from doing that right now (aside from the obvious, such as money, age, etc)?

It is in my persona to solve problems: identify, analyze, execute. Yet these are just some things I don't quite have answers to. In these times, the wisdom of the internet is infinite. I wanted to share this new video from Veritasium, one of my favorite Youtube channels that not only teaches science, but also provides insightful commentary about social phenomenon, with a knack for delivering just the right message at just the right time in my life.

It's a constant struggle between pursuing relentless optimism and being mired in pessimism, but in the end, the only thing holding me back is me – in a way. It is the petrifying constructs of my childhood that were assembled under no fault of my own, but they are mine to carry now, and mine to dismantle. Yes, it will take time, and no, I am not alone, but once I able to achieve a sort of mental freedom, or at least treat it to a point where it's manageable, I am so ready to take control of my life. But until then, I won't know. ◊

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Achieving Life Goals

Amongst all the ups and downs in my life, I'd like to recognize a few accomplishments, in order to focus on the positive more than the negative. Despite a few personal problems at the moment with grades or general motivation level, I say I'm doing pretty well.

»Committed to Berkeley
Yesterday, I finally SIR'd to UC Berkeley. Though I'm still not totally obsessed with the school, I've come to terms with the fact that it is objectively the best fit for me, and I'm sure I'll grow to love it.

»Purse Clutch + Wrist Strap
I had been using a cute little purple Vera Bradley "Zip ID Case" as a wallet for a while, but it was hard to keep everything neat with so little space. All of a sudden, the thought occurred to me that one of those grey, wide clutch wallets would be perfect, before I realized that I actually did own one. My mom had bought it on a whim a few years ago, and it had just been sitting there, but now I could actually use it because I had stuff I could keep in it. Another plus is that it came with a small wrist strap, perfect to replace my lanyard on my keys. It may seem silly to include this under "achieving life goals," but it made me so happy to have had a wish and to be able to instantly satisfy it.

»Prom Dress
I went with "borrowing" a friend's dress this year. I'm actually renting it but my mom is not happy with how much she's charging for me to rent it, so I'm stressing out over how to resolve the situation. A lot of the time, good purple dresses are just so rare, that it's not worth the time and effort put into looking for one, but this one is pretty much perfect for me in every way. It's purple, has straps, not a plain fabric, and it's the perfect length with shoes on. Anyhow, I've always wanted a purple dress for prom, and now I have one! I think I'll end up secretly renting it and not telling my mom in the end, which isn't the ideal solution, but I'll also haggle with her for a more fair price because it is a little pricy for rent!

»Haircut! (apologies for bad picture quality)
Somehow, my hair had managed to grow down to my waist, so it was getting very hard to manage. I finally got to courage to cut it, and so I lopped off twelve inches of hair (that would be a solid foot!) today at Diana's house. She actually cut it for me, and it's not too bad, but I really want to change my style up a bit more (I'm still too scared to do bangs though). Hopefully I'll be dyeing it in a week or so, or maybe after graduation (I've also thought about trying the half shave, but I don't know if I'm brave enough for that yet). I'll be donating the hair to charity if they'll take it, but they might not want it because it's quite damaged just from natural sun exposure, so with this cut, at least the remaining hair looks a lot healthier.

»Buying Things for Myself
I joined the e.l.f. email list again with my new email, and they gave me a code for free shipping at $20 (normally free shipping isn't until $35) so I went ahead and used it before it expired. I went for the Essential Professional Complete Set of 12 Brushes, Studio High Definition Powder, and the Studio Lip Exfoliator. Since the goal this year is somewhere along the lines of "look better on the outside, feel better on the inside" I'm looking forward to breaking out of my comfort zone and playing with makeup and all the fun stuff. The goal to "look pretty" is a lot more complicated than I think I explained it in the initial post, so I plan to do an updated explanation along with a product review once I receive these in the mail. I've heard good things about all these products, so I'm quite excited! ◊

Friday, April 24, 2015

Food Friday #014 – Boudin

The best thing about having a friend who drives (thank you Diana) is being taken to food places as a conversation companion. For lunch this week, we went to Boudin, a bread company originating in San Francisco that makes various sourdough breads and sandwiches, among other things. It's a new restaurant in the Almaden Costco Plaza next to Blaze Pizza (which I visited but forgot to take pictures of) as the two of them are the new restaurants that replaced the Fresh Choice Buffet.

As you will see further below, I went for the half sandwich, half salad combo. The choice for sandwich was between Chicken Pesto and Turkey Avocado. Obviously, the Turkey Avocado is the safe choice, as there is absolutely nothing foreign in it, whereas the Chicken Pesto was a bit of a leap of faith with things like "arugula" and "balsamic vinegar" (don't worry, I know what those are, that was sarcasm for dramatic effect) but as one can't simply go out of one's way for a Turkey Avocado, I went for the Chicken Pesto. Unfortunately, below is the result:

I'm not even mad, but I was utterly confused as to how a restaurant could make a Chicken Pesto without any trace of chicken in it. I was already on the car by the time I opened up the sandwich, so all I could do was call them to ask if I could get a replacement sandwich. The call recipient was just as confused as I was, but immediately offered to prepare a new sandwich. I went in five minutes later, gave her the manager's name, and just like that, she handed me a bag with a new full size sandwich (even though I had only bought a half originally) and entire loaf of bread! On a side note, the salad was still absolutely scrumptious and so were the sandwiches, but I'm still utterly bamboozled about the initial sandwich situation. Nevertheless, it all worked out in the end, and the customer service at Boudin is incredible.

With the bread, I made a ham, salami, cheese, and lettuce sandwiches for lunch today, and it was probably the best lunch I've had at school this entire year. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of that as well, and my family really likes sourdough so I have no more bread left over to make another.

»Service: 3.5/5 – A long line but it moved quickly. Service was swift and clearly communicated.
»Food Quality: 4/5 – A point off for the initial lack of chicken, and the bread was a bit tough to chew.
»Customer Service: 5/5 – Thoroughly impressed by how well they responded to the situation.
»Visit Again: 4.5/5 – I definitely need to try a few more of the items on the menu.

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Last Ever Speech & Debate Tournament – State

I honestly don't even know where to begin. State was a phenomenal experience that was definitely the highlight of my speech and debate career, or even the entirety of my high school years. I'm writing this on the bus right now (it has wifi and outlets, which is pretty cool). The bus ride here was nine hours, but this ride will be a bit shorter if we don't have too much LA traffic. The interpers are being raucous in the back of the bus, singing along to all their songs and occasionally yiping and yodeling; the originals and debaters are in the front, on their computers, watching tv, doing homework, and sleeping.

But last night, you could not have found a truer definition for "team." When AK won LD, and C and A won Parli, and M and N won Duo, and Leland won sweepstakes, the energy was euphoric. On the bus, everyone chanted the coaches' names, then the victors' names, and even the chaperone and bus driver's names, I was so proud to be part of a longstanding, honorable tradition with some of the most amazing people in the state. It was indescribable. Really, all I can say is "You had to be there."

It started early on Thursday morning, when we first embarked on the nine hour bus ride across 422.8 miles to Murrieta, near Temecula. Everyone was a bit sleepy but excited to go. We loaded up, and we were out, the interpers again being loud, the others trying to get some sleep, which wasn't possible with all of the singing in the back. Two rest stops and hours of sluggish traffic later, we were there.

The first round was on Friday, in the afternoon. Even though I had done well in a practice pod earlier that day, I was still terrified. I knew I should be confident, but somehow, with a combination of muscle fatigue from sitting in a bus for nine hours and nervousness, my knee just wouldn't stop twitching. It was also tremendously hot from the sun and the sheer number of spectators in the room. Some were even standing in the back because there simply weren't enough chairs. The second and third round were on Saturday. I thought I had done poorly my second round because the audience didn't really react to my speech, but that wasn't the actual case. Third round was also difficult, and one of my posters nearly fell off of the stand, but I made it through alright. I would redo it if I could, but suddenly I came to the realization that that was quite possibly my final speech of my entire speech and debate career.

On Sunday, we all went to the campus to support Alice in her semifinals round. It was a hard round, but I was surprised by some of the people who broke, some of which even our novices could probably beat in competition. It just goes to show how random success in speech and debate is. It could depend on anything, just the luck of the draw. Alice didn't break to finals, so I watched Aarthi's OI final round. I thought she was phenomenal and clearly deserved first place, but she ended up getting 6th, because everyone was a strong speaker, and it was up to judge preference. Awards was a whirlwind of cheers and sighs and hugs and cries; we all took pictures and then it was over, just like that.

Lastly was the dinner party at Mulligan Family Fun Center. The food wasn't that great, but we had free arcade games, go-karting, and laser tag (my team won). I also managed to figure out how to do well at the basketball coin drop game, so people kept giving me their extra tokens and I kept winning tickets. I didn't have a lot of time, but I managed to earn a good handful. The ticket counters were broken, so I handed them over to the counter person, who estimated about 500 points, so I got Steve the Squishy Spider (named after Captain America, who I mention in my speech, and the fact that he is a squishy spider stress ball). He'll be useful in college when I'm stressed a lot, and he's also a small souvenir of my time at State.

Food at the tournament was great. On the first night, we went to BJ's for the team dinner, where unlimited deep dish pizza, pasta, and salad were served. Chipotle and In-N-Out were abundant throughout the trip, though by the third day, I was really starting to crave some real, fresh food. Luckily, there was an Albertson's right across the street (I didn't eve know they still had those anymore) and I bought some salad, fruit, and juice for lunch. One of the funniest things that happened was that we were paying for our groceries when the cashier starting putting everything into a plastic bag. I started to say, "No bag," but couldn't even get the words out of my mouth because I was so shocked she didn't ask, "Would you like to pay 10¢ for a bag?" It didn't occur to me that eco-friendly regulations weren't in place everywhere, and that some places still had plastic bags just freely handed out. Anyhow, as much as I like Chipotle and In-N-Out, I think I've had enough of fast food to last me quite a while.

Even though I was a little disappointed that I didn't do better in competition, I still found out from prelim standings today that, according to the judges at this tournament, I am one of the top 24 exposers in the state, and I think that is phenomenal. However, it is also worth mentioning that expos was weird in the way they calculated prelim standings. A lot of deserving people didn't break, despite having better cumes than some that did. For example, a girl that went 1-3-7 broke, while a girl that went 1-4-4 didn't. I'm sure there's a method behind the madness, but I cannot work it out. I personally went 4-2-4, which I am proud of, because I had a pretty hard second round, where a lot of people didn't react to my speech, and I received a 1 from a judge in my first round as well, where my knee was twitching the whole time and the room was sweltering hot. This is where I've always dreamed of being, and though I had hoped to be one of the finalists, unfortunate circumstances during junior year and first semester senior year prevented me from doing expos and created a delay, so I'm glad I was able to get to where I am.

In the end, State was an incredible experience. I cannot thank Mrs. Brasher, my coaches, and my friends enough for mentoring me and being there every step of the way. Though it's likely the end of my formal speech career, the skills I've learned will be something I will cherish for the rest of my life, and I honestly don't know where I'd be today without the people I've met and the experiences I've had. There is not a single thing I regret, and that is saying a lot. I am so proud of my friends for their achievements here, and I can't wait to see how and where life will take us on the ride into the future. ◊

Friday, April 17, 2015

Food Friday #013 – Fresh Fusion KBBQ Tacos

Ingredients for Korean Mexican Fusion Tacos

Korean Mexican Fusion Tacos
Growing up in a household that always almost exclusively ate Asian food, I love tasting other types of food – American, Italian, Mexican – as long as it isn't spicy, it's all good. I had a go at fusion cuisine last week when I tried out tacos using leftover Korean BBQ. I was at coaching for speech and debate, so I wasn't home in time for the actual Korean BBQ, but with lettuce (fresh from the backyard garden), tomatoes, sour cream, cheese, and tortilla, I threw together a terrific taco. It was SO good. The sweet KBBQ meat was a contrast to the usual spicy beef blend, and it's a worthy alternative to overpriced Chipotle. ◊

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Day In Pictures – Berkeley

Yesterday I went on an official tour of Berkeley. It's pretty much all but in writing that I will be going there for college. I admit, I'm still a bit intimidated by the place – all the students look lean, hungry, tough – but I don't think I can't survive there. The problem before was that I get myself very worked up over things that will probably never happen. I idealize things and places, and conversely, I like to think that I am someone who I am not. In the end, I am still just a timid, confused girl who's trying to figure out what the heck she wants to do. I am more cerebral than social, rebellious than conforming, and I'm trying to become more okay with that, and I do feel that Berkeley is a place where I can develop in that direction.

1) Cal Student Store – Everyone in the family bought a piece of merch. I got a lovely hoodie that makes me look like a proper almost-adult rather than a hopelessly clueless child.

2) The Campanile (Camp-an-eel-ee) – the third tallest tower in the Western Hemisphere?

3) They have parking reserved especially for Nobel Laureates, which is pretty cool.

4) The view from the top of the hill at the base of the Campanile; you can see the Golden Gate!

5) South Hall – the oldest building on campus, which naturally holds the newest program, with the tiniest bear statue on it (visible from the picture). Can you spot it? It's in the third circle from the left.

6) We had the fortune of witnessing a small protest at Sather Gate (actually it was rather inconvenient because they were blocking the gate). The activist spirit of Berkeley in action.

7) Going through the Bay Bridge tunnel. Metaphorically and literally the light at the end of the tunnel.

8) A glimpse of SF, the urban counterpart of Berkeley. Not a huge fan, but better than nothing.

9) Honestly, the biggest motivation for staying West Coast. I am always craving In-N-Out, especially the Animal Fries. Sadly, there is no location within walking distance of Berkeley, but at least it's not a plane ride away. Freshman 15? More like Freshman 50. I'm more than ready. ◊