Thursday, December 29, 2016

Defining Direction

Every once in a while I get hit with that "OH MY GOD I'M WASTING MY LIFE AWAY" feeling. To feel productive, I end up redesigning my blog, going for a cleaner, svelte look. I kept the basic layout, but I tightened up a few things with the fonts and the header. I'll admit, I may have oversimplified it a bit, so it is woefully plain, in my opinion. Overall I'm fairly satisfied with how it looks, but I know eventually I want to upgrade to a dynamic theme for a more professional look. And the code itself is probably a mess, but that's ok. Welcome to Mythos et Regia V3.2!

It also happens to be the end of the year! There's something promising about the start of a new calendar year, despite the fact that it's entirely arbitrary in the grand scheme of things. As usual, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on previous resolutions and establish some new goals.

Two years ago, I set the goal of "Mindful Body Wellness," aka, establish an idea of basic human healthy habits because I really didn't have any before. This past year was "Core Self," or, who am I? It meant a lot to me to figure it out because I can't know what I want without knowing who I am.

Honestly these concepts are pretty abstract and not resolutions as much as they are general concepts to be aware of. It's like the distinction between themes and main ideas in high school essays. These phrases are the "theme" of the year; resolutions are main ideas. For example, under the theme of Mindful Body Wellness, I had the main ideas of skin care, eating right, and exercise. Core Self consisted of less focus on other people's opinions, more focus on my identity, and ultimately, being comfortable with who I am. Though it was not a goal I explicitly worked on, I have found that my experiences and internal struggles this year have been very conducive to figuring out my identity. Most importantly, I have learned that I am the only one who can define who I am.

2017 will be the year of "Defining Direction": taking concrete steps to achieve what I want — to really be the person I want to be. Most notably of these steps are getting a job to move towards financial independence, getting my license so I have mobility, and learning the social conventions of how to be a "real" adult (like how to do taxes) so I'm not completely lost by the time I graduate. Other little things are like how to set a table for a dinner party, and heck, maybe even figuring out how dating and relationships work. I'm feeling surprisingly optimistic about this goal because it is more concrete, so it'll be easier to gauge progress.

Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor resources right now to be who I really want to be. Eventually I'd like to be more of a person in terms of things I do outside of studying and work: drawing/painting/art, swimming/stretching/exercising, healthy cooking, smoothie-making, personal style expression, engaging in new experiences. Not the things I have to do, but the things I want to do. Being alone in the apartment this winter break has only bolstered my enjoyment of living independently. I can't wait until I have my own little place, with my room set up just so, a workspace, a corner to paint in, etc. Until then, "Defining Direction" will be laying the foundation to reach that point.

Seeing the positive trend as my semesters progress, I'm hoping that it continues into greater fulfillment this next year. It'll also be a huge milestone age wise, as I move out of teenager-hood and into the realm of the twenty-something (scary!).

Goodbye 2016, welcome 2017! ◊

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Finding A Platform

I've been happier than I think I should be, spending a Walden-esque week alone in my apartment. It's possibly unhealthy to be as isolationist as I am, but honestly, I've been positively ecstatic to lounge around in my pajamas for a week straight and not have to interact with anyone in real life. I'm sad that it's over so soon; I feel like I could do this for at least a month straight. The apartment gets lots of sunshine and has big windows for fresh air; I can sit and listen to music uninterrupted while lost in thought; everything is so clean and quiet. I could do with more visits from friends, but living by myself is a dream come true. Woo!

But without IRL visits, the only way to stay connected to people it seems is through social media. I don't know what it is about it, but I have a strong aversion toward social media sites. I have all the accounts — Instagram, Twitter, you name it — but I don't use them. I don't post or like or tweet; I refuse to use the Facebook app or keep myself logged in on my browser. Perhaps these apps were more relevant in a small high school setting where everyone knew each other and wanted to keep up with what people are doing. In a way it's good for staying connected to those people once everyone leaves for college, but I don't want that. It's too draining to think about people I don't care about, who probably don't care about me either. When I spend time scrolling through social media catching up on irrelevant people from my past, I feel like miss out on life that is happening right now. Maybe I just don't have enough friends.

Granted, Facebook is a convenient way to access people, Instagram is a nice digital photo book, and Twitter makes it easy to engage with trends across the globe, but those aren't my priorities. I want to be directly connected with the people I care about and only see content from them. However, they don't post much on social media either, so those sites are more or less useless. But for some odd reason, I continue to feel obligated to engage with them through social media, because I should want to be social in an extrovert's world?

I'm not saying that all social media is bad. There are social media sites that I do enjoy. I like the "media" part but I don't like the "social" part, which is why I find myself most engaged on content-based sites like Tumblr and Pinterest. However, given the aggregate nature of these sites, it's difficult to keep track of my own original content. Exclusively original content based sites are also insufficient. Having a blog, which by this point in digital development is almost pathetically old-fashioned, doesn't allow me to consume content from others. iMessage and Snapchat are closest to that middle ground, but they veer more towards direct communication than social media.

At the risk of sounding like an overrated hipster, I think Polaroids and scrapbooks are great for capturing memories. Maybe it's the nostalgia of being a 90's kid, but I remember a time before social media, and I don't think it's a necessity now either. Maybe I'm not using social media correctly, or something about my personality is incongruous to the use of social media. I want to engage in social media, but so far none of the existing sites that I am aware of fit what I'm looking for from the concept of social media.

I think I'd enjoy a platform that has the right balance of original content, passive media consumption, and interpersonal engagement. But since I don't see one yet, I might as well get rid of the guilty (?) social media weight on my shoulders. For 2017, I plan on changing my profile picture and then deactivating Facebook again once and for all. The bottom line is I don't want or need that kind of social media, period. There are so many more interesting things I could be doing with my time than scrolling through my Newsfeed reading about my second grade best friend's new car hobby. For now, though they're imperfect, iMessage and Snapchat are sufficient. ◊

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Not Your Manic Pixie Dream, Girl

For most of this winter break I have been entirely alone in the apartment. It's been quite nice; quiet; I haven't been lonely. This is exactly what I've wanted for a long time, to have a while when there are no pressing concerns or things to do. I have all the time in the world to sleep. Time is very much a construct, when I wake up and don't know what day, let alone hour, it is. In the back of my mind I am well aware that there are a great many number of things that I need to do, but for now I'm making self care a priority.

Given that I have no obligations except the bare minimum to keep myself alive, I thought I might as well knock off a few movies from my list of life to catch up on. I chose these two movies, Paper Towns and The Notebook, because I thought they would be fairly light and easy to move on from, but my penchant for overanalyzing got the better of me. If you haven't watched them yet, be warned: spoilers below (and also wow this is a much longer post than I thought it would be).

I'll start by saying I am not a fan of John Green books. The Fault in Our Stars was bearable at best; An Abundance of Katherines was so boring to get through that I put the book down in the middle of a sentence and never looked back. That's not to say that people who enjoy his books are boring, it's simply that they're not my genre or reading style.

However, I was intrigued by how Paper Towns was intended to take down the trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term, defines an MPDG as,
"that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."
Ever since I learned about the term in high school media analysis, I have been obsessed with that concept and its problematic implications in real life. I'm honestly surprised that I haven't published a post on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, though I may have started and discarded a draft or two.

If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, the gist of it (the movie at least) is that a boy, Quentin (who goes by Q), lives next to and befriends a girl in elementary school, but as they grow older, Q becomes a lame nerd and the girl, Margo, becomes a popular high school queen bee. One night, Margo remembers that Q exists and breaks into Q's room to enlist his help in exacting revenge on her cheating boyfriend and backstabbing friends. They adventure across town carrying out pranks on those who betrayed her, all the while leaving quirky post-it notes with randomly capitalized letters in the middle of words. (Honestly, who in real life does that. Also, who in real life holds cigarettes in their mouths because "it's a metaphor." Is this who you imagine yourself to be, John Green?) The next day, after this exhilarating break from his regular boring life, Q finds that Margo has disappeared, and he vows to hunt her down and bring her back because she's special and he's in love with her so clearly it's meant to be.

And he finds her. Except it's not what he expected. Despite traveling for miles from Florida to New York with his friends, and deciding that he doesn't need prom because Margo is more important, she tells him she doesn't need saving. She goes her own way while Q is enlightened to his warped thinking, returns to Florida, and embraces life by partying at prom with his posse.

Despite its best intentions, here's where the movie fails to destroy the MPDG trope. We know no more about who Margo really is at the end of the movie than we do at the beginning. Her function in the story is to "teach [Q] to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures." Margo herself may no longer be a "MPDG" in Q's mind, but she still is a MPDG in terms of plot device.

One of the side characters, Lacey, in her very limited involvement, does a better job of breaking down the MPDG trope than Margo in her entirety. Lacey, as Margo's former best friend, is initially depicted as any other shallow popular girl. She develops into more than just an idea of a person when she and Q share a moment in a bathtub at a party. Lacey is upset that Q and everyone else view her as just a pretty face, revealing that she's actually going to Dartmouth after graduation. She goes with Q and his friends to look for Margo because she has actual concern for Margo. Her decision to go to prom with Q's friend Ben, another nerd, shows that she's a human who wants to have fun, someone more multidimensional than that pretty, perfect, cookie-cutter girl character people assume she is. Her role in the story isn't to change any male character's life. She has her own incentives and objectives, which we see on screen. Contrast Lacey to Margo, who for most of the movie, exists as an idea in Q's head. An idea can never be a real person, thus confining Margo to being an MPDG.

I think most people are well aware that MPDG characters are not "real" people and that they do not exist in real life. Maybe John Green and I interpret the definition of the MPDG differently. Green seems to think that the MPDG trope is about a guy idealizing a girl. For me, using Rabin's definition, the problem isn't that people romanticize versions of other people in their heads, the problem is that quirky, life-changing female characters are used excessively in lieu of having realistic female characters in literature. Margo is not a realistic female character. To destroy the MPDG, authors should write more stories with realistic female characters, not stories about guys who discover that their MPDG idea isn't real and become better people for making that realization. The intent of Paper Towns may have been to deconstruct the MPDG trope, but it misses the mark, especially in the movie — sorry John Green. Idealization does not make an MPDG. You may mean well, but you got it wrong. Furthermore, movie adaptations seem to have the extraordinary ability to become parodies of themselves.

To show how Green's definition is wrong, I now present how someone can be used as an MPDG without being idealized in another character's head. This, however, is best demonstrated through a slight twist in perspective: the Manic Pixie Dream Boy.

The Notebook, for all its dismissal as a shallow romcom as well as its actual flaws, does a lot more with its female characters. The "notebook" that the story is told from is written by the female protagonist, making the plot driven by the female gaze. In the movie, I would argue that Allie is the main protagonist — at least, her narrative is more engaging. We see her argue, her desire to be more than someone who marries rich, her seriousness in being a World War II nurse, her deep internal conflict. Noah is Allie's Manic Pixie Dream Boy, who swoops in and changes her life by encouraging her to break away from her highly structured life and do what she wants. However, Noah is not idealized in Allie's head. They fight, she screams at him and points out his flaws, and she is well aware that he is dirt poor. She is a dynamic character, progressing from a straitlaced daughter to her own independent person who chooses what she wants, through his help. Noah is fairly static, unswervingly devoted to Allie throughout the entire story and serving as a plot device to further her character development, making him the MPDB, without being idealized.

As a side note, it's a travesty that movies or any media intended for a female audience are disregarded as inherently worthless in both casual and serious media critique. I found The Notebook to have a number of deeper themes beyond its initial presentation as a love story. A subplot I found particularly compelling was Allie's relationship with her mother. She isn't afraid to point out the lack of passion in her parents' marriage, and when Allie must make her choice, she resents the option that she thinks her mother expects her to make. She doesn't know her mother's side of the story; Allie looks at her mother with surprise and curiosity as her mother gazes at her own version of Noah, and realizes that she has more in common with her mother than she thought. Her mother becomes more complex as a character, and their relationship gains depth as well. Additionally, The Notebook deals with the difficult themes of love despite disabilities — devotion in the face of dementia — a tad unrealistically, but it is a romance movie after all.

Watching these two movies and thinking critically about the MPDG trope also led to some important realizations about my own life. My avoidance of a "real" relationship stems from the fact that I refuse to let myself commit to a version of someone that I've idealized in my head (it is so uncomfortable to realize something like this about yourself; I physically recoiled from my computer and sat upright for a good minute after typing that out). I am painfully aware that I idealize people, and in an effort to avoid that "treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person," I subconsciously self-sabotage to preemptively avoid disappointment. I'm somewhat repulsed at the idea of "dating" because how can you really get to know someone in that artificial setting of a date? But the problem isn't solved by not idealizing someone and losing interest entirely; I have to actually get to know them. But that's too scary, so I don't.

TL;DR: The existence of MPDGs is as a plot device, not real people. The Paper Towns movie is confronting the consequences of idealizing a person, which is fine, but in doing so, uses an MPDG as a plot device. Destroy the MPDG trope by writing realistic female characters and let the reader know who they really are, not by writing male characters who discover that MPDG characters are not real and change for the better because of it.

I could go on at the other side of the MPDG coin — incorrectly labelling strong, dynamic, interesting female characters as MPDGs (Holly Golightly is the example that most infuriates me) — but that is a post for another day.

I wrote 1800 words on this because I am peeved that John Green feels triumphant that he has destroyed the trope, when the movie version absolutely has not. Welcome to my blog where I write about things that no one else cares about. ◊

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Semester Reflection

Somehow, this semester is finished. Just like that, I'm done with half of my time in college. I'm proud of what I've been through this semester. The aimlessness and the struggle were more pronounced at certain points but ultimately succeeding and getting to a better place internally and externally was worth it, despite how painful progress is sometimes.

The last week of classes this semester in particular left me overwhelmed in the worst (academic stress and such) and best ways, with the love I felt from my friends and being aware that I am in a situation where I feel safe, despite continuing mental health problems. I remember crying because I realized how lucky I am to have such wonderful people in my life, and I can only hope that my presence in their life makes them as happy as they make me. When I come home to an apartment flooded with sunshine and I feel full of life, I reflect on how I never thought I could feel so happy but now I am.

More than anything, I have found that I am capable of handling stress better than I thought I could. I have confidence in my ability to get through even the toughest hell weeks, now that I've been through a few. I'm no longer intimidated by times when everything is happening at once.

That said, there are still a lot of things to figure out, like how to express that I'm struggling without being negative. Now that the academic part of the year is over, I'll hopefully have some time to go to the counseling center and get some professional help. I have exactly one month before classes start again in January. But first, a well deserved nap. ◊

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

#obsessed: Fire (ft. Evalyn) — Louis The Child

I've been getting into a lot of new music again lately, diving back in to browsing on Spotify (most notably the dancePOP, Indie Pop! and Good Vibes playlists). This song stuck out to me a lot because the lyrics are a very fierce, desperately independent aesthetic. It's a good song to listen on a late calm night after you've been working hard when you need a little reminder about why it's worth it to keep going strong. ◊

Saturday, December 10, 2016

How To Love

Despite the last few posts, the issue of my identity is still a thorn in my side from time to time. As it is indeed the thick of "cuffing season" and I realize literally everyone around me is in a relationship and I am again the single friend, the issue this time is my relationships, or lack thereof.

Especially in the midst of finals week, when I'm stressed and something is bothering me, I tend to spiral, ending up unproductive and in a mental dump until I figure out what's wrong. This particular issue came up during dinner with my freshman year roommate, who was adamant that most people are not asexual and therefore I'm going to end up forever alone, or with very slim chances of finding a successful relationship (not actually what she said, I'm hyperbolizing to get the point across). That bothered me, because I've never considered sex to be an important part of a relationship and cannot fathom how it is for some people. But I don't want to be forever alone based on that fact solely.

Because I'm so far removed from thinking about sex and sexual attraction, the issue of sexual identity has never been relevant. I think it's a common realization among asexuals to not care about sexuality, or to feel like they don't have a sexuality; to label the absence of something is just awkward. Having to "come out" as asexual this summer to a group of coworkers, it was just a weird experience because I don't strongly identify with that label.

While the label is still odd to accept, I have no problem being asexual. I've always thought of it as a lack of preference like any other, like not enjoying Brussels sprouts or tea. But given that sex seems to be such a big deal to most other people, it's hard not to feel broken. In my conversation with my roommate, while she was well meaning for the sake of being informative, hearing that I could be unwanted based on not wanting sex really broke me down.

I was surprised to find my relief in the form of a Youtuber, Ricky Dillon. I don't subscribe to his genre of video, but in desperation tonight, I searched "asexuality" on Youtube and found this:

Youtube has long been a space where people have been comfortable expressing themselves and coming out as gay, bi, lesbian, so on and so forth — but I've never been able to relate to those videos. For a while I thought I might be bi because I didn't have a preference for one gender over another, but I realized that it wasn't an equal interest for both genders, it was more of an equal disinterest for both genders.

While I understood this technical definition of asexuality, I still found it difficult to relay how I feel about relationships to other people. It's so hard to explain, and I imagine that it's still difficult for someone who isn't asexual to understand what he's talking about either. I however, resonated strongly with a lot of his points and found myself vigorously nodding along to nearly everything he was saying. Some of the things that stood out most were like how he doesn't "have" or define himself by a sexuality because it's not something that is relevant to his identity ("if I had 100 words to describe myself, my sexuality would not even be one of them"). Also, before watching this, I didn't know how to reconcile still having crushes and being asexual. Hearing him say that he still does have crushes was reassuring, as it was based on being attracted to someone's personality, not in a sexual way, which I find to be true for myself as well.

Another thing I related to in the video was loving being alone, loving being independent. But it's nice to know that I'm not alone in being asexual. I am comfortable with who I am, but hearing that validation from a somewhat mainstream pop culture figure was incredibly soothing. Where I'm not sure if I differ is that it sounds like Ricky Dillon is aromantic in addition to being asexual. I think eventually I'd love to have a romantic partner, a mutually "best" friend, to share my life with, but until I develop that friendship, I don't care for a deeper relationship. I can't imagine being sexually attracted to anyone; I've never felt it; it is a concept that is as foreign to me as asexuality is to my former roommate. While I'm don't subscribe to his channel, I am incredibly thankful that he decided to make this video and I hope he never takes it down. Now, I can breathe a huge sigh of relief, and go back to focusing on studying for finals again. It feels so good to rant on this blog.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


In the debate between being lonely and being alone, loneliness is generally thought to be the worse option. Lately I've found that I definitely don't feel lonely, but I am desperately alone.

As a kid, I didn't believe in fairy tales, where the prince rescues the princess and they live happily after ever. A lot of that belief, I attribute to this song, the Cheetah Girls' single "Cinderella" — my childhood girl-power anthem, the foundation of my feminist values before I even knew what a feminist was. I grew up lip-synching this at least once a week at lunch as a first grader. Though I don't remember all the words, I've still found myself singing what I remember from the chorus from time to time (talk about empowerment! All of the lyrics are gold).
"I don't want to be like Cinderella // Sittin' in a dark cold dusty cellar // Waitin' for somebody to come and set me free ... Don't wanna be no, no, no one else // I’d rather rescue myself.
I will be there for him just as strong as he will be there for me // When I give myself then it has got to be an equal thing."
But it's not Cinderella's fault that she's in a situation that she needs to be saved from. I do argue that Cinderella is partly responsible for saving herself, as her kindness is what sets her apart. She did her part, and the universe rewarded her.

Another reason for taking month away from friends was that I know I want to be with them, but I needed to know that I didn't need to be with them. I value my independence too much, perhaps to an unhealthy amount, to bear the thought of needing any person. But even without talking with them for a month, I didn't feel lonely. I don't see them in person much anyway, unfortunately, but there is a strong enough bond that I don't worry about a lack of friendship.

If it hadn't been clear to me before, it was incredibly clear now: I know I'm capable of being alone. I've proven to myself time and time again that I can handle it. That's what I do. I can take care of myself. But I don't have to. And for once, I want to be with someone. I don't want to be alone. There's strength in that vulnerability, to put trust wholeheartedly into someone else, knowing that it could be shattered. I've feared that. I've experienced it, in trusting the people who were supposed to take care of me, but they hurt me instead. I also know I can recover.

I never thought I'd want a prince showing up and fixing my problems, but now, it's fairly tempting to want someone to come into my life and make it all better. Sometimes I'm too tired to take care of myself, and sometimes friends aren't available to help. For once, I want to be sure that I am someone's priority (and naturally, I want to make that person my priority.) I know I can be alone, but I don't want to be alone anymore. ◊

EDIT/ADDENDUM: This goes for any relationship, friend or otherwise. It's not that I want or need a "relationship," but rather the security of having a guaranteed mutual best friend-ship.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Attitude Adjustment

It is now December, and to reflect on a thing mentioned a few posts ago, I cut communications with two friends for the month of November to force me to focus on developing healthy outlets for internal negativity. Part of me is well aware that that in itself was not the healthiest decision, but to a large degree it worked.

As Kylie Jenner (voice of a generation) says, "I feel like this year is really about, like, the year of just realizing stuff."

Realize stuff I did.

To begin, I realized am insufferable. When a friend first told me this in high school, I reveled in it. I wanted to believe that I was better than other people, and I didn't mind that other people saw this about me. Of course, that was a result of an incredibly warped worldview wrought by my childhood, the reality of only getting validation when I was quantitatively better than other people. I held, and still do, hold onto unnecessary little grudges as a leftover coping mechanism, or rather, survival technique. The only way to fight against parents who would bring up every shortcoming of mine from as far back as I could remember was to do the same to them. Thus continues the journey of unlearning toxicity.

In response to the above realization, I realized that I need to chill. The little petty things in life that ruin my day, the things that other people mess up on, the things I mess up on — it's all water under the bridge. Once a thing happens, I can't change that it's happened, but I can change how I react to it. I can either dwell on the negative, or I can put it all beneath me and move on.

Part of this realization comes from doing archery. As mentioned in another post, I've decided to keep archery as my zen self improvement project. It's too cold to go to weeknight club practices anymore, but Sunday mornings when the field is fresh and the sun starts to peek out, I find myself wrapped in the tranquility of deliberate focus. Every arrow is a clean slate. Dwelling on a bad arrow only crowds out the mental space of setting up the next shot.

Speaking of being deliberate, another thing I often forget is that I must accept that I am a human being who is not capable of doing things all the time. As silly as it sounds, sometimes I forget that I need to eat and otherwise take care of myself. I'm working on being aware of myself when I'm eating, to think about eating; when I work, to dedicate time to working (and failing at both right now as I write this post while eating dinner). I assume that I can fit in these little human maintenance things between classes or homework problems, but when those things invariably take longer than expected, I skip over eating proper meals and such.

What ends up happening is that I get so tired that I become incapable of functioning, which makes me feel guilty about taking any breaks when I need to work, and this spirals into an awful cycle. Similarly, on a macro level, I need to remember that during a long term break (Thanksgiving, dead week, etc.), it's important not to schedule things to work on every day. That only causes guilt when it inevitably doesn't happen, and it's painful to force yourself to want to do something that you've been putting off. Instead, the first thing to do during a break is to rest, and work when you're ready. Especially now as the days get shorter and the sun sets earlier, it's been harder to get things done. I'm worried that I'm falling into a spell of depression again, trapped in the comfort of passive self care — sleeping all day — when I should be investing in active self care.

Despite the fact that I know it's important to take breaks, there remains the unshakeable feeling of not being good enough (again, this stems from my parents, and is therefore something I need to change). This mindset is easily amplified by being surrounded by so many incredible people at Berkeley. Lately, in response to a scholarship rejection, I've realized that I've been pushing myself too hard, and all for what? Yes, it's important to accomplish things, but a resume only makes sense if you believe society is a meritocracy, which to some degree it isn't. I've had to scrutinize why I'm doing what I'm doing, trying to figure out if I'm doing it because I want to, or because I believe it is correct. Doing so has helped me reach the conclusion that when life goes wrong, I'm going to be my own happiness. I don't need to react so negatively (at this point I realize that this is a very circular post, so I'm going to stop). ◊

This is a really messy post & I'm not sure if I understand what I wrote; I'm going to publish anyway.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


I woke up at 7am today; didn't get out of bed until noon. Archery is cancelled for the weekend so I'm probably not going to leave the apartment for the next three days. Thanksgiving has never been a holiday I've particularly enjoyed, and this year seems to be no different. It doesn't look like I'll get much rest either, as I've been assigned homework and problem sets for every class. I had planned to work on scholarship applications today, but seeing an email saying that I had not been selected as a finalist for a scholarship I had applied for earlier this semester was incredibly discouraging. It's been a long time since I haven't received something that I want, and I don't mean that in a self-serving way. I'd like to believe that I am good enough for the goals I strive for, so rejection like this is devastating. Still, I take it as a reminder to not be complacent about my achievements. There's still a long journey ahead to become who I want to be — achieving identity.

But again, I find myself struggling with the questions, "Who am I," and "What do I want?" Since the election, I've had to reconsider my entire five-year forecast. I've had the rug pulled out from under me. As a person built on spreadsheets, notepads that say "Keep Calm and Organize" and "Accomplish" — I feel so lost. For the first time in my life I don't have a plan. I find myself having a crisis about everything from what I want to do next semester to what I want to eat for dinner. I can't fix things because I'm not entirely sure what's wrong. I just want to know.

Thomas Sanders does an excellent job of putting exactly what I'm thinking into words:

I suppose this is as good a time as any to reevaluate my understanding of the concept of identity.

I tend to identify myself based on what I do, thus, the derailment of my career plans as a catalyst for an identity crisis. My participation in the extracurriculars I have chosen has also come under self scrutiny. I like to think that I do things that fulfill me as a person, not things that look good on a resume. In CREATE, I am an artist and a teacher; this I am satisfied with. In BPR, I find that I enjoy writing and editing, yet my frustration with communication and community also comes to light.

With archery, I had the most difficult time deciding if it was an interest worth pursing to me. At one point, I was wondering if accepting my mediocrity in archery was the death of a dream. Had I given up on myself? I've talked before about the all or nothing attitude, and I still find that I have difficulty letting go of that mentality. With archery, it's obvious to me that I won't be the best at it and it was silly to think that I was ever worried about that. If I have the time to continue archery throughout the next few semesters, I want to keep it as my zen self improvement project. I don't have to be the best at something for it to have value in my life.

Ultimately, there are certain things that I've found to be fairly consistent about myself throughout my life. I like to organize, plan, strive for perfection in what I do and who I am as a person. As I'm typing this, I'm trying to correct my posture. I am an introvert, independent, introspective, as clearly expressed through this blog as a constant tool of self improvement and self reflection. I am ambitious and resilient, and I will continue to fight for what I want.

For once, questioning my identity has led to a greater sense of self than I started with. I wish I had saved the first draft of this post to have a keepsake of how lost and conflicted I was about my identity a week ago. Everything felt like it had been upended and impossible to put back together, but like cleaning out my tote bag, I've found that I really have the essentials down and I only need to clear out a few annoying gum wrappers. I may struggle with my identity again, but right now, I am satisfied with who I am. I look around me and see sunshiney windows and sunshiney walls. I know I'll be okay, it's just a matter of how I'm getting there. ◊

Saturday, November 19, 2016

#obsessed: Take Me Home (ft. Bebe Rexha) — Cash Cash

This is another throwback song, a Bebe Rexha EDM song that isn't with Martin Garrix. I don't know why it's been stuck in my head but according to Wikipedia, it was featured in TV spots for Finding Dory. I looked for clips on Youtube for a while, but only found brief snatches of it here and there. Needless to say, it is very catchy. Like many EDM songs ahead of their time, it's a shame it didn't get more popular than it was.

I've also been thinking about home as a concept and its uncomfortable connotations for me. I don't know if I have a place that I call home. My first thought is Berkeley, but my connection to Berkeley is fairly ephemeral in the grand scheme of things. My residence in my city of birth was so brief and so long ago that I barely have any memory of it. The suburb where I spent the majority of my life is such a source of torment that there is no way I could associate the concept of home to it without ruining the positive connotation behind the concept.

Maybe I haven't found my home yet. I have the whole world yet to explore. Rapunzel's tower where she grew up was not a home, but a prison. She spent her days wondering when her life would begin, and likewise, I'm wondering when my "real" life will begin. Some plants simply don't put down their roots until they've drifted for a while. Until then, I'll have to face the music. ◊

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Dead Batteries

My phone battery died on me in the middle of a call today. It was a bit of a shock; this usually doesn't happen, 1) because I rarely make calls, and 2) I'm very responsible about leaving the house in the morning only with a 100% charge.

I thought this week would be a fairly normal, even laid back, week. Instead, it has felt like the busiest week I've had this semester. I'm in a pretty good state mental health wise, and I'm not sick, but somehow I still have felt awful, sad, and tired. Little disputes between friends and coworkers have built up, impacting me emotionally. Usually I'm able to rant to other friends or distract myself with archery or watching shows to take my mind off of whatever's bothering me, but without being aware of it happening, I've ended up too busy to do the little things to top off my battery.

By limiting to whom or how frequently I can share negative experiences with, I've found that it's ok to be a little sad sometimes, as long as I take care of myself once I realize it. It's also forced me to take a step back from being so self-centered as my own worst critic. Once I did that, I realized that I'm not doing as poorly in life as I thought I was. I have friends who care about me, and I'm not the only one who's primarily concerned about their own life. It's only natural to worry about my own wellbeing, as long as I don't fixate on everything that I perceive to be not going well. I still have things to work on of course, but objectively, I'm not an awful human being.

My battery died today, figuratively and literally. A phone doesn't work with a dead battery, and neither does a person. I'm allowed to let myself stop everything for a bit to recharge, and once I do, everything will be ok. ◊

Friday, November 11, 2016

Five Questions for a Trump Voter

In the days following the historic 2016 American presidential election, I have felt a wide spectrum of emotions, primarily fear, sadness, and anger. Fear for my safety and my friends' safety in the face of racists and misogynists, sadness that we as a nation have failed to elect the most qualified candidate, and anger that there is nothing I can do to change the outcome. I've spent most of my time in a daze, sleeping early, waking up late. Times when I am on campus, I see incredible solidarity, but I can't help but feel as if it does nothing to change the national narrative. Messages on Facebook of the acceptance of the results and reassurance that nothing will really change fail to convince me that things won't be as bad I fear they will be. After all, if Trump can win the presidency, anything is possible.

As I rationalize how to move forward, I find myself forced to reconsider all of my plans for the next few years. Ever since high school, I have intended to dedicate myself to public service, with the goal of working for the federal government's Department of Education sometime in the near future. I was horrified to find out that Ben Carson is potentially the next Secretary of Education, and that Trump intends to put a hiring freeze on all new federal employees. My aspirations for work in the public sector at the federal level, much less the Department of Ed, have evaporated.

Despite my anguish for my future and the future of America, I've never been one to let myself feel grief for very long. There were a few hours of shock, disbelief, and then the logical side of my brain snaps into control again. There is work to be done, and not a second to lose. To defeat the opposition first requires understanding the opposition. I'd like to talk to a Trump voter and ask them this:
  1. Why did you vote for Trump? Fire away with your economic justifications and whatever other reasons there are. I won't argue with them yet. I just want to know what they are.
  2. Are you racist/sexist/homophobic? Yes or no?
  3. Do you believe Trump is racist/sexist/homophobic? Yes or no?
  4. Are you aware that there are a significant number of Trump supporters who are racist/sexist/homophobic? Yes or no?
  5. Do you see the danger in how a Trump America emboldens racist/sexist/homophobic people to express their beliefs through violence upon marginalized groups?
Any justification from the first question cannot possibly take precedence over the lives of people who will now suffer at the hands of bigots. Every single vote, whether you are in California or Florida, contributes to the legitimization of racist, sexist, homophobic views, and supports those people's desire to translate those beliefs into action. So congrats, I suppose, that your side won. But Election Day is not the end of the consequences of your decision. ◊

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


TW: this post describes situations that may cause distress to those with parent problems.

A wave gains momentum for a long time, building up to a crescendo, before inevitably crashing. The crash came very suddenly after yesterday's high, when I called my mother about how I did not plan on going home for Thanksgiving. I rationed that whenever I went home, I was unhappy, everyone else was unhappy, and it isn't my responsibility to make everyone happy. She agreed that the situation was unhappy when I came home, but in some twisted logic, still wanted to me to go, I presume because it would give the semblance of a normal family situation to her friends. This, of course, is not the case, and pretty soon the call devolved to old sound bytes: I owed my life to her for giving birth to me, I caused them so much pain when I "got myself hospitalized," I'm selfish and ungrateful for the food water and shelter they provided, everyone hates me for not being nice to my parents, so on and so forth. This time she added that she hoped I would never get married and have kids, which (surprise!) I actually would prefer. She had been pestering me for a long time whether I had a boyfriend and if I planned on having kids, and I had been dreading the day I would need to tell her that I do not plan on giving her grandchildren. At least that's one problem solved. What worries me is that she threatened to cut off my financial support because I didn't give her the attention I "owed" her, despite the fact that we had an agreement that my four years in colleges would be all expenses paid if they chose which college I went to.

This time, more so than before, she did not seem to be in a right state of mind. Having previously confronted her about potential mental health problems, the only clear response I got was that she "knows she has problems, but doesn't want to do anything to solve them." I can't blame her for her having mental health problems, but that doesn't mean that she rightfully can refuse to take action and instead project all of those problems onto me. Unfortunately this directly contradicts with her role as a parent. The thing is, I believe in a relationship of blood, parents' love and support should be absolutely unconditional. That is absolutely not the case in this relationship. My parents' approval is based solely on my accomplishments, their support is based solely on what they believe I owe them.

To be in a relationship is to only want to give to the other person, and to give freely, never to take what is not given. There is no sense of ownership or debt. In a relationship of choice, to choose to be devoted to the other person is what keeps the relationship going. In an ideal relationship, this belief is mutual to both parties. If I am going to devote my attention and love to someone, I would hope that they'd want to devote the same in return. Otherwise it doesn't work, and forcing or expecting someone to give their devotion is abusive and dysfunctional. It would be kinder for me to let go of someone who doesn't expect to give me anything.

I don't know what to make of my situation now, but I know that I am not responsible or obligated to fix it. I know that I am not yet strong enough to subject myself to that kind of confrontation. I know that I'm no longer naive enough to believe the blatant untruths my mother continues to desperately fling at me. I know that it may be different in a few years, when I have grown to be sure enough of myself to withstand hurtful words, so I can solve this problem once and for all. ◊

Monday, November 7, 2016


All the good // comes in waves.

I'm riding a high wave from the weekend. I used dread people asking me how my weekend was because I would often only have negative things to share. Today was the opposite: I was so eager to tell someone about what a wonderful weekend I had that I asked numerous people how their weekend was in the hope that the question would be reciprocated. Sadly, it was not, but at least I have my blog to spill everything in. To recap:

FRIDAY — Archery: Practice wasn't particularly great, but I was told to blame it on the bow I was using. It was really discouraging to miss the target so much, but I stuck around and braved the 8pm cold (yes, I'm that Californian) to go to dinner with the team. It sounds ridiculous, but I'm pretty sure I almost fainted because it was so cold. Once we got to Cancun, a Mexican restaurant on Shattuck and Oxford, I was pretty nauseous, so I had to spend a few minutes running my hands under hot water, and after that it was okay. One thing I love about the team dinner arrangement is that it's always a new place every week, so I get to explore Berkeley without going alone. It was also a great opportunity to bond with the senior members of the team, who told outrageous but true (?) stories of previous leadership teams and the messes resulting from their lack of leadership and organization.

SATURDAY — Shopping at Bay Street with Anisha: It had been a while since either she or I had an opportunity dedicated to getting away from work and just doing something fun. All that built up stress merited a shopping spree (retail therapy is real). I bought two pairs of yoga pants that I'm obsessed with. One is grey with pockets and the other is black with mesh paneling, both designs that I've wanted for a while. I didn't buy the Tarte palette I really wanted at Sephora but I did finally build up the courage to ask for a sample of a lemon face peel. I also picked up a face mask from Lush, something I've been needing for weeks, as well as their new catalog and a lotion sample, all good stuff. At Aerie, Anisha and I split an underwear deal because neither of us need seven pairs of underwear right now, but three or four is just enough and we're friends like that. All of this was within budget, plus relaxing and getting items I needed made the trip a triple win. The rest of the afternoon was back to work, but I got a lot of things done and it was very productive. I apologize for my lack of modeling skills below.

SUNDAY — Archery (again): I woke up not feeling particularly excited for ASCENT after the disappointing Friday practice. On top of that, the skies were dismally grey, but on the field the weather was good—not windy, not cold, even though it was cloudy. After shooting a few ends, I started feeling excited about archery again. I finished my scoring round with a 163 (the gold medal score at the Cal-Stanford tournament last year was a 170 out of 300). We also learned how to run team rounds, which went wonderfully. Our last end, my team shot a 47 out of 60, which is crazy good, especially for beginners. I wish I had gotten a picture, but I had Snapchatted it and forgot to save it.

Afterwards I went to Trader Joe's and bought groceries, which is still really exciting because I got all the basics that I needed, like bananas and avocados (side note, all of the avocados were either really mushy or really hard, but I managed to get one that was perfect and that made me very happy), plus some extras like their mini peanut butter cups, which are absolutely heavenly, as well as some limited edition mint chocolate stars with cute packaging. The total was only about $20 which is amazing for any grocery run, not just Trader Joe's. Getting what I needed, at Trader Joe's, and it wasn't expensive? Another triple win in my book. To wrap the weekend up, after finishing up some work, I painted my nails a pure sky blue and treated myself to a spa night with the Sephora sample and the Lush mask. It was bliss.

MONDAY— The day after Daylight Savings Time ended: I woke up before my alarm, which was weird. It took me some time to adjust to that idea of being awake so early, so I didn't get as much done in the morning as I had hoped, but that was okay because it was all extra stuff anyway. The rest of the morning went well as I was early to class and the lecture was interesting material. I also received my policy memo back, and surprisingly, I got an A on it! More good news followed as I did my notes between classes. I received an email that I was accepted into Cal-In-The-Capital, the summer program I had applied to! I was on cloud nine as I went to my last lecture, which passed by in a blink. After getting home, throwing some chicken nuggets into the toaster oven, and sitting down to write this post, I'm feeling so good. It's a sharp contrast from last week when I was feeling horrible, but it goes to show that the low does not last forever. Unfortunately, neither does the high, but it's important to enjoy it when it's happening and drink in the good vibes.

CONCLUSIONS: I used to believe that if I wasn't happy, then there was something wrong with me. It's easy to want "happy." It's a good feeling, and it's a good idea to sell — vague and eternally unattainable. If you pursue happiness, you will live a life that is miserable, because no one can be happy all the time. It's a concept best illustrated by the Oatmeal in this post on how to be perfectly unhappy, which first opened me up to this idea on how chasing happiness shouldn't be a goal, because happiness isn't a constant state.

I've evolved to the belief that humans crave satisfaction, whether that is in work or play. Shooting archery and hitting 10's feels good even if most of the time I get frustrated when I miss. Writing blog posts, getting those thoughts out, and formatting it into a pristine final product is worth the effort and time it takes to work with an awful draft. That feeling of satisfaction is why I'll feverishly stay up until 4am to tweak the code on my blog so it looks just right. It's why celebrities self destruct, chasing the satisfaction of the high.

Still, it's tempting to want to be happy in college, thinking about a future career, something that pays but is still fulfilling. You see this more with career artists and musicians who advocate for people to pursue their dreams and do what they love. It just happens that what I'm interested in, education policy, is more of a traditional job. Call me a crazy workaholic, but finishing a page of notes is so goddamn satisfying that sometimes I don't want to stop working at 1 AM. I'm not necessarily happy when I'm doing it, but the feeling of fulfillment afterwards is so satisfying that it leads to a feeling like happiness, if only for a while. I love the material that I'm learning in college and I'm lucky enough to have that option of doing what I love.

Now, I find myself working hard and playing hard, chasing satisfaction, which I define as getting what I want as a result of the effort I put in, and finding that happiness comes as byproduct. I'm more content with my life in general knowing that there's nothing wrong with not being happy. The struggle and frustration is part of the reason it's worth it if you are satisfied with the result.

I sit here eating stars. ◊

music creds: ww <3

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


The rain woke me up this morning. It furiously battered the windows, loud as an avalanche, and then, suddenly, stopped. The clouds cleared away and the sun stretched its beams through the grey to sweep across the walls of my room, and in that moment, I felt timeless.

It's Halloweekend and I'm not in the spirit. I don't have the energy or desire to go out. I could probably blame it on the daily grind of midterms and homework and essays. Nothing bad has happened; I'm just not particularly excited about anything coming up, but there's actually plenty happening to be excited about. Maybe this isn't normal.

I feel like I'm drifting through the doldrums of life. I've figured out my winter break schedule, I've figured out classes for next semester — there's nothing left for me to figure out right now. I have achieved "being happy," I have achieved being organized, I have joined archery and all those other things I wanted to do at the beginning of the semester. I've accomplished these goals, and it's time to set some new ones and get the ball rolling on those but I don't know what I want.

It's odd to not move forward in life. At any given moment, my brain retains the option of "What if you just died?" and then I get reckless: not caring about my health or wellbeing at all, needlessly shopping to fill an unknown void, staying in bed and skipping lectures, or crossing the middle of the street without looking both ways. Then, on some days I feel infinitely on top of the world — I know my destination, what I want in the long run — but I don't know what I want right now, in general, without the winds of change propelling me forward (I didn't mean it to sound so melodramatic but I have no other words).

It's not necessarily a bad thing. It means there haven't been any problems in my life occupying my consistent attention. There's a privilege to being bored. But just because I don't have problems doesn't mean I can't have a change. I want to make something happen for myself, so I don't become too complacent, mired in the mundane struggles of life. I never want to stop improving.

Setting that next goal has led me to thinking about relationships, romantic or otherwise. For one, I want to have a group of four to five close friends like I did in high school, physically here with me at Berkeley. That was part of the reason why I joined archery and BPR, to try to get close to people, but so far I haven't been making a lot of meaningful connections.

Part of me wonders if that's because I'm too comfortable with the friends that I already have. I became so close to people in high school due to shared struggles with mental health, and I've come to trust and rely on them to support me in those issues. However, lately I feel as though I've been suffocatingly close to those people, especially as they are going through amazing, positive events in their life. I don't want to be a negative dent in that.

Talking to friends is one of the best mental health outlets, but I need to find better mental health avenues that don't drag them down with my mental health. As good as they are, they don't have the training to not be overwhelmed with my issues, and it's not fair of me to force that on them. I don't want them to have to go through that. And if I'm to honest, it forces me to focus that emotional attention on making new connections at Berkeley.

This month, I've taken the rather drastic step of informing two friends of this belief and forcing myself to not talk to them for a month, while I work out how alternative ways of dealing with internal negativity. I feel secure enough in those friendships that I know it won't be a permanent break. Hopefully it'll turn out for the better for all of us. It's easy to spit out all of my thoughts so they fall on someone else, but I want to learn how to let go completely so I can feel better without it being at another person's expense. That's not healthy for either of us.

Maybe I've overthought it. Due to a toxic family situation with my parents, I have been so accustomed to having my perception of reality questioned that everything I perceive to be true becomes warped and twisted, leading to long term struggles with dissociation. My reality often feels heavily constructed, almost to the point where I don't know how to take something at face value. This has taken the biggest toll in terms of internal paranoia in how I perceive my relationships with people, because I don't know how other people feel about me.

Oftentimes it feels like I'm playing a game of mental health Jenga. I carefully make my choices and build up my tower, until I pull one brick too many and it all comes crashing down. However, lately it's been different. I've been constantly playing Jenga for such a long time that the tower falling down is no longer a catastrophic event, rather, it is just a minor inconvenience. I sigh, clear the board, and rebuild it one more time. It's no big deal. I've done it before and I can do it again. But I'm bored of it. I'm tired and annoyed at having recurring mental health problems. It's a nuisance and I want to be rid of it. I want to play some other games, not just Jenga.

I'd hate to make new friends solely for mental health support or find a relationship just because I'm bored. That feels incredibly selfish. Hopefully by improving my mental health on my own and breaking out of my pit of self-indulging pity I can become genuinely interested in other people's lives. I'd like to strengthen my friendships with people I already know, and create new ones with all of the interesting people this school has to offer. I don't know how that will work out yet but I do I know I want to do something to break out of this stretch of stagnation. ◊

Friday, October 28, 2016

Mac & Cheese, It's So Cheesy...

Despite my goal of cutting back on eating dairy, I haven't taken up a hard ban. I think it's healthy to eat what I want, when I want, and it doesn't help mentally to deprive myself of things that I'm craving. I don't crave cheese very often, so when I do, I let myself have some. Unsurprisingly, I couldn't think of any places that offered mac & cheese until Anisha mentioned The Melt, which I had been intending to go to for a while, but hadn't because I'm not a huge fan of grilled cheese. However, I will say that their Trio mac and cheese is pretty good, even when cold (I had to save it for after lecture). At around $4 after tax for a filling but not excessive portion, I would definitely go back again for the mac & cheese (hopefully I'll be able to eat it hot). ◊

Monday, October 17, 2016

#obsessed: Hold On & Believe (ft. The Federal Empire) — Martin Garrix

I've been #obsessed with this song since a recording from a music festival was posted by a fan account as an unofficial lyric video. Unfortunately I can't find that lyric video anymore; it may have been taken down due to copyright infringement, which is a shame because it was very well made. I've tried looking for it but the only reference I can find is this article about the fan video.
"You got me back on my feet again
You said that lovers come and may go
You said that time will pass
But I'll stay your friend
I'll help you up when you feel alone"
Back to the song, I have to say, I love the lyrics more than the beat. They give me an Avicii vibe, and originally the fan video referenced the song as a collab between Martin Garrix and Avicii. To be honest, I like the unofficial version a bit better. It had an indescribable energy that makes me want to go to a live edm show. It's a shame that Avicii is retired from touring for the time being; I'd love to go to a show of his, but hopefully I somehow can see Martin Garrix live in the near future.
"I was lonely
But after all you told me I'd be ok
Cause friends are worth a whole lot more than money
Hope that everyone has felt like me
Hold on and believe"
Also, from his interviews and vlogs, Martin Garrix seems like a genuinely humble and kind person. He deserves all of his success, especially winning #1 on DJ Mag this year. It's hard to believe that he's my age, and clearly, he has many more great things in his future (and hopefully an album??). This song was released as part of a 'Seven Days, Seven Songs' event, so if you enjoy this one, I highly encourage you to check out the rest of his discography. ◊

Friday, October 7, 2016

September Update?

It's been well over a month since I've blogged and I'm very, very sad about that. Aside from wanting to maintain a semblance of order in my life by regularly showcasing my day to day activities, blogging is a lot of fun and gives me time and reason to put in thought towards reflecting on how my day went or being more self aware. I'll probably post a few entries retroactively so I have something in my September archive, but the unfortunate reality is that I did not blog during the month of September 2016 :(

What have I been up to instead? Classes have certainly been busier, as I'm taking four 4-unit classes instead of three. I've also joined archery, which is probably the main reason I haven't had time for anything else. Practices are a mandatory four hours on Sunday, and an optional ten hours through the rest of the week. It's a lot of fun, but as a result I haven't had as much time to do non-school related things like hanging out with friends or blogging. Unfortunately, it also looks like I won't be able to continue doing archery next semester due to the likelihood of a greater time commitment to classes (I'm trying to take 5 classes this spring). I'll make sure to do a blog post about it, probably around November at the novice tournament, so at least I have a record of an interesting thing I did in college.

To make up for lost time, I'm jamming all of September into a MDIP type post, but since it's the whole month, it's more like MMonthIP. A lot of food happened in September, but I'm not too fond of Food Friday posts anymore. Also, if anyone is vegan/vegetarian, please be aware that there is raw meat in this post (might be triggering to some people?) Here goes:

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I would eat breakfast for every meal if I could. It would probably be really unhealthy, and expensive, given the new waffle place that opened on Telegraph Ave. — Little Gem Belgian Waffles. Their pieces are seriously Insta-worthy (somehow I didn't post either of these photos on my Instagram, and now I've deleted them from my phone). I'm still a pancake person for regular breakfast, but occasionally a fully loaded waffle makes a well-deserved treat.

I was back for a weekend in San Jose, and Karan and I spaghetti'd around Santana Row (see September post that I will post some time in the future) before ending up at an All-You-Can-Eat Korean BBQ place. I definitely should not be around any sort of All-You-Can-Eat establishment, and the fact that it was all meat made it so much worse. Nevertheless, it was delicious and I would go again in a heartbeat.

There are so many amazing coffee places in Berkeley, and I haven't been to any significant fraction of them. Sporadically, I'll pop into an underground coffee place with a friend, but those occasions are few and far between. However, they're always well worth the effort. Sodoi Coffee is literally underground on Durant Ave. They don't do lattes or anything but black coffee, so anyone who's serious about their coffee should give it a try (aka not me, I love my sugary creamy drinks too much). Their decor is a very carefully crafted aesthetic, and their different brews have cute names, so I think it would be a nice place for a date if you're into that kind of stuff.

In a random turn of events, I spent a few hours dogsitting sometime in September. My housemate works for a dog walking company, and one of the clients asked her to take care of Brussel, an 8-month old "puppy" for a weekend. It turns out Brussel was more of a handful than a puppy, and was not very happy in our tiny apartment. When my housemate had to leave for the day, I was left in charge of the dog. I invited a friend over to help walk the dog, and he ended up asking if he could keep the dog overnight, to which everyone in the apartment readily agreed. We moved all of Brussel's supplies to his apartment, but then he had to leave for an event. His housemates then took up the charge of walking the dog, so we went around Berkeley and ended up at Ben and Jerry's. Aside from the delicious ice cream, I also love the company's dedication to social justice. I can't wait to try out their new flavor "Empower-mint."

That's about it for September. I have two more food places that I'll do separate posts on, so they'll be up soon retroactively. Hopefully henceforth I'll be more consistent with the posts, at least one every two weeks, but it's only going to get busier. The daily grind doesn't leave much time for fun things, but I am making an effort to keep it balanced between work hard and play hard. ◊

Friday, September 23, 2016

Chromatic Coffee

For years, Karan has been saying that once he learns how to drive, we'd go to Chromatic Coffee, and I'm happy to say that it's finally happened! I don't quite have the finesse to appreciate coffee in its unaltered form, with "hints of Costa Rica rainfall" or whatever in the flavor, but I can appreciate the aesthetics of a small, independent coffee shop. Chromatic Coffee's aesthetic is on point, with their wood pallet-esque walls and mason jar (!) drinks. I tried the vanilla latte and the thin mint latte, and as long as coffee isn't bitter, I say it's good. Still, the drinks retained a stronger coffee flavor than the sugar and cream monstrosities I usually order from Starbucks. 10/10 would visit again, and I really hope to sometime soon. ◊

Friday, September 16, 2016

#obsessed: Seeing Stars — BØRNS

Surprisingly, it's been a very long time since I've done a #obsessed post. One, they're easy to write, and two, I love being obsessed and sharing music. Lately Berkeley has been having really good weather, so this throwback BØRNS song fits the happy, bubbly mood I've been in. ◊

Friday, September 9, 2016


After the very sad, sad closure of Crepes-a-Go-Go on Telegraph Ave., a new food place has replaced it. Eatsa is an interesting new-age food service spot. I describe it like that because it is completely unconventional; there are no people involved in the interaction between ordering and receiving food. You fill out an order on one of their iPad stands, or on their app, and a few minutes later, your food is placed into a little glass cubicle that you double tap to open. It's bizarre and new and I almost love it.

Except for the fact that their orders are inconsistent. That's to be expected since it's a new concept and there are a few kinks to work out. Many of their options are spicy as well, which I tend to avoid. Also, since they don't handle meat, the main protein options are tofu or mushrooms, neither of which I am a fan of. To avoid both of those options, I tried to build my own bowl my first time there, with a warm quinoa base and seven additional ingredients. This ended up costing over $10 and there was barely half a meal in the bowl. It was delicious, but I was far from full and satisfied.

The second time around was a bit better. I ordered their pre-built burrito bowl, which had mushrooms, but at least there was enough food. However, it being a burrito bowl made it not too different from Chipotle right across the street, so I don't see the point of choosing to go to Eatsa instead, aside from the humanless experience (which I do appreciate, especially as a person with social anxiety). Overall, I'd say it's an interesting experience, and I would recommend it to other people for the experience of ordering there, but it's not for me, at least not in its current state. Hopefully, if they offer alternatives like grilled eggplant or other proteins, I'd go back again and enjoy it more. ◊

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Whether the Weather

There's a common question that's always bothered me: Would you rather live in hot weather all the time or cold weather all the time? I've always answered, "Cold, because if it's cold you can always put on layers, but when it's hot, there's not much you can do."

This summer, living in Sacramento, I've realized I really like hot weather. I love the feeling of sun on my skin, the sweet cool relief of air conditioning, wearing crop tops, eating ice cream. I don't like cold numb toes, layers upon layers of jackets, dry skin and watering eyes, dark grey skies.

But it's more than just a temperature preference, it's a revelation on how I am so limited by what I think is right, without taking into consideration what I actually want. There are fun things that I've put aside because there's serious business I know I need to take care of, and before I knew it, I passed all my time without doing anything I really wanted to do.

That's how I spent high school: putting grades, tests, and extracurriculars before dances, relationships, going out with friends, and doing fun things. Thinking of what I missed out on is my biggest regret. The times I look back on and remember that I was happiest are the classes I skipped to get burgers with friends, the spontaneous drives up a hill to watch the sunset, and later at night coming back down that hill blasting music and standing out of the top of the car sunroof. Years from now, I won't remember what grade I had in a class, or what AP classes I took, but I know I will remember if I was happy or not, and unfortunately, in the case of high school, the answer is no.

I'm desperate to not make that same mistake in college. 

There's a post on Humans of New York that has always stuck with me. In it, a young woman sitting on a suitcase explains:
"I wish I'd partied a little less. People always say 'be true to yourself.' But that's misleading, because there are two selves. There's your short term self, and there's your long term self. And if you're only true to your short term self, your long term self slowly decays."

So far, I've been having the opposite problem. I'm so preoccupied with the long term that I've neglected to take care of myself in the short term. Occasionally it gets so bad that I forget to eat, sleep, drink water, all the very basic necessities of life.

It's something my parents passed down to me. They would never put "My child is an honor student" stickers on the minivan because it could lower the resale value — even though two consecutive minivans were totaled in crashes. My future was always a ticking time bomb of what if's. My entire life, I was told to prepare for the day I turned 18, when I would be a "real" adult and everything I knew would change. That didn't happen. "Sacrifice now and reap the rewards later."

But there's always a later. The now is gone in a blink of an eye.

It was 8pm and we had just finished a long day of meetings and work. We got Chipotle because you're supposed to eat beforehand otherwise it'll hurt more. We drove to the parlor, a random one Patrick found on Yelp with a good rating, that was still open late at night. They neglected to tell me to bring an ID, so I had to be driven home to grab my passport. I came back and I wrote it out a million times on a piece of printer paper, and it still wasn't perfect, but it was good enough, and the artist printed it on my arm and asked me a million times if I was okay with it, and I almost settled because I was tired but he wiped it off and let me spill my thoughts that it would look better rotated just two degrees clockwise, so he printed it again and it looked right. It's my own handwriting. It's not perfect. But I'm happy with the results.

This summer the theme was to "Go For Your Goals." The faculty would ironically say it every time someone was about to make a bad decision. I used the phrase to buoy my confidence getting into the car to go to the tattoo parlor. But there's a soft edge of authenticity to it. I've always wanted to dye my hair, to get a tattoo, but I was always worried about what future employers might think, or what my friends might think in doing something so drastically out of character. But hair can be cut and regrown. A tattoo can be covered in a variety of manners. If my friends can't handle a little tattoo, why should they still be my friends? Clearly, it's something that means a lot to me. It is a reminder that this is real. It is my acceptance of my panic attacks, it is a tribute to a program that may no longer be there next year, an ode to impermanence etched into my skin, because a tattoo may be "permanent" but I am not.

Who cares that the apartment decorations will have to come down at the end of the year? I still have a whole year to enjoy them on the wall, and that itself is worth the little effort it takes to put them up. Order the pretty headphones. They're cheap, and they might break, but they'll do for now, and you'll like them. Invest in a goddamn iClicker, even if you never use it again, you can always resell it. You're spending more money renting one every year anyway. Get Spotify Premium! Life's too short to waste time on ads! Date people! It doesn't matter that you're probably not going to marry them! Be happy! Abandon logic and feel something again! (Can you tell I'm screaming at myself at this point?)

Getting a tattoo is never a logical decision. I've tried to plan what I would get and where, but that day, I was tired and frustrated and I wasn't thinking. It just happened.

Seize the now. Live boldly. Everything will be okay. ◊