Friday, July 29, 2011

confession.

I wish my thighs weren't so thick. I wish my nose weren't so flat. I wish my eyes were bigger. I wish I was just a bit taller.


Of course, if all these things were to magically come true, I would probably look like a Bratz doll, which is not flattering at all. It's obvious why these wants and desires arise. It's all a classic textbook case, so cliche that we no longer need to write lengthy articles or delve into complicated research: the youth of America (and I do feel this is specific to this country) are plagued with insecurities about the way they "should" look. A negative body image is almost unavoidable, what with the glossy magazine covers and big rig-sized billboards that bombard us everyday.

But despite all the PSAs and celebrity stories involving eating disorders, it is easy to ignore it all and get caught up in the reflection in the mirror. Which makes this confession hard, because it cannot be told without self-loathing and judgement.

Food is an important part of Chinese culture. It is a symbol of wealth, a luxury to indulge in. Food is a sign of prosperity and having the ability to provide it for your family demonstrates stability and success. Food can also be delicious, so really it's a win-win.

As the youngest of nine grandchildren on my father's side, I have the unfortunate position of being constantly treated like a four-year-old. My grandmother used to make comments about how round and adorable of a baby I was, but those comments continued on into childhood and adolescence. The last thing any seven-year-old girl needs to hear is that she's "round."

I became incredibly self-conscious and obsessed over my weight, amongst other physical things. Appearances became of the utmost importance. But I knew I wasn't pretty or anything of the sort, so I tried my best to be as close to acceptable as I could. I never felt I succeeded.

Oh, this all sounds like first world ramblings, I'm sure, or that I'm fishing for a compliment, but I can assure you that compliments only make it worse. I've never trusted compliments much anyways because they often felt like obligations. But that's straying from the point...The point is: low self-esteem sucks.
I first learned about anorexia and bulimia when I was in fourth grade. I had walked into the girl's bathroom during lunch and caught one of my best friends throwing up. I thought she was sick and asked her if I should get the teacher on yard duty. She said no and told me it was okay. She explained it helped her lose weight and she didn't want to be fat. "I don't want to be fat either," I thought to myself, and considered for a moment the possibility of joining her ritual. You mean I can eat whatever I want and not worry about being "round"? Sign me up.

But vomiting is awful. It burns your throat, makes your eyes water and leaves the worst aftertaste in your mouth. I never had the courage to continually purge. Not that there's anything courageous or admirable about that at all...So I just stopped eating. I would make excuses about being too busy to finish my packed lunches for various reasons, or I would give food to other people. In high school, it was easier to convince my mother of my busy schedule too. I got involved in a variety of things and found myself finally enjoying the starvation because I was being productive at least. I had already gotten into the habit of not eating breakfast because I told my mother food made me nauseus in the mornings. Most days, I wouldn't eat until dinner. And though it may sound like she should've noticed and stepped in, I will not allow blame to fall on anyone but me. Had my mother realized, she would have done something, but I became too good at hiding it due to my own denial.

Going away to college made everything worse. With truly no regulation, I would never have to eat. But meals became social activities, and so I engaged in it for the interaction. And when I found myself in the roughest period in my life, I would eat until I couldn't stand it anymore and then I'd stop and not eat again for days. I did this for six months straight until it became a habit. I've been doing it ever since. In the past four years, I've lost and gained weight in an erratic pattern. As of two weeks ago, I am 11 pounds lighter than I was at the age of 18.

And, to be honest, I don't see this behavior changing anytime soon. The thought of eating three meals in a day (no matter the size of portions) makes me feel sick. But I feel positive that this constant fatigue I'm feeling is due to low energy from a lack of food, though I over-caffeinate in an attempt to give myself a burst of energy. Caffeine, of course, can also make you hungry, and this just becomes a vicious circle.

And through all of this bullshit and hell, I still feel unpretty. I don't think it's worth it, but I don't think I can stop.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

feels like home.

07/27/2011
The pastel parlor of Leatherby's is a timeless Sacramento classic. It's an old establishment, though not as historic as Vic's (est. 1947), but Vic's was a place for childhood memories--crisp chips, sandwich-like hot dogs and afternoon sundaes at the counter or in a cozy booth. Leatherby's was a sign of something different. It was bigger and brighter, the Rydell High carnival of my grade school and teenage days. Leatherby's was where we went for cast parties and where we went after choir performances. In high school, it was where we went before or after dances and dates. The best part about Frosh/Soph in '06 was watching Steph guzzle down the remains of a Black and Tan as we rushed to catch our ride to the dance. Anytime you went to Leatherby's, someone from school would be working there or you'd run into someone you knew because--hell, everyone ended up at Leatherby's.

And it was fun. It didn't matter if you were in the mood for ice cream or not. It didn't matter if you didn't even like ice cream. You could get fries or sorbet or milkshakes (oh, Swiss Milk Chocolate...) or you could just sit there and laugh with your friends because nobody goes to Leatherby's to be serious or "grown up." Even in our twenties, we always end up at Leatherby's to laugh and to hold hands and to hug and to exist in a place frozen in time.

But it doesn't feel frozen in the sense that it's stuck. It feels like a place that preserves a part of us that lays dormant in us wherever we go: that sense of adventure and fun that gets buried over time as we learn to be practical and serious. That's the beauty of a taste of familiarity--but it's only a taste I want or really need, I think. I need just enough to truly miss it when I'm gone again.


I think this is what being back in Sacramento this past month and a half has been for me: a place to remember how it felt before so much of life happened. I don't wish to go back to those ignorant days, but there's a feeling that accompanied that time that I do miss, though I know I'll never truly be without the soulmates who created that world with me. Like my philosophy notes told me: "We grow in the bad shit. But you need to know your own roots. People should shift mountains if they need to, but know where you come from."

And for a bit more on hometowns, brought to you by Charlie:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"when you are thirsty, keep moving."

"The universe will conspire for your enlightenment. Everything you need for your enlightenment is RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. Zen is meant for anyone who has the courage to face it. Upaya--be with the people you're with and tell them what they can hear. Don't say what they cannot hear, you cannot force depth. When you speak, speak what can be heard. By giving someone the answer only, it is not helping them. Everything is Buddha nature if you can open your eyes to see it. Essential nature is revealed through something natural. You will see it when your eyes are ready; you will hear when your ears are ready. Everything you need comes to you naturally. You don't wash away pain and suffering when you eliminate dukkha, you embrace it. Everything is here for us to grow. Doors open if you're deep. The more you're afraid, the less they will open. We grow in the bad shit. But you need to know your own roots. People should shift mountains if they need to, but know where you come from. Don't pick up your bow because you are told to; do it because you choose to. When you have a shadow, you're not willing to admit it, so we project it out upon others. Own all of your feelings. Socialization causes you to lose your authentic swing. Everybody has kairos time, but not everyone can access it, so it's just...there. But authentic conversation transcends chronos. Try to live consciously in kairos. Be authentic. Most people don't see the field. Don't attack life; you are ultimately part of a greater whole. Do what you need to do and move on. The field is always changing. Life will ask different things in different places. What swing works for today? We are afraid to see our best self, but if you could see the person you could become...that's scary. Step through the panic, work through the fear. Real friendships contain tension (for growth). Play the game together. Experience the Dark Night of the Soul--the world becomes overwhelming and you want to give up. Come to term with the baggage, 'help me help you' and move to a deeper level. 'To love someone is to love someone at their nethermost beast.' Recognize that some things need to be preserved and some destroyed. You have no control over that. We are habitual people because of memories. Satya-graha: be truthful. Nish kama karma: work against self. We lie because it's better for us. Are you going to dedicate your life to making the world a better place? Or are you going to live in the system for its benefits? You are who you choose to be, so choose to grow. Zen: absolute faith, absolute doubt, absolute perseverance."

"Inside each and every one of us is our one, true authentic swing. Something
we was born with. Something that's ours and ours alone. Something that can't be learned...
something that's got to be remembered." -The Leggend of Bagger Vance
The above is a mesh of notes between November 2005 and February 2006. I was 16 years old and was done dipping my toes into the tepid waters of Cheever's class; I had thrown myself into the water and was practically drowning. By May 2006, I finally started learning how to swim. A year later, May 2007, at the end of my two years of study, I had learned how to breathe underwater for a spell.

And then I forgot and moved 300 miles south with my notes and books in hand. Over the past four years, not only did I forget how to breathe underwater, I forgot how to swim altogether. When I found myself forgetting, I would pull out the life jacket and float for a bit until I thought I was ready again to swim.

As I peruse these two binders full of notes, journals and texts, I find myself surprised by the breadth of knowledge that once floated at the surface of my brain. Here was priceless information, accessible at will. Room 26 was an every day occurrence. And then we left and it was no longer, but it wasn't that learning stopped or it was all forgotten. I just went back to sleep, as Cheever would note. The lessons became scattered and I picked and chose at the knowledge I would throw out on a whim. The learning became...fragmented. But, as I happened upon in my notes, you can't have Zen without Daoism. Everything is connected and to truly understand it, you must truly submit yourself to all of it.

I'm not taking these binders when I move out east, but I'm okay with that because the notes aren't absent or unlearned in my life. I've recently begun swimming again. It feels endless, painful and glorious. It feels like exhaling.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

RealLife - A New Social Network



I'm guilty of being a social networking addict, though my recent abandonment of Facebook and Tumblr--two of the most time-consuming things in the world--have freed up my ability to embrace real life considerably. It seems weird to announce this on my blog, which is really just another form of networking, but such is life.

I've noticed a waning sincerity in my speech over the past few years. It's as if there's a struggle between wanting to be honest about the things that scare me and competing for attention from a world full of information readily presented to the public. What is broadcasted on Facebook is rarely the truth about ourselves; it is the identities we've created for others to see. So then I've noticed I'm most often bare with people who knew me "way back when" because I don't have to try so hard to re-stack the bricks that keep falling off the wall in between truth and lesser truth. Noting this in the past year, I've been striving for sincerity with more than just the "way back when" friends, and it's a struggle--not because of them, but because I've always struggled with letting someone know me for the pure and simple reason that I have a shit ton of low self-esteem to serve to my dreams every night.

Tangent: done. Anyways, I want more face-versations.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

weighing the costs.

The New York Times' Education section is currently focusing on the question of whether life beyond a bachelor's degree is beneficial or not. In a recent article by Laura Pappano, "The Master's as the New Bachelor's," the conclusion is that it isn't. Nowadays, it would seem that having a master's is the norm and the article notes that the number of master's awarded since 1980 have doubled.

A sociology class I took back in 2008 made note of this as well, though the discussions at the time were just musings: decades ago, it was enough to just graduate from high school; then it was just enough to have a bachelor's degree; soon, we'll all have to have more in order to be employable at even the lowest level. "In 20 years, you'll need a Ph.D. to be a janitor," says Richard K. Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University, in Pappano's article.

There are two things about this that frustrates me the most: 1) the devaluing of high school (and therefore junior high/elementary school) education, and 2) the cost of obtaining a master's.

Issues in education are often overlooked, yet I think it's one of the most rampant problems in this country. We lose sight of the bigger picture, which is if we don't education our children, what kind of future are we hoping for? "Back when we valued a high school diploma, the quality of a high school education mattered," Cort pointed out last night at dinner. It's true, and is also what is happening to undergraduate education as well, I believe. What we seem to forget though is that it is these younger generations that will be running this country someday.

Which ties into my second point: soon, it will only be the wealthy who are able to obtain any sort of decent education. Schools are becoming factories, it seems. When I tutored at Orange High, I witnessed this firsthand: there are not enough teachers who actively care about their students. In Mr. Lake's classroom, it felt like he was just trying to move them along at the bare minimum. It didn't matter that some of these kids couldn't read and it wasn't as if there was any accountability. "Most of these kids won't have done the reading yet," Tim used to always say to us during our prep sessions. And it was true, because nobody held them accountable for their work.

"Prioritize my education" - a UCI protest, Nov. 24, 2009
Education is something politicians talk about valuing in this country, yet the funding does not exist for it anymore. Look at California, whose "three-tiered system of public universities" was once hailed as the crown jewel of the state--a recent study at CSU Sacramento laid out the hard facts: "The California that many like to think of as a leader in higher education is average at best and trending in the wrong direction. This troublesome performance is not for lack of commitment and effort by faculty and staff at California's colleges and universities. Rather, it reflects lack of coordinated attention by the state's policy leadership...the absence of vision and of proactive policy leadership can reduce investment in, and returns from, higher education and diminish prospects for an entire state." The study concludes, "California must, and can, do better."

Though in terms of the UC and CSU fee increases in the past month (which I'm inclined to comment on because of my own research), I think it's the fault of both the state and the Regents. While it's appalling that Governor Brown has cut, and is continuing to cut, so much from the funding for higher education, one of the main reasons must be the Regents' own poor decisions as well. I don't believe that the Regents have ever truly sought an alternative source of funding aside from raising fees. Almost immediately after the governor announced additional cuts, fees for the fall were raised by an additional 9.6% at UCs and an additional 12% at CSUs. These increases come just weeks away from the beginning of a new semester for CSUs. How is that fair?

I can see a rationale to cutting funding on the state's part. Lieutenant Governor Newsom opposed the fee increase at the last Regents meeting in which the 9.6% increase was approved. Maldonado did the same in his position last November when the initial 8% increase for this coming fall was approved. To me, this looks like a challenge from Sacramento as the turn the pressure around on the Regents, who have tried to redirect the pressure they've received from students. So now it's a stalemate: Sacramento is saying, "Use your money better. Fund what you're supposed to be funding, or find an alternative income because we're not going to take your frivolous spending (exorbitant increases in an attempt to keep top researchers at certain UCs; constant construction to expand due to over-enrollment)," while the Regents are saying, "Give us more money. Fulfill your promise to the students." I see both points and perspectives and I think the real purpose of the UC system is being forgotten about in all of this: to educate the students of California. By turning the focus on out-of-state and international students for the funding (and don't try to disguise this as a diversity issue, Regents, we know the fees are what is appealing to you) and by giving financial aid to non-citizens (sorry, but years of reporting on undocumented students have not changed my mind on this issue), we begin to ignore the mission that the UC system was founded on.

The CSUS study says that the Master Plan needs to be reclaimed, but I think we're far past trying to fix what's been broken since Reagan took office as governor of California. (Note: Jerry Brown's first run as governor came after Reagan, so he's used to having to clean up messes.) The Master Plan needs to be entirely rewritten if we want to make a realistic game plan for the future of education in this state. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening anytime soon.

It's really up to the individual to decide if a master's or Ph.D. is worth the cost. It seems it's a necessity, though there are jobs out there for those who choose not to go that route. That requires a huge effort on the individual's part early on though. I know that if I had not worked as insanely as I did at all of those jobs during my undergraduate years, I would be embarking on that master's path because I don't know where else I would go. It's regrettable on some levels because all I seemed to do was work in college and it exhausted me, but that's the cost I chose to pay.

Education will never be affordable, and that's the sad future we're looking at.

crying is not attractive.

Seriously. Whatever filmmaker decided that the young ingenue in the pouring rain, crying her eyes out, is the perfect picture of beauty in despair is stupid. Crying makes your eyes puffy and your heart race. It makes your hands shake and your nose run. Crying is frustrating and upsetting and not very pretty at all (unless you’re crying from laughter, I’m sure). It makes you feel awful, worse than you were already feeling before you started crying. It makes you feel like a 17-year-old girl who just got stood up for the prom. (I also just really like that metaphor, it's very applicable.)

But then it’s also weird because, when you’re done crying, you feel better. Sometimes. It really can be cathartic to just let it all out. You might not even know why you're upset and why you're crying in the first place, but when you're done, it won't matter. And all of the things you wanted to say out loud, all of the things you wanted to get off your chest and share with someone who isn't there sort of melt away off the edge of that cliff you were about to jump off of before you started with the muffled hysterics behind the closed door of your solitary bedroom.

Anyways, I don't know where I'm going with this. I'm re-learning how to write without feeling like my words aren't good enough for the page. This is my own blog, after all. Why do I always get so self conscious? I've also been twiddling my thumbs for the last two hours or so, waiting. This is also a metaphor that's very applicable for...I don't know, everything. "Waiting." So, no prom night for me. I should take my own advice and stop waiting for shit to happen and go make it happen elsewhere.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

live deep.

"It is a fabulous place: when the tide is in, a
wave-churned basin, creamy 
with foam, whipped
by the combers 
that roll in from the whistling
buoy 
on the reef. But when the tide goes out
the little water world becomes 
quiet and
lovely." -Cannery Row
John Steinbeck
(Above photo taken July 19 in Monterey)
Living is about transition periods, about allowing ourselves to move--whether it be physically, from location to location, or figuratively, from state of mind to state of mind. I suppose I've gotten used to moving, what with the yearly apartment changes while in college. What I haven't gotten used to, however, is that feeling of uncertainty and anxiety that comes with the unknown. It's both exciting and terrifying: I will either fail or succeed--and I've definitely done my share of both.

In less than two weeks, I will leave California, the only state I've ever called home. It feels surreal. This is what I wanted though, right? It's what I talked about wanting to do for years: move to the east coast and pursue the career I never thought I would have, the career I'd given up on months ago and only just re-embraced. It feels too new still, too fresh and unsteady. But this is what I've said I wanted to do, and here it is--finally happening! And I am genuinely shocked.

The idea of starting a new life away from everyone I know makes my heart race and my muscles tense. The numerous "what ifs" keep me awake at night, and though I know the "what if" game is pointless and dumb, I can't help but stare at the ceiling in the dark and wonder all of these things. This move feels like college again but, this time, everything is bigger and if I fall flat on my face, it will be even grander and more spectacular than I've ever experienced.

I'm confident though that things will work out. After all, it took nearly three years in Irvine for things to "work out." I just have to have patience.

A lot of people I know are entering new stages of their lives as well: new places, new families, new careers. We are all transitioning. I won't be alone, despite the miles of distance that separate us all.

This entry is more "dear diary"-like than I'm used to, so forgive me. But grow with me, folks. We've got a lot of living to do.