Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ducks in a Row

It's been an awful week. I haven't been able to pinpoint what's making me feel awful, but there's a general sense of awfulness and discontent, and I don't know what to do to make it go away. I had a panic attack on Sunday upon the sudden realization of how much work I had to do; I haven't had a panic attack in a very long time so I didn't realize I was having a panic attack until after it happened. I had to go back to suburbia to sign my taxes, which is never a pleasant experience. I think that may have been a large contributing factor to the panic attack, but everything in my head is so muddled right now I can't quite figure it out. I really hope I'm not sinking into a depression trough again.

The one redeeming feature of the trip back to suburbia was going to Costco and picking up my favorite pastries — apple strudel. I brought four of them back to Berkeley with me with the intention of eating one for breakfast each day, but when I got back from running errands, they were all gone, me having only eaten one for breakfast that day. Seeing as one of my roommates is the only other person in the apartment right now, her and her boyfriend, the only possibility is that they ate all the rest of them. As stupid as it sounds, that was the thing that broke me. I called Anisha and cried over my lost pastries. I'm mad at my roommate more than anything — I feel like it's basic human decency to ask before eating something that doesn't belong to you — but being mad isn't going to get my pastries back. Still, I'm upset that the one thing I was looking forward to to get up in the morning for is gone.

On the plus side, I did get out of the house and get things done. Getting a state ID has been on my to-do list for months, but I've always been too scared to go to the DMV. After the fact, it honestly wasn't that bad, but anxiety doesn't always make sense. I think the motivating factor that enabled me to go was seeing this tweet somewhere on Tumblr a few days ago:
"If I waited till I got my ducks all in a row I'd never cross the street. Sometimes u just have 2 gather up what u'v got & make a run for it"

It makes a lot of sense: I'm always planning, optimizing, trying to develop a perfectly efficient course of action before pursuing anything, but sometimes it's just not possible. If I had to plan exactly when to take the bus and arrive at the DMV, I would have put it off every day because I can't wake up at the most optimal time to do that. And once I got there, I would have had an aneurysm trying to anticipate every line and social interaction, because I have no idea what to expect. That's the thing with the DMV I think that made me nervous — it was an unfamiliar environment that I had no way to plan for. But once I got there and waited in line and got a number and followed the instructions, everything was ok. I could have done this much sooner, but I was so petrified of not being able to accomplish that goal perfectly that I didn't even bother to start. But today, I gathered up what I had and made a run for it: I threw all of my documents into a bag, grabbed a book to read while I waited, and hopped onto the bus. And now I'll be getting my ID in the mail within 30 days.

After that, aside from the pastry incident, everything was pretty okay. I got a lot of things done that I had been putting off, and I'm feeling a little more motivated to tackle some of the things I still have left to do. I've also been catsitting for a friend in Berkeley, and having a cat around helps a lot. Hopefully this mood lifts soon and I can enjoy the rest of my break a bit more. ◊

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Another Existential Crisis?

It is finally, finally spring break. I've cleaned the entire apartment (I even bought fabric Febreze!), sorted out all the minor tasks that I totally had time for but didn't feel obligated to do while I had essays, and napped for about 36 hours straight. The plan for tonight is movie and spa night, then more minor tasks and sleep, and then after Monday, back to work on essays. While I'm at it, I'm trying to get back into a regimented mindset to get shit done. It's been a weird semester, and March has been the weirdest month of all.

The first round of essay midterm grades were returned at the beginning of this week, something I've been mulling over all week. After getting an A- and two As, including the high score for a class, I received a C for ED182AC. It really threw me off — I know I'm not a bad writer, clearly, from the highest scoring essay for my other class, but nevertheless, the existential despair once again set in. The grade option change deadline just passed on Friday, so whether I like it or not, I'm going to have to put my nose to the grindstone and take whatever grade comes at the end of the semester.

I keep telling myself to hold out and take the stress because it's going to be the last semester of academic grind. Five classes is a bit much, and maybe aiming for 3 A's and 2 A-'s at least this semester is a bit ambitious, but I think it's doable. I'd then have to get 4 A's and 3 A-'s minimum for my last two semesters in order to achieve a 3.8 GPA. Of course, I could also take an easy A GPA boosting class my last semester, or take the 8-unit Greek course I'm planning to do for fun for a grade instead, but that feels like cheating somehow.

For my last year I want to shift toward a more career oriented focus, learning about certifications and experience and whatnot. It's frustrating to think about everything I need to do in order to get to my ideal career because I expect instant gratification, but everything I want to do not only needs a degree, but also years of experience. I don't want to be schlepping through mediocre positions for five years after I graduate — I want to make a real difference doing real work. It is every college student's constant conundrum: what am I going to do when I graduate?

At this point, my best course for action seems to be Teach For America. I can simultaneously get work experience, a certification, and maybe even a Master's degree if my location has a joint program with a local university. If I do go that route, I'm interested in a Master's in Public Administration (or Education Policy, haven't figured out the specifics). It's reassuring at least knowing that I'm building enthusiasm toward a career in public school administration.

To me, making a plan is reassuring, rather than being anxiety inducing as it may be for other people. But of course, I am not without my doubts. Once again, there's anxiety about over-promising and under-delivering, but this is the goal I've set myself to work towards and I am putting in the effort to make it happen. I also realize that this decision to work hard for one more semester feels like falling into the trap of once again thinking, "After this thing happens, I will be happy." I'm not yet sure how to confront this one, but I'm ready to pursue personal growth and character development, even if it may be painful. With little over a month left of Spring 2017 and so much yet to happen, there's nothing to do but try my best and embrace it, come what may. ◊

Monday, March 20, 2017

Play Hard Work Hard

Things are starting to look up again this semester: I interviewed for a D.C. non-profit (and I think it went well!), I received A's on two of my midterm essays, and I finished my application for a fellowship a whole hour ahead of when I thought it was due (hence, now having time to blog). Granted, there is still a ton of stuff to do, but I'm incredibly satisfied with everything I've accomplished this weekend. One more week of classes and meetings, and a ten page paper due Friday, and then I'm free for Spring Break. Arguably, Spring Break will be just as busy as I catch up on appointments, but I am definitely looking forward to having some time to rest and not traipse around campus all day.

Sometimes when I feel this happy, I get anxious because I start thinking about all the things I still need to do; this time, the satisfaction feels well deserved. One night, when I was so stressed I couldn't even stay asleep, I tried to listen to music to calm myself, and inadvertently played a few of Lorde's old songs. I don't know how, but I instantly felt my stress melt away. The line that resonated with me the most from those moments was from "Tennis Court:"

"Because I'm doing this for the thrill of it, killin' it // Never not chasing the million things I want"

Between midterm papers to extracurricular meetings, I'm starting to really embrace the notion of work hard, play hard. Despite the busy week last week, I still committed the time to plan and throw a surprise party for Anisha, a fact that I'm proud of not only because she deserves the occasion to be valued and celebrated, but also because it proved to me that grades and academics are not the most important thing in life.

That said, I think part of the reason why I have been enjoying my academics lately as well is the greater incidence of "fun" events. Though I strive to "work hard, play hard," what ends up happening more so than not is that I work hard at the expense of play hard — and I enjoy it, the thrill of it, killin' it, chasing the million things I want. However, it's been making more sense to me that the notion of play hard must be available to motivate the work hard. Otherwise, the existential despair of "what is the point" starts to settle in. With that in mind, I am going to continue to work hard, but also prioritize things happening outside of my academics. ◊

Saturday, March 11, 2017

I Do What I Want

There's something about bleeding out between the legs that makes one confront the inherent futility of human hopes and aspirations. The confines of an earthly existence dictate that the function of my body is to reproduce, and if that is not a desirable goal for me, then really, what is the point? Right now what I overwhelmingly want is to leave everything behind and travel the world. Is that sustainable? Is that even what I really want?

I'm tired of waiting for my life to begin: after this essay, after this semester, after this year, after graduating, after working for two years, after grad school, after ever after. Why do I rarely feel like I'm enjoying life right now? I'm scared I'm going to waste my life away waiting for the time to finally feel ready to do the things I want, and end up like this Humans of New York post:

Every so often, when I am faced with overwhelming stress, I confront this crisis. Luckily, having experienced it time and time again, I am certain of two fundamental conclusions: the meaning of life is to be happy (however you may define that), and everything will be okay. After finishing three midterm essays this week and waking up the next morning with new Lorde to listen to, I realize that it's not an issue of having time to do what I want. It's a habit — a lifestyle. Right now even though I have time to do what I want, I don't even know what to do. So from this point forward, I want to commit to doing what I want, even if I feel like I don't have time. I shouldn't deprive myself of the little things that make me happy just because I feel obligated to do work all the time. The time will still pass, the assignments will still be completed, albeit a bit later, but those missed opportunities will never come back. I can be busy and miserable about it, or be busy and enjoy what I can. After all, I'm still in a point in my life where I have a safety net to fall back onto if anything does go terribly wrong. Carpe diem, go for your goals, live boldly, it doesn't matter how you phrase it, the point is to not let life slip away waiting for the next break. I'm hoping I can embrace that lifestyle and enjoy life in the moment. ◊

Sunday, March 5, 2017


This weekend has quite frankly been exhausting. I'm taking a break right now from the three essays I have due this week: 7-10 pages for ED182AC, 6 pages for PS111AC, and 4 pages for Wealth and Poverty. I probably should have worked on them earlier, but more pressing events were taking place, specifically the release of the last Wolverine movie (at least, the last with Hugh Jackman). Wolverine has always been my favorite Marvel character, and going into this one was bittersweet knowing that it would be the end of an era. I cried, and as you can see, I'm clearly not happy it's over. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that the movie was amazing, and that I plan on going back to rewatch it soon.

The only downside was that the timing of the movie kept getting pushed back. I initially thought it would be at 10am, but it was actually scheduled for 10:45am on the ticket. Then, at the theater, the actual showing was at 11:15am. Luckily, that gave my friend and I enough time to go get food, and so we snuck Pizza My Heart into the theater. Unfortunately, because I was supposed to meet up with a potential subletter at 2:30pm, I didn't have much time to shop at Bay Street. This was especially disappointing because they had just opened up a new MAC, and Lush also had new products. I did get to pick up a face mask and a toner, the Eau Roma water. It's supposed to be good for hydrating sensitive skin. I've found that switching to products specifically for sensitive skin has cleared up a lot of my skin problems. Plus, the new packaging for Lush is amazingly cute.

It ended up that I didn't make it back to Berkeley in time to meet up with the subletter. I felt so frazzled and overwhelmed by the feeling that I had failed in some way. Plus, the impending stress of three essays wasn't helping either. In these situations, I think it's important to remember to take time for aggressive self care. After a mini reset to indulge in all-of-the-Lush, I actually managed to finish three pages of writing. I've been saying to myself, "After this week, everything will be okay," every week so far, but this time, I'm genuinely hoping I get a bit of a break after these essays. If not, then at least spring break is coming soon. ◊

Thursday, March 2, 2017

#obsessed: Green Light — Lorde

Today was an emotionally intense day. I got home after class ended early. My cohabitants have finally washed the dishes in the sink, and I am fueled by caffeine and fast food. The fire alarm started blaring for the third time in a month, and is still going off intermittently; I didn't bother to leave. Classes are kicking my butt, but I'm simultaneously loving life. I'm taking five upper division classes, with essay assignments for all of them. Whereas in lower divs I could coast through with moderate effort, every single assignment now requires substantial, clear, deliberate thought and sharp analysis. This semester is the tipping point — every day a knife edge — honing my ambition and forging my mettle. It is the Glory and Gore, equal parts wordplay and swordplay, as I fight to keep up mentally and physically. At times, I feel as though I've bitten off more than I can chew. But I'm handling it. I have a set schedule, I've established a self care regimen, and I've optimized my time as much as I can, even if I'm not 100% there yet.

Just as I start to feel beat down, after three years, she's has returned — the queen, the goddess, the one and only Lorde. My skin is clear, I am alive again, my motivation is restored. "Green Light" is a triumphant comeback, with an intense, frenetic energy to it. It is exactly what I need right now, given that this entire semester has been quite intense and frenetic. There's a feeling that something has changed, that life is somehow more perilous, more real.

This Mic article references one of Lorde's Facebook posts, where she describes the new album as a step away from "enshrining our teenage glory." It's a completely different tone from the muted depression in Pure Heroine; this single sounds much more mature, a reflection of "her first year of independent adult living." I think it's quite fitting with the timeline of my life, given that she's little more than a year older than me. I, too, am reveling in those last dregs of irreverent teenhood, as I embrace the challenges and joys of my own transition into "independent adult living."

It's a breakup song, singing about "brand new sounds in my mind." Opportunities abound, am I capable enough to seize them? Metaphorically, I'm at a point in life where I'm ready to break up with my doubts, my insecurities, things about who I was that I didn't like. I've done as much as I can to prepare; I'm revved up and ready to go —
"I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it."