Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Reconsidering Reality

The first result in Google Images for "success" is the picture above. It suggests an interesting meaning, that success is tantalizingly close, but never in grasp. You want it, but you don't even know what it looks like. Such is my current "existential crisis," in the aftermath of recent political changes and personal academic shortcomings. To get right into it, I found myself again questioning why I'm running myself through the gauntlet and ending up profoundly unhappy. What am I doing and why? What do I want?

Ultimately, I want to be happy. In terms of the simple pleasures that matter to me in the long term, I want to devote time to cultivating my aesthetic, my plants; a cat in a sunshine filled room; an art studio in the corner; I want to travel, to create and consume art, to be healthy, and not have to scrimp on self care; I want to do work that is meaningful to me, and perhaps ultimately make a noticeable difference in the world for the better. But lately, I have begun to despair that those things are no longer achievable, maybe due to insecurity about the job market. Should I aim a little lower? If I do, am I settling? Am I getting complacent? What does that even mean?

For most people, going to school in Berkeley is "success" in that traditional sense. Beyond that, I'm not so sure anymore. In terms of career, I have no desire to earn a million dollar salary, or become a politician, or own a business, or be a celebrity. "Success" feels a little different in the field of education — it means accepting very little recognition for weaving the background work that keeps schools running. But it's not very exciting or impressive to say, "I want to be a school district superintendent," when someone asks what you want to do with your life.

But that career IS what I want, so why am I worried about settling for it? The one thing that I vaguely wanted to "be when I grow up" was a teacher. This is best aligned with what I believe is a fulfilling life. I think I'd be immensely happy working with students as a school administrator. So why am I chasing a vague idea of accomplishment that doesn't even exist? Why do I think I'm settling when I don't know what is defined as settling?

Arguably, the position of Federal Secretary of Education is probably the highest "achievable" position, but two steps below that is "superintendent," and one step below that is "school principal." Have I somehow twisted "Achieving what I want" into "Settling" simply because there exists something that I know I cannot have? I can't bear the thought of being mediocre, yet realistically, there is very little difference between myself and any other person. Very few people are truly extraordinary, and in my chosen career path, there is next to no likelihood of ever achieving renown. How have I made my definition of "settling" something that is beyond most people's definition of success? Will I ever be satisfied?

Maybe this warped perception of reality goes back to my parents and somehow still wanting to win their approval. But I already know I'm never going to, so why am I still worried? Maybe I fear that I'm never going to be independent from them. At this point what I want most is autonomy, and when that doesn't seem realistic, I start to question my own choices. Above all, I want to live my life on my own terms, and not by anyone else's definition. I feel pressured to make something amazing out of my life, and I've internalized that pressure without knowing if that's what I want, to the point where trying to tear myself away from that yearning feels so wrong.

Everyone has a need for validation to some degree. In terms of my relationship to my parents, it is feasible for me to surpass a threshold of material success that quantifiably exceeds their standards, thus getting that pressure off of my back. But for the rest of it, I feel like I'm running around in circles chasing the idea of "success," when "success" doesn't exist.

Personal satisfaction, however, does. When life makes you run around in circles, you won't necessarily get to a better place, but you can build your personal endurance and physical fitness. Settling is stopping, while success is continuing to move forward. For me, settling means simply subsisting and being selfish, giving up on my aspirations to make the world a better place. As long as I keep moving forward and go for my goals, I will be okay. ◊

Friday, February 24, 2017

February Food

Once again, it has been quite a while since I've last blogged. In the interim hiatus, I've been catching up on a lot of work, hoping to be sufficiently on top of my assignments that I'm no longer stressing over them at the last minute. I am also freaking out because it is the end of February and I have not applied to as many internships as I had hoped by this point. Archery is cancelled this weekend so the goal is to use that time to get ahead on essays, readings, and internships.

On the plus side, it's been a good month for food; I've even knocked an item off of my bucket list! Anisha and I stumbled upon Ici when we were going grocery shopping but the bus never came. Frustrated, we decided to walk down College Ave. passing by Ici on the way. It was a fairly warm day so we stopped by. The ice cream was delicious, but very small in portion size. It's definitely worth the occasional treat!

[1] Cinnaholic — old fashioned roll with strawberries and birthday cake icing
[2] Dandelion Chocolate in SF
[3] European Drinking Chocolate with a biscuit and marshmallow
[4] Ici Ice Cream
[5] with Anisha!
[6] I got the mint creme, she got the ginger with caramel sauce.
[7] KBBQ in Oakland
[8] They even had fries?
[9] And an assortment of dishes that I did not have the courage to try.
[10] It was lit.

The nice thing about food is that it is near-instant gratification. Unlike essays and projects, trying new food has a certain positive outcome. It's discouraging to put in the work but not see the results I thought I deserved. Unfortunately, perhaps I haven't been putting as much effort into my assignments as I should be. The grades I got back were a smack into the face that reminded me not to be complacent. Another (unrelated) thing is I need to sort out my accounts again. I've made so many new ones that I can't keep up with which password goes with which. This is a project likely left for spring break, but it continues to frazzle me in the meantime. Despite that minor hurdle, I am very ready for everything to start going well in life again. ◊

Thursday, February 16, 2017

#obsessed: American Boy (ft. Kanye West) — Estelle

This is a bit of a #throwbackthursday — I honestly don't know why this song has been stuck in my head. I have no idea where it came from; I don't think I've heard it anywhere recently, but, "Take me to New York I want to see LA," has been repeating in my head endlessly. Nevertheless, I thought it would make a good #obsessed music post because I haven't blogged much recently and these are generally short posts.

Aside from that, a few life updates, mostly good news. First and foremost, I am officially enrolled in all of my classes this semester! I am settling into a routine and I enjoy the content of every class so far. There is an identifiable point in the near future where I will be completely caught up with everything from previously waitlisted classes and will stay on top of the new assignments coming in. I'm about 78% caught up with that work, and what will help even more with that this weekend is that my PS191 professor gave everyone an extension until next Tuesday for the essay. This gives me a breather so I can blog right now and I don't feel as harried by the due date and time constraints. I can avoid getting burnt out and finish everything by this weekend.

The apartment search for next year is going well; while walking to the grocery store, Anisha and I stumbled upon a cute little house with two units listed, both of which were a) larger and b) cheaper than what I currently am living in. Last but not least, archery has started again, which makes me very happy. The only downside of that is that my arms, shoulder, and back are sore again from moving up a bow weight. Overall, however, I am looking forward to the rest of this semester and I am incredibly optimistic for how it's going to go. ◊

Monday, February 6, 2017

It's Been A While

I've often noticed that my blog post frequency is correlated with my mental health; if that is indeed the case then evidently my mental health has been faring quite poorly in the last month. Blogging gives me space to deliberately reflect on my thoughts and state of life, and when I don't have time for it I tend to get lost in the negative details and lose track of the big picture. I think this post may end up with a number of disjointed thoughts, but unfortunately it's all I can muster.

The main issue has been a lot of anxieties related to friends that have piled up into emotional baggage (friend, if you are reading this, I do not consider you emotional baggage, but the conflicts between us have been unavoidably on my mind) and I'm tired from dragging the weight of it around with me all the time. I've resolved to put it behind me and trust in the strength of my friendships. At the same time I need to put a leash on my feelings so I don't impulsively lash out. Just because it's important for me to have feelings does not mean that I'm not accountable for how my expression of my feelings hurts others' feelings.

Of course, there have been other factors, such as the start of the semester and getting into classes. It seems that I can put my anxieties there to rest, as I've gotten in to all of the classes I wanted. On the flip side, that means there's a lot of catching up to do, as I have three weeks of readings for a class that I did not buy the reader for. I didn't want to buy it and not get into the class, but now that I'm officially on the roster, I have nothing to worry about.

Once I'm caught up with all the old stuff and staying on top of the new stuff, I also have to put the pedal on the metal in regards to internships. I am still optimistic that this will be as good of a semester as I had hoped it will be. Meal prep has been going well, I have as much time as I need for readings, and clubs will all be set into my schedule in the next week or so.

I know that everything will be okay. It's just a matter of time for me to clear out all of the old stuff and accommodate the new. In a moment of panic I said to a friend, "I want to reset my life and start this year over," but after writing about it and reflecting, it's not so bad after all. I'm thinking a trip to Lush is needed in the very near future to refresh my mind and soul. There's nothing right now a face mask can't fix. ◊