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. ◊