Wednesday, December 22, 2010

vivid recollections.

A view from the corner of the empty school.
As we left Sugar Plum Cafe the other day, I pointed ahead and turned to Cort and Rach: "That's my elementary school." There, at 25th and K, stood the familiar three-story structure. Eight years of my life were spent within those walls and, as we walked past the school, I felt compelled to run inside and take inventory of the classrooms. I wanted to sit in the middle of the gym and race down the stairs to the piano in the social hall where we used to sing. I wanted to visit the third floor library and see if they still used the card catalog system and see if the computers in the lab were as old as I remembered. I wanted to walk through the playground, past the bright plastic play structure, to the church, with its beautiful high ceiling and stained glass windows and dark green carpet. I wanted to remember everything about those days, even if most of my memories there remain tragic.

When I told my mom I walked by the school, she looked surprised. "You mean you didn't know?" she asked. The school had moved--something about failing an earthquake safety inspection. The beautiful 115-year-old building is now vacant.

I was more taken aback than I thought I would be. In truth, I hated that school and the people in it: I hated the stuffy, un-air conditioned/heated classrooms; I hated the gym that doubled as an auditorium; the social hall, where Ms. O'Donnell would force us to watch the same fucking Irish movie every year on St. Patrick's Day, thus forcing a hatred for the "holiday" I've yet to truly overcome; the old, slow computers in the lab and the fact that the library/computer lab was on the third floor of the building; the weekly prayer services and monthly masses; the black and white jumpers and skirts and stupid jewelry and nail polish dress code rules; being stuck with the same 30 classmates for eight years. Despite my "involvement" (student council, choir, theatre, whatever), my memories are dense with negativity. The positive things I remember are, of course, exaggerations of fleeting moments. The only exception that comes to mind is the library (books foreverrr) and the beauty of the church--I always did love the architecture of Catholic churches, despite my feelings toward the religion itself (aside: I was never Catholic to begin with). Is it ironic that I lost my faith in God inside the antique walls of the cross-shaped edifice? Inside, with its candles and altars and marble steps where we sat for choir, I cemented my beliefs against some Higher Power. But that's another blog for some other time...

I went through old yearbooks earlier--from preschool to kindergarten to first through eighth. I remember the transitions well, the friends I gained and lost, who was considered my "best friend" or "best best friend" from year to year. It all seems so trivial now, but at the time it was of utmost importance. "Your my number 2 best freind," someone wrote to me in the back of my yearbook for third grade. It was quite the compliment.

Sixth grade: Emily's annual all-girl's
sleepover at her house.
I'm friends with many of my old classmates on Facebook, though being Facebook friends doesn't really mean much, does it? It allows you a window into the lives of people from your past, but you don't really know who they are. If I were to run into any of them in a store, I doubt we'd speak. Which is funny, isn't it? "We were best friends last year and now we barely talk. What happened?" one girl wrote in my eighth grade yearbook as we all said our farewells. And it was true: I was "best friends" and "best best friends" once upon a time with a few of them, though it felt like that changed every year. I used to spend hours on the phone with them and pass notes in class (and then get caught) and gossip in the cafeteria. We told each other we loved one another and that we'd be best friends forever.

But the days of losing lunch boxes and falling off monkey bars are far past. They were even past as I was living through them. My memories of elementary school were lonelier than I care to admit. All of the social skills the Montessori education taught me faded after I started losing my hair and I retreated quite a bit. Recesses and lunchtimes were spent reading books on the bench because we weren't allowed to spend our outdoor time inside the library; during PE I would pretend to be interested in sports people played to avoid the reality of not having anyone to talk to; theatrical performances were  preluded with my mother hovering over hair and makeup sessions so she could whisper to the volunteering parents to be gentle with the hairstyles they wanted to give me and so she could explain to them why I couldn't wear mascara and had no eyebrows.

I won't depress you with more, but I'm sure my point is clear. There is so little of the person I was in those eight years that remains in me now, aside from what was documented in yearbooks and photos and what I have written in abandoned journals and diaries. When I graduated from eighth grade, I remember feeling sad, but that's natural when any chapter ends. Loretto was a wonderful four years, despite the growing pains we all experienced there, and I was terribly sad to leave that too. Now, I falter at the thought of returning for the reunion this week--not because my love has turned to hate (untrue, I still love Loretto and always will), but because I know I'll encounter memories with people that I'm not sure I'm prepared to face.

Another chapter of my life will be closing soon as well. But when I leave UCI, the difference is now I'll be more prepared to let go. I've grown to accept the concept of impermanence since Cheever first taught us about it and I'm anticipating the rush that'll accompany moving forward and onto the next chapter.

Eighth grade: post-Baccalaureate, pre-graduation.
As for the abandoned building sitting at 2500 K Street, the nostalgia will never really escape me. I can still see every floor of the school in my head. As we got into Cort's car the other day, I caught a glimpse of the school's side door and I can still see Mr.  Clay smoking. I still imagine the combination of sights and smells of every corner of the school, and it all feels as if it was just a minute ago. The school was historic and it felt like it. Though I grew to hate that it was across from Sutter's Fort (first: Jog-a-Thon--UGH; second: learning about the Gold Rush was cool for the first couple of years...then it got old...really, really old) and right next to the church (which allowed us to have all of those services), it feels wrong that future classes be robbed of those same memories (whether they enjoy it or not). After all, I survived eight years of that school, both emotionally and physically--earthquakes, floods, bomb threats, lockdowns and all.

Monday, December 13, 2010

the ghost of Christmas past.

January 26, 2004
Dear (Senior) Self,
This is odd. Just a couple days ago I got my 8th grade letter to myself from retreat and now I have to write another letter to myself!...Uhm...I dunno what to write about. I can guarantee  that I'm going to forget about this until I receive it. Frosh year is interesting. I've made loads of friends and I hope I'll still keep them through high school and "beyond"--Liz, Katie, Cienna, Manda, Cait, Janelle,, my senior self, I hope this promise is true and that I still keep at least these friends. So what's important?...Hmm...that I actually make it to senior year so I get this letter! And, well, there's a lot of things that are important. Family, friends, school...and what are my hopes/goals? Well, that whole getting to my senior year is pretty much a major goal. And I hope to continue in the Shakespeare Society...and I hope I go into acting or film or entertainment or literature...and, if anything, I hope to be happy! Hmm, I dunno what else there is to say. Oh, let's hope that Janelle and I actually say what we're going to do: visit New Zealand, visit Europe and go cross-country! We want to visit at least a zillion landmarks. And where should I go to college? Oh, I don't know...Let's hope that I will still be best friends with my current friends--No regrets!
Love from, my freshman self

Wow, that was incredibly painful to type up--mainly due to bad handwriting and grammatical errors. The content itself is forgivable (kind of)...I was 14. Like none of you have those skeletons in your closets as well.

I like finding these letters and old blogs, as embarrassing as it all is. I do regret destroying my old high school Xanga though because it would've been amusing to read now--even though the reason I deleted it in the first place was so I wouldn't have to read it again.

"My Grown-Up Christmas List" quartet - Dec. 2006

Checklist of the above items:
  • What did I even write to myself in my 8th grade letter? And what was with these schools and having us write letters to ourselves? I believe at Senior Reflection we also wrote letters to ourselves for one year into college...did those ever get mailed to us? I feel like they did because I remember talking to Rosa about it in the dorms.
  • Of the seven "best friends" I mention, I only remained close to two of them by the end of senior year, though our paths haven't crossed much since I left; three of the friends I mention became distant acquaintances by the end of my freshman year; one friend left Loretto at the end of Third Year and we fell out of touch; and one provided a thoughtless end to a destructive friendship.
  • I did make it to senior year (and stayed with the Society and Festival for four years) and to college. Cool.
  • My career goals seemed vague, though they're still (sort of) vague now. I've abandoned acting and music since I moved, and I don't realize how much I miss it until I remember the post-wedding declaration of love between Benedick and Beatrice or I think about four-part harmonies. 
On that note, Christmas season is coming up. This time, six years ago, I was preparing for my first Christmas concert as a part of concert choir; five years ago, I was up until all hours of the night memorizing old English as a part of chamber choir; four years ago, I was re-writing arrangements for Harnoor, Cort, Rosa and my quartet--I listened to the recording last night and the part where I messed up still makes me cringe, ugh.

"Stage Door" - fall 2006
I've been reminiscing with Cort lately and assaulting her with the past via her old Xanga. I don't remember auditioning for Ring Ceremony, though Cort swears I did. I remember my failed Advanced Drama audition and the time Cort and I auditioned "Believe" from The Polar Express two days after I got sick and lost my voice. And that evening we were supposed to open the Old Sac Christmas tree lighting and there were only five of us trying to do a five-part split? Oh, God. Then there were the successful auditions and moments too, from Festivals to concerts to Stage Door and even fashion show. High school was fun, in those respects. 

Music (as well as the theatre) was so much a part of my life and it still feels weird to be separated from it for so long. Every time I pick up my guitar or listen to a powerful monologue, I miss the passion that came with performance.

I don't miss those suffocating choir dresses, stage makeup caked onto my face or choir warmups though. "I have a nose like a ping pong ball" still haunts my nightmares, Mr. L. Thanks.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

you've got a friend in me.

Tiggy enjoys college.
I never hosted tea parties or taught classes to my army of stuffed animals. It seems like the traditional thing to do as a child, but I wasn't interested in these imaginary scenarios. Instead, I would go on adventures with my stuffed animals, take them camping in my sofa cushion forts and eat dinner with them. I would rotate my stuffed animals everyday so that everyone would have a chance to play. We'd watch TV, go to piano lessons together, hide under the covers during thunderstorms. He/she would wait in the car for me when Mom came to pick me up from school and we'd do homework together at the dining room table. One morning when I was in kindergarten, I refused to go to school until Mom let me take my stuffed animal dolphin (aptly named Dolphie) with me. She shoved Dolphie into my Spottie Dottie backpack and I was content. Even though Dolphie stayed in my backpack in the closet for the entire day, I was happy to know I had a friend at school with me.

All of this makes me sound like a very lonely child. When I used to share anecdotes in class about my childhood, Amy always said it sounded like I was an only child, which isn't true. Na and I are only 18 months apart and we always did everything together. Growing up, we were very close and we're even closer nowadays. But I still felt isolated and afraid of people as a child. When I first got sick and my friends stopped talking to me, it wasn't as terrible of a blow because I was fine with my collection of stuffed animals at home to be my friends. When I heard my friends talking about me behind my back, speculating over "what was wrong with me," I became spiteful of their fake demeanors as they pretended to still be nice. I replaced people and trust with bright, furry creatures and I didn't mind it at all.

You know that scene in Toy Story 3 when...okay, well it was really ALL of Toy Story 3 that got me. The movie hit home for me, from the beginning when Andy needs to decide who to bring to college with him to the end--no spoilers; if you saw it, you know what I'm talking about. Though I know that my stuffed animals don't come to life when I'm not around, I have an emotional connection to them that is generally absent from my life and, thus, makes it hard for me to imagine them gone forever.

Which is why Na's text message to me yesterday made me bawl: "Going through more stuffed animals. Found lamb chop, bobo bear, dolphin, sea otter...Any keepers? Picture of line up to follow..."

And then she sent a picture of them all lined up on a shelf, smiling and just as worn and fuzzy as I'd left them.

First: thanks Na, that was cruel. Second: I know I have no practical purpose for keeping them in my parents' house. I had no intention of taking all of my stuffed animals to college with me and I wouldn't be playing with them when I do go home to visit. They would be "sitting around and collecting dust," as my mom used to point out when she would donate our old toys. As I looked at the picture my sister sent me, I knew that there were plenty of other children in the world who would love those stuffed animals. But would they take as good care of them as I had? What if they just threw them away?

Me, age 3, with Rosie at my grandparents' house, pre-washing machine incident.
I thought about my various stuffed animals and the great pains my mother had taken to make sure they stayed intact. When I was five, my grandmother threw my stuffed bunny Rosie in the washing machine in protest of how dirty it was thanks to my romps in the backyard and other misadventures and Rosie was shredded to pieces. Mom told me that Rosie had to go to the hospital and took nearly a month sewing her back together and re-stuffing her the best she could. When Rosie was returned to me, she was wearing a Cabbage Patch Kids Hospital shirt and hospital slippers which hid the floral-patterned patches she sewed onto my bunny to hide the holes. She was obviously worn, but I didn't mind. She survived! She was a fighter. Then there was Bobo Bear (I don't know why we called her that) who was the victim of unfortunate timing during flu season. Yes, I Traci Lee-ed on Bobo Bear in our Mazda van one day on the way home from school. But Mom scrubbed her clean and hung her up to dry on our shower curtain rod, and then she was good as new. My "oddly-shaped stuffed animal tiger," Tiggy, whom I wrote about often in my Personal Essay workshop, also had his share of misfortunes, particularly hot chocolate stains from bumpy car rides. I managed to save Tiggy from my grandmother's washing machine though.

In the end, I told Na to donate the stuffed animals in the house to Maryhouse and I know I won't regret it. Whether they go to "better homes" or not, I had my years with them and now it's time to move on. Things aren't meant to be permanent, and so...farewell, old friends. And thanks for saving me all those years when I had nowhere else to turn.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

the matrix has you.

A common sight amongst the youngins.
We live in an age where confessions are revealed through text messages; where suicide notes are left as Facebook statuses; where breaking news is heard through Twitter; where thoughts are blogged and secrets are shared over the Internet. We are a more private people in the 21st century with a contradicting penchant for over-sharing. By sinking deeper into our smartphones and laptops, we shut out the world around us, only to be lost in a new world--one dominated by textual interaction and social networking. We know more about each other through our status updates and uploaded photos. Hell, even sharing our thoughts on a blog or Tumblr (guilty) seems easier. Why? Because we can edit; we can hold back. You can't be vague in conversation without somebody pressing you for more. The Internet is a space where you can talk about your problems without really talking about your problems.

A recent New York Times article peeked into the lives of this generation's youths and their obsession with technology. The article discusses teenagers' disinterest in books and conversations; they're too busy texting, watching YouTube videos and updating their Facebook statuses. Multitasking is rising and attention spans are shrinking. "On YouTube, 'you can a whole story in six minutes,' he [17-year-old Vishal Singh] explains. 'A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.'"

But this is a problem, according to researchers like Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School: "Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing...The worry is we're raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently."This can't be argued. The way we receive and process information nowadays is noticeably different than it was 20 years ago. Even 10 years ago, our faces weren't glued to screens. It's noted in the article that people tend to text multiple people while also talking to other people. The same is true of online chatting--you don't need to focus on just one thing. It takes much more energy (and time) to focus on a face-to-face coffee date or to write a letter by hand. Daniel Anderson, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, agrees: "Like Dr. Rich, he says he believes that young, developing brains are becoming habituated to distraction and to switching tasks, not to focus. 'If you've grown up processing multiple media, that's exactly the mode you're going to fall into when put in that environment--you develop a need for that stimulation,' he said."

It's impossible to argue that this technology is all bad though. We've clearly made many advancements with all of these developments, but the suggestion to take everything in moderation has clearly been missed. Young brains are overexposed already, but there are plenty of reasons why people should start backing off the constant YouTube watching or Facebooking: "You can't become a good writer by watching YouTube, texting and e-mailing a bunch of abbreviations," says Marcia Blondel, an English teacher at Woodside High School.

I'm sure this argument was made with the advent of television and cable television: "technology ruins children, etc." As someone who is fairly "plugged in," it's hypocritical for me to condemn technology entirely. I do think, however, that it's ruined the way people interact with one another. We feel more comfortable hiding behind screens. It's comforting, not having to worry about accidentally revealing more than we care to show. But it ruins something, I think. Do we ever achieve the same level of closeness as being able to speak candidly and openly, face-to-face?

There is less of a need to invest in one another too. To sit down and write a letter or focus solely on one person while in conversation takes time, effort and patience. We're constantly on the go and, as a result, it feels like nobody has time to interact the way we used to.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


You're typical: cigarettes and liquor and tailored, fitted hats,
with shoes that blend seamlessly 
with the dirt, the earth, the nature of our youth.

Dark, but iridescent, eyes that change 
with the passing of your memories
fade and return, unmoved.

And what left, but an empty glass and ring on the table 
of condensation--condescension-- gliding downward 
to form an imprint of our heavy descent
into contemplation and condemnation,
beaten down with nothing but our own unnecessary torment?

Victors hail spoils; we linger at the burdens in dark nights
lit by glowing neon signs and surrounded 
by docks of stable lives, symbols of "the other side."

Surrounded by norms, we wrote to define a character 
not typical of the warped figures in our modern, magazine age,
nor of the cliched, sepia prints that speak of
cigarettes and liquor and tailored, fitted hats.

And who's to say life isn't more than cafes and bookshops
and the same routines that drive our generation 
into apathy and cubicles until we're aged and our soles only touch
Corporate Carpets?

We dreamt once, on the road past strip malls and gas stations,
that we would leave this earth at last call,
when we were filled--satisfied--with our drink and consumption,
free from guilt from our actions and the necessity to leave
any sort of mark beyond a faded signature on the wall:
the possibility of eternity.

August 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

T&A: "talent and ambition," says GQ.

Dianna Agron, Cory Monteith  and Lea Michele 
on GQ's November cover. Possessive, much?
Three Glee cast members recently participated in a GQ photo shoot for the magazine's latest issue that the Parents Television Council is up in arms over, saying that it "borders on pedophilia." The three actors, Cory Monteith, Lea Michele and Dianna Agron, are all young Hollywood twentysomethings on one of the most popular television shows in the country. Glee has been described as a better and less kid-friendly version of High School Musical, and this GQ shoot takes "less kid-friendly" to a whole new level.

GQ's photo shoot has the three stars posing in a high school setting. Monteith, who plays the jock-turned-Broadway-star Finn, is the least noticeable on the pages. From playing the drums in a letterman jacket or sporting a sweater and tie combo, Monteith plays up a boyish charm that is reminiscent of his character on the show. Agron and Michele, however, are another story. Their GQ photos present them as the opposite of what their characters on the show are - something that the Parents Television Council is unhappy about. Throughout the pages of the November issue, Agron and Michele are photographed in very high heels, knee socks, skirts and push-up bras. They pout and laugh at the camera, throwing pompoms up and sucking on lollipops. It's juvenile and meant to mix the idea of innocence with fantasy - a schoolgirl fantasy, if you will. But Agron and Michele are very much adults. Shouldn't their images be their own to control?

Some companies think otherwise though - their stars represent their brand and therefore have to be extra careful about what they do on their off-time. Most notable example? Disney and their network stars (see Miley Cyrus's latest music videos: "Can't Be Tamed" and "Who Owns My Heart"). But Cyrus is no longer with Disney. Does that matter when millions of young girls all over the world still see her as Hannah Montana? It seems to matter to parents, at least.

But Disney is Disney. Glee is Glee. And GQ is GQ. As NPR points out in a recent blog post, "Half-naked women are nothing new, and all you have to do is look at a selection of covers to see that much." And it's true - take a look. All the men on GQ covers are classy and covered up (except you, Johnny Depp), but all the women are barely covered up. Then again, it is GQ, which stands for Gentlemen's Quarterly and is a monthly magazine for men. Aren't they just trying to reach their target audience?

Of course, this is a commentary on society as a whole and the images we value today. The "women are objectified in the media" discussion is nothing new. "Pinup perfect" is how E! Online described Michele's pose by the lockers. It can be argued that Agron and Michele are both beautiful young women who are merely showing the world how comfortable they are with their bodies. It can be turned into a positive message...But Agron has since come out and apologized, writing on her Tumblr, "Nobody is perfect, and these photos do not represent who I am."

It's when this image is seen as ideal and pushed on society that it becomes a major problem. Take Halloween for example. "Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it," narrates Lindsay Lohan's character Cady Heron from the 2004 film Mean Girls. And it's true. Ever walk into a Halloween party feeling overdressed in jeans and a tank top? Women are expected to dress or act a certain way in order to be attractive or appealing or worthy of attention. And let's be honest: we all make judgments based on appearances.

Is there a "solution" then? Should all celebrities think twice in case their modeling choices lead to negative reinforcing of stereotypes? Should magazines like GQ be more mindful of a potentially younger audience? Should we all just stop caring and continue dressing how we want, regardless of what the persistent media tells us? I'd like to answer "yes" to the last question and, in fact, I myself will keep on ignoring how magazines and TV shows and Hollywood tells me I "should" be dressing.

For more photos from the GQ shoot, visit GQ's official site and view the slideshow here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where do we begin?

"When I was in the military, they gave
me a medal for killing two men and
a discharge for loving one." -epitaph
of Leonard P. Matlovich, 1988
Wednesday was a day to wear purple to show support for the LGBT community. It's a simple way to describe the day, but the who, what, when, where, why information can be obtained through a Google search, so take a moment and do that if you're unfamiliar.

On Oct. 11, The Daily Targum, Rutger University's campus newspaper, published an editorial that blamed the media for exploding the situation surrounding Tyler Clementi's death. "The death of University student Tyler Clementi might have been properly mourned if it were not for the massive rallies and aggressive news coverage that altered the nature of the situation," the editorial begins. "The truth is that an 18-year-old boy killed himself - he was a student just like the rest of us, someone just trying to receive an education. Yet people's relentless agendas took his death and turne dit into a cause based on false pretenses."

"Turning his death into a push for gay rights is a fallacy," The Daily Targum's editorial continues. "Homosexuality is not the only reason for which people kill themselves. In this case, it might have pushed Clementi over the edge, but the fact that he was gay should by no means turn his death into a march for safe spaces. These groups want to be heard. They want the attention. They want their agendas to shine in the limelight....Let us - family, friends and the University together - mourn for Clementi, and just for him, rather than using him as a martyr for a cause that has yet to be proven."

It's a strong statement to make. It's true that nobody can know exactly why Clementi killed himself, nor can anyone really know the exact reason behind any of the suicides that have been grouped together for this cause as of late. Not that their sexuality didn't play a part in the reasons they were bullied and teased. - I believe it did. But it's a difficult issue to approach.

I can see where The Daily Targum is coming from, though I don't agree with all of their points. After all, is it not similar to other marginalized groups who turn situations into moments for their cause? A group, for example, who turns a miscommunication into an act of racism?

I do think, though, that this is all part of a larger problem plaguing society: the need for acceptance of those who are different from us. Any fight against equality for everyone seems to defy what our Founding Fathers wanted for this country.

"Never be bullied into silence. Never
allow yourself to be made a victim.
Accept no one's definition of your
life; define yourself." -Harvey Fierstein
But that was a mini-tangent, so let's turn the conversation toward Oct. 20 or, as it was known amongst Facebook and Tumblr, Purple Day. Days like these receive much praise and criticism for various reasons. I myself wore purple, as did many of my friends, classmates and co-workers. What I like about these days is that it's a time to show support for groups that may not always feel supported. We're all very much aware that wearing purple is not going to eliminate hate, but we don't wear purple for that reason, do we?

That having been said, the criticism that I read most directly about this day is something I can't help but respond to here though:

"You wear a purple shirt to feel special," this person wrote. "The purple shirt thing is to say, 'I'm a really nice and supportive person who may have some issues! I want people to think I am doing something, when really, I am most likely an attention whore, or part of the problem!'"

"Some of the people who are so excited to wear their purple shirt really think that this will help change our warped society that is so full of ignorance and intolerance. How ironic, some people think bullying is okay, and you think purple shirts will decrease suicide. Both sound pretty stupid to me. How intellectually stunted can we get? It's simply too hard to address the real problem, so let’s just do something to make us feel like we’re helping. Purple shirt day is self-rewarding and self-important, it inflates the egos of those who participate."

I thought about those words on Tuesday night when I read them. (Of course, these words came from the same person who also chided me two years ago for posting something on Facebook regarding insurance companies for classifying domestic abuse as a 'pre-existing condition,' therefore allowing them to deny insurance to victims.)

I'm a strong supporter of the LGBT community, with friends and family members who identify as gay or lesbian. The way I see it, we wear purple to show those who feel scared or bullied that they don't need to be wary of all of society. We wear purple to show that we are allies and that we are not a part of the groups who pinpoint something you cannot change as a "fault." We will not fault you. We are, as Amanda concluded, creating a safe space. Sure, there are many traits in people that we may not find appealing, but homosexuality shouldn't be one of those things. As I used to say to those who teased me for my alopecia: "If you're going to hate me, hate me because I'm impatient or because I chew too loudly or because I correct your grammar too much; not for something I can't control." Homosexuality isn't a choice or something that can be "reversed," as some think is possible - do you think people choose to be exiled by some groups and treated as disappointments by their conservative family members?

"If you are ashamed to stand by your colors, you had better seek another flag." -Author Unknown
Whether you wore purple on Oct. 20 or not, to belittle the day and accuse those who participated by calling them attention whores is just as bad as any sort of bullying. Wearing purple itself might not address the real problem, but it's a stepping stone toward the discussion that needs to happen. Increasing awareness is the first step; then, maybe acceptance can finally be a reality.

Friday, October 8, 2010

An old quandary revisited.

"Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible."

Anybody who reads Janet Malcolm's The Journalist and the Murderer will inevitably pause for a moment after reading this first line. Any journalist will stop entirely and have to put the book down for a second to consider the thesis. Because it's true, and it's so true that it has made me question since the day I read it back in February. I had said, in my response to this to the class, that Malcolm's book made me rethink everything I thought I knew about studying LJ and about why I wanted to be a journalist. As much as I love the book, it shook me.

But since then, I've gone through a course of questioning my goals and whether or not journalism really is my passion. The more I consider TJATM, the more I wonder if this is what my life is destined to be: a storyteller, not a story creator. "Write the story, don't be the story." It's what we're taught, after all.

Today in workshop, Jesse talked about using our skills as conversationalists and communicators to our advantage - something we've all done at a time or two, whether we're pursuing a story or not. I wonder, though, how much of it has leaked into my daily life. How many of us journalists are able to separate the personal from the professional? If we never put our journalism hat away, do we ever engage in authentic conversations? I read once that "journalists don't have friends, only sources." How true (or false) is that? After all, did I not turn an awkward and uncomfortable encounter into something I could use for a story?

Is the journalist/subject relationship really that perverse? People who just use one another for attention, and then cast one another aside once the job is done?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

an old friend.

Every time I go back to my old Philosophy I and II notes, I'm reminded of what Cheever used to always say to us: that we would always be our own teachers. At the ages of 16, 17 and 18, I was clearly understanding the concepts of the courses. I was applying them to my life. I was learning.

But, like I've said before and have been told by many, learning doesn't stop at the bell or the closing of a classroom door or at graduation. It's why I carried my Philosophy materials 300 miles south with me: to continue to learn.

Somewhere along the way, with all of the drama and the work and the fun and the stress and the adventures, I forgot to continue to live so much of what Cheever had helped us learn. It's like riding a bike though. You never really forget.

Krishna, Lord of the Rings, "the bigger picture," renunciation, Lost, the I Ching, Catherine the Fish, socialization, dukkha, Zen, koans ("Mu!"), Rumi, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Kabbalah as esoteric Judaism, Plato's allegory of the cave, Ken Wilber, memes, Aristotle, "weird," maitri, Descartes, The Matrix, empiricism, Peshitta, temptation, Sofia, retreat, east of Eden, morality/ethics/meta-ethics, passion.

Right now, at age 21, I can look back on all of those things and gather something new. When I read Pema Chödrön's words about "leaning into the pain of life," it means something different (and deeper) now than it did four or five years ago. "You have the right to work but none to the fruit thereof" still holds true, but I understand it deeper as well. So does the allegory of the cave, the moral of Catherine the Fish and everything I learned about myself on Senior Retreat.

I'm surprised, every time I realize this. And yet, I shouldn't be.

Though, there seems to be a difference between the high school-me and the me in the present. My writings were tinged with a belief in some higher power. In religion. In faith. I don't know how much that holds true for me right now. I don't know if I "believe" in "anything." I think if 3+ years away from my familiar surroundings have taught me anything, it's that hanging your hat on a religious coat rack is not necessary to lead a fulfilled life. To stress and worry and concern myself with a label--Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist, Taoist--is less important than working toward guiding your life in the "right" direction.

I don't know if I believe in God.

But there are some things I do know: I know I don't believe in the concept of hell and I know I don't believe in evangelizing. I do believe that everyone has a right to his or her beliefs and I do believe that religion, faith and spirituality can play a vital role in others' lives.

Above all--and this is really what I take away from Cheever's classes and from my own constant education--I believe in wisdom (Sofia, if you will) and that's something I'll stand by.

Dear self: As Cheever would say, "Carry on."

Monday, September 13, 2010


"If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days." -The Bell Jar

I re-read The Bell Jar instead of sleeping last night. I spent my morning wishing for rain. I walked to work with Jagged Little Pill blasting in my eardrums. You know what the funny thing about all this is? It's such an old habit, and it's so utterly ridiculous.

Tonight, I reconnected with somebody I hadn't spoken to in over a year. In the span of two hours, I realized exactly why Millie feels like I am one of the most emotionally disconnected people she knows. In my head, things make sense. Outside, it doesn't - that's the problem. But you know what? There are a lot of people who feel this way. We're all just trying to find a way, stumbling around in this weird world. I've gotten much more used to doing it alone than I probably should have, which is another major cause of my emotional disconnect.

So, that having been said...Life is too short to wallow. In five years, the shit you think mattered now may not matter at all. Don't feel sorry that you can't be who you wish you could be; focus on the person you actually are.

Blah blah blah. Change your life. You know, the usual.

Here is a fact: I don't know how to express myself. It's something I've come to terms with in the last few months. I thought I was expressive through my words, but that was just me hoping I'd found a career/life for myself. "I want to be the story," I recently wrote to someone. "I don't want to only tell the story." And I think it's because I don't know how to tell the story. I'm a low-drama person and I don't like to shove my feelings in other people's faces, no matter how big or little I feel.

I guess the short of it is this: I don't know who I am. I am not a writer. I am not an artist. I am not a musician or a dancer or an actor or a comedian. And it's actually a really good feeling. Six months ago that would've sent me into a panic. But now, there are no more roles to play. Now I can just be me and start working on being my own story and not the role others want me to play for them.

I want to tie this entry up with a nice, neat bow.

Yeah, that's it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

reaching out with hate.

About a month ago, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida announced the church would host the first International Burn a Quran Day on Sept. 11. Jones is opening the church doors from 6 - 9 p.m., inviting the public to join in a book burning of the holy Islam text. Dove World Outreach Center, a New Testament Church, is known for its conservative views, gaining notoriety in recent years for its anti-Islam and anti-LGBT messages. The church has also been vocal supporters of the Westboro Baptist Church - and that says almost everything you need to know.

Jones and the Center have been criticized heavily since announcing the plans. General Petraeus warned that this action would ultimately hurt American troops and citizens worldwide. And let's be honest: Americans already don't have the greatest world image.

"Maybe instead of addressing us, we should address radical Islam and send a very clear warning that they are not to retaliate in any form," Jones said to the Associated Press.

Lawyers have confirmed with Jones that burning the Quran is protected under the First Amendment.Which begs the question: Just what isn't considered "free speech"? You can't yell "Fire" in a crowded theatre, but you can stand up in front of a congregation and preach that all of Islam worships the devil.

And then there's the concern that's best summed up in a phrase I read a couple of months ago: "Free speech for me, but not for thee." When it comes to our beliefs and convictions, it's difficult to be objective. So here is Terry Jones, ready to send a pile of books in smokes up into the sky, but if the tables were turned and those were Bibles on fire...then what?

Jones says God is leading him to do this, and this is just a clear example of someone not wanting to take responsibility for his stupidity. And if this is the kind of God that Jones says is the "right" God to worship or else eternal damnation is in the future, then I'll take my chances and stick to my own beliefs - or, rather, non-beliefs.

Rev. Nancy Dann at a rally in support of Muslim Americans.
(AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
If you haven't seen Louis Theroux's documentary on Westboro, The Most Hated Family in America, you can watch it here. (Side note: I love Louis Theroux.)

Update, 09/09/10: US pastor Terry Jones cancels Koran burning | BBC News

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Shanghai Dreamers": dangerous or thoughtful?

I haven't blogged about being Asian lately.

1. That isn't the only reason I'm writing right now.
2. I don't want this to start looking like a Livejournal, folks.

The Atlantic recently compiled some thoughts and links about Dior's new "Shanghai Dreamers" campaign. In the ads, white Dior models stand amongst groups of Chinese models. "And no, your eyes have not deceived you," writes Jenny Zhang for The Guardian: the Chinese models within each ad are all identical - a mere copy-and-pasted image, repeated dozens of times to produce an eerie composite of clones.

So what does this say? That all Chinese people look alike? That, as Madelenine O'Dea writes for ARTINFO, "the Chinese are a featureless mass, while Dior (and the west) represent individuality"? That Chinese people aren't beautiful? That there are too many of us?

Chinese photographer and ad artist Quentin Shih is on the defense though, brushing off the accusations of racism that have been shot his way. Shih says his art is meant to be a dialogue between 20th century Chinese fashion and Western Haute Couture: "I don't think the Chinese models are in some way demeaning. The Dior model for me is also a 'model' - I mean she stands there only to represent the clothes, not herself and not a western people."

Photographer Quentin Shih in front of his "Stranger in a Glass Box"
photographs. The "Stranger" series was Shih's first photos for Dior.
There are two ways to really look at it then: the first being in line with reactions like those of Zhang's and O'Dea's; the second, as The Atlantic points out, is that the campaign is "'clueless,' not racist." Shih is a Chinese artist whose purpose isn't to make a political or social comment about China's role in the world. In fact, Shih has done photos for Dior before, posing top Chinese model Du Juan in Dior couture and in a glass box for a series called "Stranger in a Glass Box." Shih treads dangerous ground this time around though by including only white models as the representation of glamour. But that's not so much his own personal fault as it is that of the fashion industry as a whole. After all, Shih adds, "I was not lucky enough to shoot a Chinese model wearing Dior - if I did I would have put her in my work."

So who supplied the models? In this case, we should be lashing out at the industry and not the photographer. Sure, the ads are in poor taste when you thoughtfully consider the critiques it has drawn, but this should serve as a jumping off point for a greater conversation about the definition of beauty in popular culture. Who defines it? Why do we adhere to it?

The stereotype created by the beauty industry persists because of the media's biased representation of women. The industry's tendency to feature a single type of look creates a one-dimensional idea of beauty that is idealized as a model of perfection in America. An important aspect about the average woman that the media fails to accurately represent is the rich racial diversity present in society. Caucasian women are portrayed as being a dominant example of beauty, which is an inaccurate illustration of American women as a whole.

A child gets dolled up for a
toddler beauty pageant. Creepy.
Children of diverse races do not see themselves reflected in the mainstream media, creating a belief that a single type of woman, one who mirrors light-skinned Barbie dolls, defines beauty in America. In the Youtube short documentary "Kiri Davis: A Girl Like Me," Jennifer, an eighteen-year-old African-American girl, observes, "When I was younger, I used to have a lot of dolls but most of them were just white dolls with long straight hair that I would comb and I would wish I was just like that Barbie doll."

Though Barbie was originally intended to empower and motivate young girls into pursuing a wide range of professions, the unattainable image of beauty and perfection created an opposite effect. For light-skinned girls, Barbie represented a standard to aspire to, whereas for dark-skinned girls, achieving that look was physically impossible. Despite a slow progression toward representing minority races amongst dolls, the lasting impression left by Barbie is still prevalent in the minds of many.

Beauty, as defined by the industry, is presented as something to be desired, so women continue to chase after the dream in hopes of being seen as “beautiful.” The fault in this one-sided representation is also due to fashion designers, who are boxed into a single look on their runways. Designers and companies are more concerned with the profits they are making rather than the effect they are leaving. Diversity is not as important to the fashion industry because the images of tall, thin models has done its job in selling products for so long that change is not seen as urgent.

But as long as we continue to buy products in order to attain a certain look, the industry will continue to thrive exactly the way it is.

So who should we be aiming our torches and pitchforks at with "Shanghai Dreamers"? Shih, the Dior company or ourselves?

For the full set of "Shanghai Dreamers" ads, view them here at Tom & Lorenzo's blog.

sparknotes summary of summer.

If you could take certain feelings and lock them away in a box, would you? Or would you keep them floating around in hopes that formulating vague plans to confront them in the future will somehow solve everything you're questioning?

I think I've always opted for the latter, believing it was the better option; in reality, it's just as bad as the first. Suppressing things does no one any favors, but neither does making abstract plans.

Long story short: there are more than just those two options, and I think I'm gonna go with one of those other choices this time around.

PS - I lied in my last post. Guess I had another quandary for August.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


A film about fate. Cute, but with
a questionable message.
I was listening to an old This American Life show today titled "Somewhere Out There." Basic question: Is there such thing as fate? Are we all destined to find that one special someone?

The show opens with a catchy math equation that makes you feel like you'll always be "just" a number. Of the hundreds and thousands of people in your city, you may think you've got a whole sea to fish from. But, in reality, your choices are not as big as the ocean might trick you into believing.

It's the premise of so many TV shows and movies: how do you find your "one true love"? And, by that concept, is there just one person out there for everyone? How do we know that at the end of every rom-com, the happy couple doesn't split up? Where's our guarantee that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan stay together in every one of their movies?

Lately, I've been adverse to these messages, finding them trite and unmoving. True love doesn't happen at first sight, and who knows if there is even such a thing as "true" love. Just when you thought you've found it, something happens. People split up, people get divorced. It's possible to fall out of love just as quickly as you fell into it. Also, is there only one person out there for everyone? And if so, how the fuck are you supposed to find that person in your short lifetime? What do you do when it feels like settling? Online dating sites like eHarmony and tell you that they'll help you find your One True Love, but what if your actual One True Love (you know, the one you're "supposed" to be with) is on a different dating site than you are. Or what if they're not on one at all. These websites are just pulling your best match from the pool of people who are using their services.

But I am, by no means, any sort of expert on this topic, so take my words as a series of over-thought smatterings.

Tangent aside. Back to This American Life: act one presented the story of an American professor who fell in love with a Chinese fiddle player. After hearing their story, you'd think they were destined to be together. My question, though, is how much of that is "fate" and how much of it is just a coincidence? (And do coincidences exist?) There are many reasons why they ended up together, but the one simple answer that we all like to use for situations like these is that of fate/destiny. "If it's meant to be, it'll happen," people have often said to me before. But I wonder: how much of that can we rely on? It almost seems like an excuse for people not to take control of their lives.

Somebody once described a situation to me as "grandma meets the Road Runner." (Ignore the inconsistencies in the universe and bear with me.) Grandma is driving home when suddenly the Road Runner, out of nowhere, crashes into her as he's running from the coyote. Both have different reasons for being on that road and neither of them were looking for the collision. But it happened and that's that, and now the two can proceed with their respective days (granted, granny and her car makes it out alive). Maybe after this, the two will have a long lifetime of interaction; maybe they'll never see each other again. this something we leave up to fate to control for us? You meet a lot of people in your life. How many of them will you continue to know ten years from now? Five years? Or even five months? When do we stop relying on fate as a fallback and stop being passive in our lives and with the people in it?

I'm not sure if I'll ever have concrete answers to any of my questions, but it can't hurt to ponder them.

And that's it for the existential quandaries of the month.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

drift away.

"Drift Away" - Magnetic North

Growing up, I was social but
Never was the type to open up
So my closest friends were never close enough
I suppose to them I was emotionless
My headphones were my constant companions
Around my neck, they were constantly hanging
And late at night when I'm haunted by phantoms
The songs I would jam would subconsciously ban them
And damn, I know it's just lyrics and beats
But lyrics to me are like infinite peace
And peace is what hip hop had brought me
Strumming my pain like it was "Killing Me Softly"
Killing me, but what a way to die
Overdosed on flows, comatose on rhymes
And I wanna drift away
Staying conscious enough just to hit replay

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

nothing to see here.

"We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice." -The Places That Scare You

"Words can change the world." It's a phrase that any writer has most likely found him/herself saying, thinking or writing. If somebody were to ask me why I wanted to be a writer, this might be one of my answers. I honestly do believe that the written word can have a profound effect on others, as evidenced by the letters and journal entries I keep to look back on. Whether it's for the purpose of self-reflection or for sentimentality, I hold onto these words because, without them, I feel incomplete. I have an obsession with knowing who I am and where I come from and, in my mind, I'll find my answer there.

The truth, though, is that I can't. Self-reflection is what I really need and, lately, I've been getting several pushes in the right direction. In the past couple of months, I've learned how to accept when I've fucked up, but I'm still working on how to confront it and deal with the answers that I may not want to hear.

To reconnect to my point of words being an inciting factor: I'm currently going through and re-reading Letters to a Young Poet, and it's created this chasm in my life between what I very recently thought I'd discovered about myself versus reality. To go from hating everything to loving everything to now not knowing what I'm honestly feeling is an incredibly frustrating thing. And to be confronted with having to honestly think about almost every shitty thing I've ever done does nothing to sort out the frustration. But this kind of blunt realization helps a person grow and it's part of that perpetual learning process called "living."

But I digress - Back to Letters: "We must embrace struggle. Every living thing conforms to it. Everything in nature grows and struggles in its own way, establishing its own identity, insisting on it at all cost, against all resistance." This is one of those "life lessons" that is obvious when you hear it, yet few people actually truly accept it and can, in moments of struggle and pain, recognize it when it happens. As someone who has tried to avoid struggles, I can certainly admit that it has done me no favors. Instead, I'm plagued with the knowledge that those who have attempted to find closure have failed because I'm too much of a coward to engage in those conversations. And whether engaging in them now is too late and selfish on my part is something I'm trying to discern.

And, to be honest, I have no idea where I'm going with this post. I have no conclusion, other than I may end up replacing this word vomit with something more profound in the future. Until then, this will do.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

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I was fairly preoccupied in my thoughts about yesterday on my walk home in the evening. In fact, I feel as if I spend most of my free time being absorbed in my thoughts. I make "to do" lists in my head and review conversations and interactions from the day. It's like running on a treadmill 24/7. In short, it's exhausting.

I'm a pretty private person. When tragedy strikes, I don't like to talk about it. When something makes me sad, I keep it to myself. If I'm angry or upset, I can only give you the basic facts of the situation; I don't like to go into detail. This isn't a result of anything aside from the fact that I can be a quiet person. I don't like a spotlight, especially if it's sympathy. Maybe I just don't trust a lot of people to be kind with my feelings. It's partially why I'm more defensive than I should be. Walls don't come down very easily.

But all "tortured artist" thoughts aside, I guess the same goes for good news too. It's hard to find someone to share certain things with because sometimes the context of the situation takes more time to explain than it takes time to just tell the nuts and bolts of the story. And, most often, the people who would understand either aren't around to hear it and I'm not one to babble incessantly to someone who doesn't want/need to listen. So then it becomes easier to keep it to myself, and thus the cycle of introversion continues.

And then I realized how deep of a hole I've truly dug myself into. I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing: to be so absorbed in my work and in my thoughts. It's been both a positive and negative for me in the past. I've had accusations in the past that I've allowed my work to distract me from personal relationships and problems, but I've also had people praise me for my work ethic and responsibility - a win-lose situation, I suppose.

"Would you rather be alone, but successful, or happy?" someone asked me once, and I still think it's a ridiculous question. Why are the two mutually exclusive? Does success force you to be alone? And does a person's state of happiness rely on other people's actions and presence? There's a happy medium somewhere, and it's about time I try to find it.

Monday, August 9, 2010


If I was a more motivated person, I'd probably accomplish a lot in a day. If I was smarter, I might be able to write better. If I was taller, I'd have less problems. If I spent less time obsessing over my email, I'd be less stressed. If I wore my glasses everyday (like I should), I'd experience more in a day. If I drank less coffee, I might sleep better. If I slept more, I would need to drink less coffee. If I gave a mouse a cookie, he'd probably want milk.

The "what if" game is terrible. Nobody enjoys it, yet we all partake in it. It's common to ponder the woulda, coulda, shouldas and I find myself doing it far too often. One of the biggest flaws of the "what if" game is that it's an unproductive use of thought. You can't ever really know what would've happened had you chosen Path A rather than B. And who's to say you wouldn't be just as miserable/happy/sad/angry as you are right now? You'd probably be playing the "what if" game still.

One of the biggest "what if" games I've played caused me to question my confidence in my ability to make a strong and assertive judgment. "What if I stayed in Sacramento?" I sailed into CSUS and the honors program and, had I stayed, I'd be surrounded by familiar friends and a familiar environment. There were so many benefits, but another one of the "what if" game's flaws is that you never really take the negatives into account. The truth is that if I had stayed, I would've missed an integral part of growing up: the complete separation from those familiar people and familiar surroundings. Not that "growing up" can't occur while staying in your comfort zone, but that's a different process with a different outcome. Unprepared independence, however, hits you hard. It's a struggle. It makes you play the "what if" game far too often and, as a result, cause you to lose appreciation for the glasses-half-full that exist on the table before you. I've always been afraid of losing the present moment and the "what if" game is a surefire way of doing that.

I don't know how short or long my life will last, but when you compare it to the "bigger picture," I know it's much too short to dwell in lost possibilities - just one of the several life lessons I'm learning to remember.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

con te io li rivivrò.

I'm sitting here in an empty apartment surrounded by a few things that should make me very happy, and yet I just spent the past 10 minutes crying my eyes out...for honestly no goddamn reason. I don't even know if the best thing to be doing is blogging because now this is just a Livejournal, but bear with me - I have a point, or as much of a "point" as my blogs normally have.

I'm really at a loss to begin even explaining because it's a bit juvenile and silly. When I was five, I threw the biggest fit on New Year's Eve because I didn't want to say goodbye to 1994. There was no real attachment to the year and I can't even rationalize why it was such a dreadful thing to say goodbye to. I could say that I didn't want to think about things leaving as easily as people left, or that I was terrified of the vague and scary "future," which I suppose you could say that makes me a very mature five-year-old. But in reality, I think "goodbyes"--especially permanent ones--just made me really sad.

I grew out of that mentality quickly as other things took over, and I'll fast forward for your convenience: I left Loretto with the assumed knowledge that I would spend the rest of my life with three of the most amazing friends I was privileged to know. The four of us knew every detail about each other and were convinced our futures would be intertwined. As cheesy and CW-worthy as it all sounds, we were sisters and it was comforting as I prepared to leave Sacramento.

Graduation - evening stage @ Memorial Auditorium, 2007
(Evening included two performances by yours truly that you will probably never hear. Enjoy the mystery.)

Blah blah blah - anyways, opening my mailbox earlier tonight and seeing it full of crap, I was both excited at the prospect of actual (and correctly addressed) mail and annoyed at all of the junk and spam. Coupons for the golf course? No, thanks. KFC promotion? Hm, maybe. Postcard? Yay. Bills? Boo. The final item, a package, inside brought a smile to my face, followed by a slight fear because I knew what was going to come. I would open the journal the four of us have kept since separating and I would be flooded with reminders of the people we once were. The entries are comical, endearing, raw (Cort, one of your entries makes me cry every single time) and, sometimes, terrifying. Unpleasant moments I hoped to never relive were captured on those pages and I cringe at reading some of them. 

The entries stopped in August 2009, a year ago. To me, this says much more than misplacing the journal and forgetting to send it along. The thing about friendships and relationships I've garnered is what I said before - nothing lasts forever. Things fall apart. The wheel turns, etc, etc. Lesson accepted? Yes. But the thing that is striking me the most right now are the final pages of the last entry by one of my friends - words filled with memories that don't include me. Somewhere over the past three years, I stopped making a regular appearance in their lives. I set up camp in southern California, despite my own dislike for the area, and somewhere along the way, I fell off their radars. 

A year ago and before that, this would have bothered me immensely. In fact, it did bother me: knowing that they were still close when I spent the first summer after moving hiding like a recluse. But now, it doesn't bother me at all - and I think that fact is what's the most upsetting. To go from believing you'll "always" have certain people in your life to barely knowing them at all creates this indescribable feeling that can only be compared to my five-year-old tantrum over ice cream.

The question I would normally ask at this point would be, "What's the point in investing in long-term relationships with people when there's always the chance it will fall apart?"--but I know the answer: Because you don't know if it will fall apart, and who's to say that a little distance automatically destroys the bond? On the spinning wheel, you can't stay on the same space forever. To grow up, you need change. Once I was able to reach a point in my college career where I wasn't loathing my environment, I began to accept this more willingly. "Step one: shed a few tears, but don't drown in them," someone said to me once. "Nothing is ever 'that bad.'"

I think I'm grateful for goodbyes now, not because I enjoy being separated from people I love, but because it means our worlds are opening up for bigger and better things. In the future when these goodbyes occur, I'll be sad but it's time to learn to really let optimism in. And whether we embark on those adventures five miles apart from each other or five hundred miles apart, a bond will always be a bond. In another cheesy, CW-worthy lesson for ya:

edit - 2:12 a.m. (aka "Why aren't you asleep???")
September 5, 2008: 08-09 School Year Goals (as written by the four of us in random order and without identification on Al's bedroom floor)
1. [Withholding this for Cort's sake ;)]
2. I need to make new friends, from classes or clubs or whatever.
3. I need to figure out my major and not be afraid anymore.
4. I need to stop procrastinating and not let stupid drama bug me.
5. I need to declare a major, even if I might change it later.
6. I need to get an internship or job for next summer - preferably one I like!
7. I need to not let the past dictate how this year will unfold.
8. I need to get more sleep. Seriously.
9. I need to let every action and word express who I am, and cultivate who I want to be.
10. I need to stop judging every person on sight/first appearance. I need to give people the benefit of the doubt.
11. I also need to make new friends and join a couple clubs or something.
12. I need to be more independent and not rely on other people to always help me.
13. I need to be more open to whatever comes along in life and not try to predict my life.
14. I need to have more "me" time!
15. I need to remember: I love life. The people, the places, the problems. I love life!
16. [Definitely withholding this one for ALL of our sakes!]

From the trivial to the serious, we "needed" a lot of things, didn't we? I'm amused, and slightly embarrassed, while reading these pages. But like I said before, I do enjoy reliving the awkward. Er, sometimes...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

daughters will love like you do.

Baccalaureate dinner, 2007
My parents have always been strict, yet occasionally easygoing, people. I remember there’d be times when Dad would scold Na and me for being rude: “Mo ly mao,” he would say, and I’d retreat to my room and sulk, scribbling in my fuzzy yellow diary about how mean he was. Thinking back though, I’m grateful for those lessons in manners. Na and I were raised to make eye contact, introduce people, offer help and take care of others. I've adopted my mother’s penchant for selfless compassion, though it's often coupled with my father’s lack of patience. “You’re such a mom,” observers have told me in the past, and I was never sure if that was a good or bad thing.

As we grow up, we’re faced with a dilemma: Do we want to be like our parents? Whether we can help it or not, there are elements of our parents’ personalities that we inevitably acquire over the years. I notice it more and more everyday in myself. But while I see a lot of my parents’ mannerisms in my own actions and reactions, there’s so much of who I am that has been shaped by the environment and the people I’ve surrounded myself well as the desire to not be like them at all. When my temper rises and I'm quick to lash out, I'm reminded of all of the terrible moments of my childhood that caused me to become withdrawn and I feel guilty for asserting any kind of authority over somebody else. I try, more and more, to calmly collect my thoughts and talk things out, but rationality is difficult when emotions get in the way. I guess in those cases, withdrawing and giving yourself a day or two for space and reflection is necessary, aka the opposite of everything I witnessed at home. I admire my mother's patience all these years, but there were times I wondered how she did it. My own patience would wear too thin and, as evidenced in the past, I've allowed myself to get pushed over and taken advantage of.

I've always found it hard to "be myself" because I've never really tried to base my personality and actions off of somebody else. I never had a "hero" growing up; sure, I admired my sister and mother and there were aspects of their personalities I desired, but as I grew older and began to view the world in a very cynical manner, I stopped idolizing people and apathy crept its way into my mind. I don't know how much of an optimist I would consider myself anymore - but, then again, I was never the "sunshine and rainbows" person I wanted to be.

LHS graduation, 2007
I guess I've started doing things, not because others do them, but because I feel like it's what should be done. If someone comes to me with a problem, I think about how I would want it to be handled and then go off of that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sadly, I've allowed myself to become consumed by responsibility, which is something I feel has taken away a lot in my life. I've always felt that the burden of other people's problems were much easier to bear than my own selfish torment, but in the past few months I've come to the conclusion that life is too short to take my own emo angst too seriously. Nothing is ever so bad that it can't be overcome. With this outlook and approach, a lot has changed and I think my pessimism is slowly making room for a little ray of sun every now and then.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

sorry to disappoint you, but...

Mulan, as portrayed by Disney. I can safely 
say I've never donned this look...
"Excuse me, are you Vietnamese?"

I looked up from my sketches. The man had taken a seat at the empty table next to mine. By now, I've gotten used to the random conversations that arise at Peet's, but rarely do I ever enjoy them - especially since the last conversation contained statements of overt racism.

I shook my head and hoped that would be the end of the conversation. The man was young, in his late 20s most likely, and sporting a casual appearance. "Chinese?" he asked. Clearly, I wasn't getting rid of him anytime soon. I nodded and he started speaking Mandarin at me.

Since moving to southern California, I've been surrounded by Mandarin speakers. My Cantonese has never been the best, but at least I can understand the words. Mandarin is completely foreign to me. I quickly interrupted the man and informed him I didn't understand Mandarin. That'll end it, I thought to myself, hoping the rejection would be enough to embarrass and quiet him. But he kept talking, telling me about how Bruce Lee was his hero growing up and the reason he began taking martial arts lessons. When it came to learning Chinese, he taught himself Mandarin, even though Bruce Lee spoke Cantonese. "More people speak Mandarin," he said and it almost felt like he was trying to embarrass me now. Here was this Caucasian man, speaking better Mandarin than I probably ever would in my life; but I only shrugged. He then asked me if I did any martial arts. I said no. "But you've seen all the Bruce Lee movies, right?"

Bruce Lee, kicking ass

Once again, the stereotypes persist. All Asians know kung fu. All Asians drink tea from dainty ceremonial tea cups. All Asians wear cherry blossoms in their hair and sit on the floor because they have no "real" furniture. Etc, etc.

I never took karate and I don't think I've seen an entire Bruce Lee movie all the way through. And when I sit on the floor to eat, it's mainly due to the fact that I'm a college student in an apartment. I like the floor.

I remember the kids at Mustard Seed asking similar questions. Their experiences with Asians were limited to what they saw in Mulan and Japanese anime. I couldn't blame them. Being young and homeless didn't allow you much exposure. But this random man in Peet's who chose to engage me in conversation would hopefully have known better than to assume I was his idea of the "perfect" Chinese girl - a walking stereotype whom he could converse in Mandarin with all day long.

Or maybe this was another one of those instances where I'm really oblivious to his true intentions. You all know how I am.