Wednesday, December 31, 2014

14 things about 2014.

Another year full of lessons and living. Looking back on this year, it was filled with both profound losses and encouraging gains. Jason asked us over the holidays if 2014 was in the top quintile of all our years, and I had to really think about that...was it one of the five best years of my life?


Ultimately, the answer was yes, but it doesn't mean it'll be forever one of the best years of my life. (The best is always yet to come!) I learned so much more about the person I wanted to become and set real goals to try to achieve that. And while there were many (many) stumbles, I think the important thing is that 2014 was a year where I learned how to prioritize and where I finally learned how not to let others define my priorities for me.

I still don’t have everything figured out (does anyone, ever?) but for the first time since college, I have a clear vision of where I want to be someday.

1. Take advantage of becoming an adult.
Having health insurance was a godsend this year. Not only did I have to get my wisdom teeth out, but I took my first steps to confront an autoimmune disease I've had my whole life, and seeing the costs of all the appointments, treatment, and medication after applying my insurance was amazing. I also bought a shredder and started budgeting better and stopped leaving books and shoes strewn across my bedroom floor that I (and the dog) would trip over every day. (I also bought a coffee maker and have unfortunately not been using it as much as I should be lately…)

2. Learning to be solitary in New York is rewarding.
Being alone can be nice, especially in such a crowded city. I wrote about this back in August, but I've learned to really value solitude this past year, and not worry about not acting my age. There is nothing wrong with falling asleep at 8 p.m. on a Friday night, let’s be real.

Monday, December 29, 2014

the way I see it: resolutions are meaningful.

I tried to make New Year’s resolutions as a kid, but I would never, ever follow up on them. I would write a few things down on a piece of paper, and fold it up into a tiny square, and hide it somewhere in a desk drawer or in my room, then promptly forget about it until I stumbled upon it the next year. The resolutions I’d make were never anything too severe. I can hardly remember any aside from “will try to make my bed every morning,” which just goes to show how seriously I took resolutions anyways: I couldn’t even commit to saying I would indeed make my bed.

As I grew older, I started skipping the annual list, instead declaring that every day was an opportunity to resolve to be better. It was partially an attempt to try to improve myself every day, but also a realization that I would fail at whatever Jan. 1 resolutions I would make anyways. Why write them down and run the risk of a tangible reminder that I couldn’t follow through? I was more of a reflector anyways than someone who looked ahead.

Which isn’t necessarily a good thing. But lately I’ve been looking ahead more seriously and recognizing that in order to become the person it is I say I want to be, I have to set real goals and prioritize to get there. One of the hardest things in life can be trying to chart a course toward your future, especially since we can never know what the future will hold.

I guess one way to begin charting that course is to set resolutions at the start of every year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

'being drunk doesn't turn you racist,' and other problems with mark wahlberg's pardon petition.

I've jumped on my soapbox so many times over the last month that I've broken it, hence the brief hiatus in rant-y, vent-y blogging. But I've also been severely procrastinating on a couple of other projects, and after a brief chat with my friend/former roommate/sister-in-outrage Andrea about this topic, I had to extract the thoughts from my brain.

In 1988, actor Mark Wahlberg brutally assaulted two Asian men, partially blinding one of them. The Daily Beast describes the incident and arrest:
Wahlberg yelled at Lam, calling him “a Vietnam fucking shit,” and then hit him in the head with the stick. Lam was knocked out cold. 
Wahlberg fled from the scene and approached a bystander, Hoa Trinh, also Vietnamese. He told him, “Police coming, police coming, let me hide,” and after the cop car passed by, punched Trinh in the eye, rendering him partially blind. Trinh eventually fingered Wahlberg, and the cops arrested him. 
Later that evening, Boston police brought Wahlberg back to the scene of the crime where, in the presence of two officers, he looked at Lam and stated, “You don’t have to let him identify me, I’ll tell you now that’s the mother-fucker whose head I split open.” He also proceeded to shout a bunch of racial epithets about “gooks” and “slant-eyed gooks.”
Wahlberg was a teenager at the time, tried as an adult, and sentenced to two years in jail. He served 45 days.

Monday, December 1, 2014

leftovers: autumn.

It's December!

I didn't do an October leftovers post because I did a lengthy post on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I found a few photos across October and November that sum up the end of the season.

There were brunches and work highlights that didn't make its way into my viewfinder, and you'll find some of the prettier moments (first holiday Starbucks cup, fall in Central Park) on my Instagram, but life isn't always about the pretty moments, right?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

the long haul.

In 2011, after several disastrous wind gusts destroyed my poor California-made umbrellas, I decided to buy a clear bubble umbrella in hopes it would shield me from future storms. As I walked around my DC neighborhoods, I got several stares and a few snide remarks, but I was dry and protected from the winds trying to invert my umbrella, even if I looked a bit ridiculous to others.

Then in 2012, Blake Lively was spotted with a bubble umbrella, and suddenly they were popping up everywhere (OK, perhaps the two aren't directly related). I swore--and still swear--by the plastic dome created to resist wind and give its user a clear view of the sidewalk ahead without intruding in other people's space.

Last week on my 5 a.m. walk to the subway for work, a particularly strong wind was blowing rain sideways and I could feel my bubble umbrella beginning to give. Something snapped and the frame on one side of the umbrella bent inward, smacking the clear plastic into my eye. By the time I made it underground, I was soaked and unhappy, and snapped the frame back into place. It's not completely broken, but it's bent enough to make me realize that after three years of happy ownership, I may have to buy a replacement.

Which was a more surprising realization than I think it should have been.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

peppermint.

Dear autumn,

Today was the my first holiday drink from Starbucks of the season--secretly, one of my favorite moments of the year. I had stayed uptown all day yesterday in the local coffee shops and hadn't noticed anything seasonal besides the rain, but today I passed the Starbucks on 28th and 3rd on my way to brunch and noticed something different: a flash of red. The holiday cups had arrived!

I normally shrug off the announcements of pumpkin spice lattes to save my enthusiasm for this day. When I was in college, Andrea, Natalie, and I would meet each other at the campus Starbucks the morning the holiday cups appeared for a traditional toast to our favorite holiday (and in anticipation of the end of the quarter and the start of winter break). There's always been something about peppermint and ice skating penguins that changes the air, that changes me, and I'm glad for it because this year has felt like an especially long one. And I'm ready for the conclusion of this chapter and the start of the next.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

the wizarding world of Orlando, Florida.

Earlier this year, I'd vlogged about the one fictional world I would want to visit, and if you know me, I think you'll be able to predict the answer before I could begin to give it to you. Growing up, I can't remember a year where I wasn't reading (or re-reading) one of the Harry Potter books or going to see one of the films with my friends. I still remember being terribly upset after Na spoiled the end of Chamber of Secrets for me (she swears she doesn't remember doing this), as well as entire days spent on the couch next to Na as we read each book the day it was released (Mom would buy two copies so we could read at the same time, then we'd donate one to the library after we'd finished).

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that Na and I have finally fulfilled our childhood dreams and spent a few days in sunny Orlando, Florida at Universal Studios, where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks were everything we'd dreamed of (and more!).


Monday, October 6, 2014

hello.

Autumn in Virginia, 2011
Dear autumn,

I can feel it in the air: you're here.

This is what I've always liked best about you--your sudden entrance, the confidence in the temperature drop. It's never unexpected, but always a bit surprising. I welcome it.

I welcome it because it feels as if the world has slowed down just for one minute while I catch my breath. The breeze is refreshing, the trees are changing, and there's something about scarves and coats and hats that I can never dismiss.

2014 has been a strange year. It's been filled with loss and love and olive branches and rejected twigs. New York City continues to grow on me as I discover the corners of this world I never knew before. And while I'm still exhausted at the thought of existing here forever, I cannot help but feel blessed when I remember that I'm lucky to be standing again on my own.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

90s kid tag.

  1. Favorite TV show: I loved anything on TGIF nights--Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Boy Meets World...we didn't have cable growing up, so whatever we got on the rabbit ears, I was good with.
  2. Favorite toy: I was--and still am--a stuffed animal fiend. Oh, and I really liked my walkman. Does that count?
  3. Favorite commercial: That Glitter Hair Barbie commercial.
  4. NSYNC or Backstreet Boys: Backstreet Boys xoxo
  5. Weirdest fashion trend: Those stick-on rhinestones.
  6. Favorite collectables: Definitely Pokemon cards.
  7. Favorite Beanie Baby: I loved the sea otter (because I love sea otters).
  8. How many Tamagotchis did you go through?: Just one, but I also had the Nintendo knockoff that was a pet Pikachu.
  9. Favorite game console + game: Old school Nintendo + Duck Hunt. We never upgraded from that console.
  10. Favorite Disney Channel Original Movie?: Model Behavior because it included Justin Timberlake in his early acting days.
  11. Favorite music artist?: Britney Spears, no contest.
  12. Favorite Nick Jr. show?: Didn't have cable...womp womp.
  13. Favorite candy?: Did I have one favorite type of candy? I actually don't know. Gummy bears, maybe?
  14. Favorite game?: Na and I made up a hard version of Clue because it's hard to play Clue with just two people properly. That was fun.
  15. Favorite McDonald's Happy Meal toy?: HitClips! It was so cool that it came in a Happy Meal.
  16. Favorite book?: Harry Potter. I think the third book was my favorite for a long time, but I have a soft spot for five and six too.
  17. Favorite clothing store?: Limited Too, because duh.
  18. What would you watch when you'd get home from school?: My homework. Or piano practice. #asiankid

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

leftovers: September.

How did it get to be October already?

I started doing this thing at the start of last month called "1 Second Everyday." It's an app that requires a one-second video every day, and then at the end of a month (or whatever duration of time you choose) you can string them all together into a short film.

Here's what my September looked like:

video

It ends, unceremoniously, with my wisdom teeth coming out and my diet transforming into one of apple sauce and other mushy foods. But September over all was fairly nice. There was food, friends, fun, and more.

And then I noticed, as I was scrolling through my phone the other day post-surgery, that there are quite a few photos that never made it to Instagram or Facebook, though I'm sure I had the intention of putting them somewhere someday.

So taking a cue from my lovely friend Carly, here are some snaps from my life in September...


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Doctor Tony.

Through some complicated game of telephone when I was 13, my mother got word of a Vietnamese herbalist in San Francisco. It was 2002, and after months of spraying that awful Rogaine formula on my head with no results, my parents were ready to try something new.

Vinh Khang Herbs & Ginsengs was located in New Chinatown in the Richmond District. During all the years we'd been visiting San Francisco, I never knew such a thing as "New Chinatown" existed. I was used to the overcrowded bustle of the "old" Chinatown that attracted tourists and film crews, but New Chinatown was different: it was quieter, cleaner, less grandiose--but the area was more diverse than its name hinted. The stores were a mix of Chinese, American, Vietnamese, Burmese, Irish, and more. It was as if this "new" area of an old city existed to catch the outcasts from the places they once called home. Would it catch me too?

The second we entered Vinh Khang, the mixture of pungent herbs hit me and I gagged. It was bitter and sweet at the same time, claustrophobic all around. I wanted to turn around and leave, but Mom guided me toward the tall glass counters.

Half of the tall store was devoted entirely to drawers of various plants and herbs. Two middle-aged Asian women worked efficiently, scooping contents from the drawers onto rows and rows of pink butcher paper. They barely stopped to read the labels of the drawers, they just knew what to grab. One by one, the women would pick up the papers filled with herbs and dump the mixtures into plastic bags, tie them shut with one quick gesture, and packed the bags away into larger plastic grocery bags. Neither women blinked an eye as they worked. 

Across from the women was an assortment of people waiting for their orders. Some were waiting to see the doctor, and when it was my turn, I walked to the back and sat on a stool as Mom spoke in rapid Cantonese with the man behind the counter.

Doctor Tony was an old Vietnamese man with dry, bony hands and gray hair. He spoke three languages, one of which was broken English. There was nothing remarkable about his appearance, though I wasn't sure what I was expecting. Was he a shaman? A magical healer? I wasn't sure what being an "herbalist" actually entailed.

Monday, September 29, 2014

out of sight.

I have a postcard board in my room that's made with pink elastic and a map of Paris. You can barely see the surface anymore because of all of the postcards and photos and tickets stubs and notable two-dimensional items layered on top, and it's too heavy to hang on the wall because it would surely just come crashing down with all of my memorabilia. It's a board that's traveled with me from city to city and state to state, and somewhere beneath the recent acquisitions--the tickets to Ellis Island and the zoo, and the postcards from Canada and France--are memories I've forgotten about.

Except for the ones I've surgically removed, that is. I don't even know what the point of all that was. If something exists in the background, how is it any different than tossing them in a shoebox somewhere in the back of my closet?

Friday, September 19, 2014

fill-in-the-blank friday: panda dreams.


  1. I like coffee shops, comfortable shoes, and this borderline autumn weather we're getting in New York right now.
  2. A life goal of mine is to hug a panda. It'll forever be on my bucket list, won't it?
  3. The last thing you would ever expect me to like (even though I secretly do) is High School Musical. No, really. It was so ridiculous, I couldn't help but love it.
  4. Some wise words that I love are "Life is too short to read bad books." Mengfei sent that to me in her birthday letter to me last March--and I just loved it. It reminds me that it's important to cut the bullshit from life and not just go through the motions.
  5. Most mornings you will find me rolling slowly out of bed...at 5 a.m. 
  6. Right now I am super into eyelid primer. Seriously, how have I not been using primer before? It makes shadow and liner last so much longer. (I'm currently using L'Oreal's Magic De-Crease Eyelid Primer.)
  7. Right now I am super over folding laundry. I'm staring at a pile of laundry right now that I feel like is just growing.

Monday, September 15, 2014

dining companions.

I don't like milk in my cereal. The only time I ever remember adding milk to my cereal was to a bowl of Rice Krispies to hear the snap, crackle, pop! and then accidentally adding too much milk and having the bowl turn to mush. And who likes soggy cereal? It's one of the most unpleasant textures, in my opinion. I have no use for soggy cereal! Who does?


Recently I was eating a bowl of cereal at the airport with a spoon and without milk (I've been told by, well, everybody that this is weird) and this guy kept staring at me until finally asking, "Did you forget to buy milk?" 

No, I didn't just forget to buy milk and then sat down and was like, "Oh man, no milk, better just eat this dry." If I wanted milk, I'd get up, walk back five feet to where the counter is, and ask from some milk. Leave me and my dry cereal alone.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

layers upon layers.



There's this episode of How I Met Your Mother where Marshall jokes about a condition he calls "revertigo"--the act of becoming a former version of yourself when you're around people from your past. It's not really a scientific term, but the act is familiar: when I'm around my high school friends, I act quite differently from how I normally act in the present. My sense of humor changes, my vocabulary is different, and I'm sure my body language is different too. It has nothing to do with living in the past, it's just about re-adopting old habits. In some ways, it could be about filling an expectation too: my high school friends knew me at a certain point in my life, and circumstances that happened during and after college have changed me since.

At lunch the other week, Minerva and I were talking about chapters in life and how glad we are we aren't the same people we were 10 years ago. Although we've retained some of our strange habits and faults, for the most part, we are different--not just older, but more mature, more cautious.

Is it all just a response to being more beaten down by life? Or have we really "grown up"? (What does "growing up" even really mean when I still enjoy gel pens and Pillow Pets?)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

a note about 'notes.'


When I first started this blog in 2009, I was writing every post in a coffee shop, whether it was the campus Starbucks, the Peet's across the street, or the Cyber A Cafe outside of my work. Occasionally I'd sneak in some writing at the library or in between classes or in my apartment while Andrea and I watched America's Next Top Model. It sounds a bit cliché (a writer in a coffee shop--not a novel concept), but the coffee shop was where I felt most comfortable.

As I grew as a writer (and am still growing!), I had more ideas and more thoughts in the most random of places--in the kitchen while cooking (er, microwaving...) dinner! In line at the grocery store! On public transport! My notes from a coffee shop were becoming notes from everyday life...which, frankly, is exactly what I'd always hoped it would be. (Hence the silly "disclaimer" on my About page.)

But by now, you're already familiar with my inability to really follow through on projects. I tend to start a lot of things, and then taper off. Writing every day, for example, as I'd said I was going to do this year--hasn't quite happened. I start a lot of posts and scribble down thoughts on paper or in drafts that never make it to the blog. Life is so extraordinarily vast that I was frantic to write anywhere and everywhere, and then it would overwhelm me and I'd stop.

I know--blaming "life" for not blogging often is weak.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

ticket for one.

Don Draper gets it.
I really enjoy going to the movies alone.

You probably read that and immediately thought, "That's pathetic" or "Me too!" The truth is: either opinion is totally fine by me. I used to hate doing things alone, especially going to the movies or anything that was public. But since leaving college and hopping across the country alone while moving from busy suburbs to busy cities, I've come to appreciate alone time in any form.

Especially in a "can't stop, won't stop" city like New York City, it's too easy to consider your apartment or your room the only place you can every truly be alone. I think it's very possible to be alone while also being surrounded by people. The subway is a prime example: most commuters have headphones in or their consumed by their phones or tablets, ignoring the crowd around them. I know I'm guilty of this too--but just because I'm squished up against five or six people doesn't mean I want to have a conversation.

Call me anti-social, but I think, deep down, you agree.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

not-so-quick fixes.

A fork in the road. Literally.
Learning how to unclog a slow-draining sink in college was the most useful--and irritating--skills I picked up while living in an apartment. The natural fix, as you probably know, is to pour a combination of baking soda and vinegar down the drain (creating a "volcano" effect), wait about 10 minutes, and then pour hot water to wash it down. If the clog is more severe, then that's when you break out the tools. Repeat again, if necessary.

It's simple, but it requires patience, and you never know if it will fix your problems entirely. It might require more attention, or perhaps it becomes a consistent problem and will need more than just your usual solution. Or maybe it'll be two years before a problem springs up again--you just don't know.

One thing's for sure: if you sit and wait for it to fix itself, you'll be waiting for a very long time.

A couple months ago, I poured metaphorical baking soda and vinegar down the metaphorical drain of life and waited to see what would happen. I'd been feeling, for months, that someone had hit the 'pause' button on my life, and I was just wasting time, waiting for someone else to hit 'play.'

And then I decided that was dumb, and if you want your life to change, then do something to change it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

'words and ideas can change the world.'

I was 12 years old. I remember banging on the bathroom door, shouting for her to open up. She was crying, I was angry--truthfully, I was annoyed. I knew the bullying was bad but that day it reached new highs. She kept saying if she had a hit list she would put herself at the top. I couldn't understand it--why would anyone choose death? Suicide just wasn't something that happened, it didn't make sense. But of course it happened (it happened to my great-grandmother, after all). Of course it didn't make sense. "Don't be selfish!" I shouted through the closed door. Eventually she gave in, and we moved on and never spoke about it again. She survived, and years later so would I when roles were reversed and I needed a guardian angel to tell me not to go. The voices of our inner demons are loud and can be overwhelming. Sometimes you just really need that one voice that's louder than the rest to convince you that you matter--that you're important, that you're special and unique and "the world would not be the same if you had not been born into it."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

the way we (don't) write - pt. 2.

I am absolutely obsessed with the idea of "creating," and completely overwhelmed with the possibility of a real, concrete product. In a bad way -- I don't think I'm really all that good at finishing projects I start. (If you know me well, this is not a surprise at all.)

But I have the time these days to really get back to writing, which is something I love and yet never do these days. And perhaps it goes back to those familiar self-conscious thoughts: What if so-and-so reads this and judges me? What if it comes off as narcissistic and vain? What if I'm really boring and nobody reads it?

Message to self: get over it.

If I'm going to tell others to constantly be writing and blogging and using their unique voices to tell their unique stories, then I should get down from my soapbox for an hour and actually act on my own words.

Anyways. More interesting things to come soon ("interesting" being subjective, of course). Here's a song to keep you occupied:


Thursday, July 31, 2014

sorry (not sorry).

One of the most frustrating things about walking to the subway at 5 a.m. is that you never know who you'll meet on the street.

"Hey sweetie, how you doin'?"

I ignored him and kept walking, and then he shouted, "You could at least smile, be a fucking lady to me!"

Two things:
  1. I am a fucking lady.
  2. Fuck you.
Free advice to that man (and others like him): women don't owe you a smile when you call out to a stranger on the street. Why should I be a fucking lady to you, specifically? Because you called me "sweetie"?

I once had an ex-boyfriend who tried to justify street harassment by saying, "It takes a lot of courage for a guy to talk to a woman he doesn't know. You should be flattered."

There's nothing courageous about street harassment. Sorry.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jeremy Lin is heading back to California.

I'm going to begin this by saying I don't like the Lakers. I never have, never will. Ever since the 2002 Western Conference Finals and then later meeting Kobe Bryant in college at the gym (he was a complete jerk), I just cannot stand purple and gold.

But now they've gone and signed Jeremy Lin, and I'm absolutely torn.

Lin, the first Taiwanese-American professional basketball player in the NBA, become an international sensation in 2012 after nearly being cut by the New York Knicks, averaging more than 20 points and nearly nine assists in the dozen games he started in.

I had just moved to New York City when "Linsanity" hit, and it was electrifying. I've always loved the NBA, but watching Lin play brought back every feeling I had as a kid watching the Kings' starting dream team dominate Arco Arena: Bibby, Webber, Stojakovic. (For more of my long-time love affair with the Sacramento Kings, read here.)

But since being traded to the Rockets at the end of the 2012 season, Lin struggled to perform at the same level that created “Linsanity” in New York. In his first year in Houston, Lin started all 82 games, but ended the season well-below expectations. “I'll be my harshest critic but I'll go ahead and say it: I'm doing terrible,” Lin admitted after a December 2012 game against the Toronto Raptors.

This past season with the Rockets, Lin started in less than half of the games he played.

Monday, June 16, 2014

the 20-year gap.

From All-American Girl to Fresh Off the Boat.
In the 20 years between Margaret Cho's All-American Girl and the announcement that ABC has picked up Fresh Off the Boat, there's been an influx of content created by Asian Americans on new media platforms. When ABC cancelled All-American Girl, there was the implication that putting an Asian-American family on network television just wasn't going to work. "It was an idea that was good, but it didn't execute well," 8Asians blogger and co-editor Joz Wang told me over the phone last week. "Nobody wanted to touch the subject again. Why else would it have taken 20 years [for Fresh Off the Boat to happen]?"

Joz has a point: the sharp criticisms from inside and outside of the Asian-American community contributed to the downfall of All-American Girl, and the show never got a chance to fix what went wrong.

And yet, the hunger to see more Asian Americans on the small screen never went away--a desire amplified by the rise of YouTubers from comedian Ryan Higa to beauty vlogger Michelle Phan. According to a 2011 New York Times article, three of the top 20 most-subscribed-to YouTube channels belonged to Asian Americans. One look at the documentary Uploaded: The Asian American Movement, and you'll see exactly what's going on: without a space at the "mainstream media" table, a new generation of artists went to another table that was created with the goal in mind of reaching audiences directly--audiences that might not go to the movies often or subscribe to cable television. Content creators on YouTube get to stay in control of the product they put online, and that's undoubtedly appealing for the Asian-American community.

In 2012, Wong Fu Productions premiered a four-episode TV series on YouTube called Home is Where the Hans Are in which a Caucasian guy comes home after an extended period abroad to meet his new stepfamily, who turns out to be Chinese.



the way I see it: 'everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.'

Confrontation is never easy. Some people say they're confrontational by nature, but when the going gets tough, they're the first ones off the boat. Recently, I confronted a friend over something that was bothering me. She's always painted herself as a confrontational person herself, so I figured, "Let'sdo this, let's hash it out." She responded by cutting me out of her life and accusing me of being someone I'm not. Her judgement that my life was perfect and that I made her feel insecure was hard to hear, and we haven't really spoken since. In typical "water off a duck's back" fashion, I've been courteous and kind to her, messaging her occasionally and forwarding emails with fun summery things, but she's made it pretty clear she's not interested in being too friendly anymore.

There's this Plato quote that gets shared all over Pinterest and Tumblr all the time: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." 

I think we all say things we regret from time-to-time, and real friends know when to take a breath, spend a day or two cooling off, and then pick things back up with the understanding and the knowledge that they've hurt one another and they'll do better--because a friendship is worth more than one's pride and ego. You can still be close to someone you've fought with. Fighting doesn't mean it's all over.

But when you prioritize your pride over a friend, you lose something important: not just that friend, but something inside yourself as well. Remember that Boy Meets World episode where the gang gets into a prank war and then fights over who "belongs" in what group? And then the fighting drags on and the episode flash forwards into the future, where everyone is still fighting and hasn't spoken in years, but then Eric shows up at their college reunion and reads his manifesto: "Lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself." When asked why he didn't write anything else but that, he responds, "Because nothing else seemed important."

You can stand in the midst of a storm and declare you are stronger than the pain coming your way, but shouldn't you want someone to celebrate it with when it's over? I don't believe we are meant to walk through this life alone. I crave that others believe the same.

Monday, June 2, 2014

'tomorrow's world is yours to build.'

“Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware. It is the perfect vehicle for students. Consciousness-raising is pertinent for power, and be sure that power will not be abusively used, but used for building trust and goodwill domestically and internationally. Tomorrow’s world is yours to build.” -Yuri Kochiyama, "Consciousness is Power" (Nov. 3, 1995)


* * *

via 18 Million Rising
I wonder if it is the American education system that fails us, sometimes, or if it's our own lack of curiosity for the things we aren't being told. In grade school, I never learned about the Asian-American civil rights leaders who helped shape this country; but in high school, I was introduced to one.

In Howard Zinn's Voices of a People's History of the United States, I came across Yuri Kochiyama's essay "Then Came the War." I read it, not as an assignment, but because after reading Farewell to Manzanar, I was seeking more voices from the Japanese American community. Kochiyama's essay stood out as rare:
"Everything changed for me on the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. On that very day--December 7, the FBI came and they took my father."
She goes on to write about the hysteria of war and the cries to "get the 'Japs' out," about the evacuation of thousands and thousands and about sleeping in a horse stable on army cots and muslin bags filled with straw. "And for chairs, everybody scrounged around for carton boxes, because they could serve as chairs. You could put two together and it could be a little table. So it was just makeshift." 

And, most importantly, she writes about feeling betrayed by her country--not a betrayal filled with rage and resentment, but with confusion and pain. "I was so red, white and blue," she writes, "I couldn't believe this was happening to us. America would never do a thing like this to us."

Reading Kochiyama's essay, just a few pages long in a large anthology, made me realize how much of my own family's history needed to be explored. We too were a people disempowered and disenfranchised when the Communists took over China. My grandparents were forced out of the place they called home, my parents were brought to a promised land around the world, and sometimes I wonder if America will ever feel like home to them.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

'women can do great things.'

I started writing this four years ago, around the time Sacramento Magazine published its feature on the "Last Days of Loretto." It had been a year since the school announced its closing, and there were still so many answers never given, and a statement from Sister Helen to Sac Mag: "There isn't a Loretto High School."

I never finished writing this, and I never sent it. But as I was clearing out drafts in my inbox, I stumbled across it, and perhaps finishing it now and posting it online will one day reach the eyes and ears of the IBVM, who have had so little to say about the great loss that affected so many.


Dear Sister Helen,

I remember so clearly the afternoon in August 2003 I sat beside my fellow classmates and you welcomed us to our new home. We were incoming freshmen, shy and anxious about what high school would bring, and you said something that I've carried with me ever since: "You are Loretto wherever you go."

I believed it then, and I still believe it now--even if you've disowned your own words.

There are a lot of things about Loretto I personally didn't "get" when I first arrived--things that ranged from choosing individual class colors/mascots to the debutante-style graduation ceremony to Baby Think It Over (I still have nightmares about the crying) to "Why don't we have Home Ec classes?"

But as my first year came to an end, I started to appreciate all of those things I had panned before: I'll forever think of Loretto (and crazy, fun Homecoming traditions) whenever I see the Pink Panther because of that unique stamp on the Class of 2007; and I liked that we celebrated ridiculous days like Pi Day, made events on campus out of building catapults in Physics class, and gave special assembly days for a Shakespeare Festival. I didn't lose anything by not sitting in a class to learn home economics because we all still would sit around at lunch and knit, and there was always somebody on campus to teach you how to balance a checkbook or sew a button if you needed to learn, and they would never once belittle you in the process.

At Loretto, we were taught by some of the very best, who didn't view their jobs as just something they did to get a paycheck. They were passionate, and it made us passionate. It made me passionate, and I can say for sure I wouldn't be where I am today without those folks guiding and encouraging me at such a young age. For every challenge that confronted us, Loretto tried so desperately to provide the answers--whether it was in an eccentric counselor's office or inside a quiet chapel. I began to understand that Loretto was not just a campus on El Camino Avenue, but it represented equality, education, sisterhood, and faith. Because of Loretto, I am more confident in my ability to be that woman in the world who can "do great things," as Mary Ward insisted.

And sure, Loretto wasn't perfect--but no family is. You don't always have to like each other, but you always love each other.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

and still I rise.


The first time I read Maya Angelou's "And Still I Rise," I cried. I was in junior high, and I didn't understand it, but I still couldn't help it.

The second time I read it, in an English class in high school, I understood the context more, and I cried for the pain buried in the words.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
I saw this video on YouTube, and then read the words again in a college Humanities course, and even now as I understand more and more of what her words are really saying, I still cry out of fear that we are a society that still forgets the "huts of history's shame," and we forget that empowerment is not about the suppression of others' voices and stories, but about the lifting of the oppressed so that we can one day reach a land of equality for all.

We cannot ignore the weight of Angelou's words in this world that so desperately needs more voices like hers. What a giant, what a loss.

Monday, May 26, 2014

a note...

I imported a bunch of blog entries to this blog, so if you're subscribed and just saw dozens of posts roll through...sorry.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

haunted.

I spent a good part of my senior year reporting a story that caused handfuls of people who I dared once call "friends" to disown and denounce the investigation and the journalists who pursued it. If you know what happened, you'll understand why I was haunted; if you don't know, don't worry--it's not what matters here.

The takeaways from what happened are still to this day, I believe, part of what makes this current spotlight on campus sexual assaults so important: the system was not built to help survivors of injustice.



I'll fully admit that I was guilty myself when the story first came to us. I didn't want to believe this girl's testimony because journalism encourages a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to any sort of allegation. But after the evidence made itself clear--the records and documents and more--I couldn't not continue to pursue the truth.

I couldn't not pursue it the way I never pursued my own truth. I was only 18 when a boy forced himself on me, and I was 19 when he threatened to kill me for reporting it. Nothing ever happened because the people I trusted to protect me told me it wasn't a crime if it was "just an attempt."

You have to actually be raped, apparently, before they consider taking you seriously.

"They put me in a room full of men," a survivor once told me about the police officers she spoke to after she reported her assault, "and they put one woman in there to hold my hand 'in case I cried.'"

Sunday, May 4, 2014

what makes you angry?

It's easy to stand on a soapbox and preach, but once you step down from the high, all that's left are the words that hang in the air around you like cobwebs that stick to your hair as you run through the haunted corners of society's darkest places.

It's easy to be angry, to hold onto it and say, "Yeah, this will fuel my passion," but it's easier, actually, to let it sit on your shoulders because it's easier to be crushed into submission than to carry a weight above you every day--a weight labeled "imperfect," labeled "scarred," labeled "exhausted," and filled with every moment that has fanned the flames inside your soul.

I've been thinking a lot about the things that make me angriest, and I've narrowed it down to this:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

a really good sentence.

"In each of us there is a little of all of us." -Georg Lichtenberg (found inside The Globe bookstore in Seattle, 07/31/11)
I used to keep this notebook full of sentences that don't go together. I would carry it everywhere, and any time I read a really good sentence--whether it was from a book or article or blog or sometimes even a sign in a store--I would write it down. It didn't need to be explicitly inspirational or have any sort of theme: if I liked it, I wrote it down. Just having them all there in my pocket was inspiring enough, no matter the subject.

There's something about reading a really good sentence that makes a previously-stuck gear turn in my head. Whenever I have writer's block, I flip through this book of sentences and it always seems to free up the massive traffic jam that somehow formed in my brain.
"She didn't look like Halloween, but you could go as her on Halloween, and there's the difference." -John Waters (written about Amy Winehouse), "A Bad Girl With a Touch of Genius" from the New York Times, 07/28/11
It's not an end-all cure, but it's a start. I haven't documented sentences for quite some time now, but perhaps I should start again. There's something about a really good sentence, after all, that keeps a paragraph, a chapter, a story flowing. It at least makes me want to keep going.

And if that fails, I always go back to this:
"This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important. So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music." 
-100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost

Thursday, April 10, 2014

'can you repeat that?'

A couple of weeks ago during a not-so-crowded morning commute, a woman got on the train and sat down in the seat to my right. She had on a puffy faux fur coat (I assume it was fake), a jeweled ring on each of her fingers, and a permanent frown that sat easily among the wrinkles on her face.

The man on the other side of her was taking up a seat and a half, so she couldn't lean back. At 72nd, the person sitting to my left got up and exited, and the woman elbowed me and started talking in my direction. I had my headphones in and my Spotify app playing, so I removed an ear bud and said, "I'm sorry, can you repeat that?"

She sighed loudly and then raised her voice.

"YOU. NEED. TO. MOVE. OVER. SO. I. CAN. LEAN. BACK. O. K? YOU. SPEAK. ENGLISH?"

She drew out the last word. Enggggggg-glish.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

late.

On the downtown C, a couple boards with their two young children and a Hello Kitty coloring book. The daughters could be twins, with their round faces and frizzy hair. One wears yellow overalls that contrasts her dark skin; the other, a white dress. Their parents are the opposite, with dark clothes and white skin. One of the fathers sings a jazzed-up version of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" while the other keeps time by snapping along. The girls giggle and clap, and the whole train has turned their attention to watch this family of four as they head to the museum for the day.

On the bench next to them, a young man in a Yankees cap and Syracuse shirt that barely hid a sleeve of tattoos on his left shoulder smiles and asks how old the girls are. The fathers chat with him and the girls continue coloring as a few others on the train join in the conversation with this friendly group.

When the train arrives at 81st, the family leaves. The little girls wave goodbye to the smiling strangers, and the doors close. The train starts up again and the man in the Syracuse shirt pulls a book--Getting the Love You Want--out of his backpack. Self-consciously, he opens it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

#FITBF: I cry easily over...

...singing show competition auditions. Seriously.

You might watch some of these and think to yourself, "Is she serious? I didn't cry." Well, I warned you that I'm a sucker.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

being lonely vs. being alone.


I've wanted to live in Manhattan for as long as I could imagine the future. The skyscrapers and landmarks and Central Park, featured in every film and television show, stood for something big, something grand, something epic. New York City was one of those places where it didn't matter how many cliched stories were told in it, it was new and thrilling each time, and people's dreams came true and you would find others like you who grew up with the same loneliness you did. And with all of its millions of residents and visitors, you could never be lonely.

I won't lie and pretend like I'm an incredibly outgoing person. I was the kid who stayed in on weekends while others joined soccer teams or swimming classes. I kept my nose in a book at all times, even on the playground at recess because it was easier to be ignored than teased. If I wasn't escaping into a fictional world, I was creating my own in spiral notebooks or imagining a life portrayed on TV.

But even though I could have done without the bullies and the feeling of missing out on a childhood others had, I liked my world because I just knew that when I grew up, it wouldn't be like that. After I graduated from college, I would move to New York, have lots of friends, be married, and live in a house made of cheese.

Friday, March 28, 2014

#FITBF: my favorite season is...

...autumn!


On a side note, I am sick of this eternal winter we seem to be having. Hey Mother Nature, stop it (let it go!) with the snow already!

Friday, March 14, 2014

#FITBF: the fictional world I would like to visit is...

...the world of Harry Potter!


What fictional world would you want to visit? Tweet your answer with the hashtag #FITBF, or share your thoughts in your own blog or video, and let me know!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

the way I see it: I want to be a Hufflepuff.

I've never understood what was wrong with being a Hufflepuff. "Everyone says Hufflepuff are a lot o' duffers," Hagrid tells Harry in the first book, which sets the tone for the rest of the series when it comes to describing Hufflepuffs. Nobody wants to be sorted into Hufflepuff. They don't have a single-word description that comes quickly to mind (Gryffindors: brave; Ravenclaws: smart; Slytherins: cunning). They're implied to be the House full of "leftovers," filled with the unexceptional and the plain.
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal.
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil.
The Sorting Hat describes Hufflepuffs as loyal--which is only a negative trait if you're blindingly loyal to folks who mislead you--and "unafraid of toil." They're hard workers, and brave in the face of strife as we see during the Battle of Hogwarts (second to Gryffindor, Hufflepuff had the most House members who stayed behind to fight).

Monday, March 10, 2014

things I don't understand.

I don't understand why some people would go to a coffee shop to hang out but not order anything. I was at my local coffee shop this weekend and two people came in and sat down at the table next to me to chat. They sat there for nearly two hours and didn't order a single thing. By the time I left, they were still sitting there talking with zero indication they would be ordering any drinks or pastries any time soon.

I don't understand people who text while they walk--especially on crowded sidewalks.

I don't understand the "sagging pants" trend. I've never understood this. Is it comfortable for you to have to hold your pants up as you walk? Somebody, please explain.

I don't understand people who don't return shopping carts properly. In college, I worked as a courtesy clerk at a grocery store and did everything from bagging groceries to sweeping. One of a courtesy clerk's duties at the particular store I worked at was something called "lot duty," where we were required to take one-hour shifts standing out in the parking lot (all while wearing a very attractive orange vest) collecting shopping carts. This was particularly terrible at my store because we shared a massive parking lot in a plaza that contained restaurants, a Starbucks, and other various stores--all who received plenty of customers on any given day. Amidst all of the cars that would go zooming in and out of the lot was one singular cart return location, which nobody ever used. I saw more customers leave carts in empty parking spaces, up on grassy areas, and even literally right next to the cart return area.

"Lot duty" was essentially one hour of a poor courtesy clerk darting cars and trying to yank shopping carts out of all corners of a gigantic parking lot. It was not fun.

Friday, March 7, 2014

#FITBF: I am a self-professed...

Something you may not know about me, but that I'll gladly share with anyone: I am a self-professed Shakespeare nerd.


What's something you want to share about yourself that people might not know? Tweet your answer with the hashtag #FITBF, or share your thoughts in your own blog or video, and let me know!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

the way i see it: don't underestimate yourself.

During my freshman year of high school, I found myself accidentally enrolled in a one-quarter dance class. I can't remember what elective I had wanted instead, but the only one that worked with my scheduled happened to be Intro to Dance, and I remember being completely frantic about it.

"I don't think I can do this," I said to the vice principal during spring break before the quarter began. I was more terrified to take dance than I was to struggle through my Intro to Art class (which I barely passed, by the way, and only did so because of extra credit).

I tried half a dozen ways to get out of the class, but failed at each one. The vice principal told me not to worry and said everything would be fine. "Just give it a try, it won't be that bad!"

So after much hyperventilating, the quarter began and there I was at 8:15 a.m. each morning--suiting up for dance class. And guess what? (I think you can guess...)

Monday, March 3, 2014

the way we (don't) write.

"I'm going to set the timer for 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes, you cannot put your pen down--just keep writing. Even if it's just a random string of words or you're just writing, 'I don't know what to write.' You can write about something that's related to your story or...just write about anything. The idea is that you may end up writing pages and pages worth of crap, but there may be at least one sentence or phrase in there you'll like and be able to use."

He dimmed the lights and started up a playlist of instrumental jazz, and said, "Go."


The hardest thing about writing most days is simply the act of getting started. As I've mentioned before, I suffer from horrible writer's block from time to time, and there are few remedies that work to clear me of my own personal hang ups.

But this writing method an old journalism professor introduced to me in a workshop in college is a practice I've carried with me whenever I write. And it works (at least, for me). Sure, sometimes I end up with four pages of complete nothingness, but it normally frees up my mind to continue on a path of creativity and thought.

That's the main purpose behind this quest to write as often as possible and throw it out into the world with little request for feedback. I used to obsessively write in a diary when I was little, and then when I started blogging, I would go through these phases of "I have so much to say!" to "What's the point?"

Thursday, February 27, 2014

new month, new project.

A writer's worst enemy can often be her own mind. There are times when I'll have a million ideas and want to write them all down immediately. Other times, I'll sit down and writer's block gets the better of me.

Last weekend, I stopped in at the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble on an errand, and passed by a table on the second floor stacked with journals and planners. One of the journals had a green cover and the words "I Can't Sleep" on it. Each page was titled with the prompt: "Why I can't sleep tonight:" and there was space to write and draw alongside quotes by famous people who also had trouble sleeping.

The journal made me think about these writing exercises my grade school teachers had us do from time to time. They would ask a general topic, and we could write whatever we wanted.

I wandered over to the Education section of the store to look for a book of writing prompts, like the ones I remembered my old teachers had, but couldn't find one. The only books to help kids write were guides to writing standardized test essays.

So instead, I went home and purchased this:


And have adapted the prompts into my own project:

Fill-in-the-blank Friday!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

made to shame.

My mother made every trip to the fabric store an adventure. We would walk up and down each aisle, playing "I Spy" and commenting on everything: the ribbons, the cross-stitch patterns, the cake molds. We never needed any of these things, but if we made the trip an exciting outing, it would seem less mechanical and tiresome.

By the fifth grade, I wore headscarves daily. The materials we chose were often dark and subtle so that none stood out too much. My mother informed my teachers and school administrators about my condition because headscarves were not part of the school's dress code. But among the white polo shirts, navy pants and gray jumpers, my headscarves always stood out.


One day, a fourth grade substitute teacher stopped me in the hallway on my way back to my classroom from the restroom.

"You can't wear that scarf," she said, motioning to the blue velvet covering my secret.

"It's OK," I stuttered. My cheeks turned bright red, and I didn't know how to explain. Would an adult believe an 11-year-old girl?

She held her hand out. "That's against the dress code. Give me the scarf or you'll have to go down to the principal."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

the way i see it: have a little faith.


The hardest thing I've ever had to do was belief in myself.

With every step I've taken in life--every theater stage I stepped out on to perform, every location change I've ever made, even the graduation speech I stood up in front of my college to give--it's always been done with anxiety and fear. I would work myself up into a ball of stress and then eventually close my eyes and just run forward into the unknown, and pray to God I wouldn't just fall off a cliff. I've never in my life walked into anything with pure confidence, which makes me feel like such a fraud when I cheer others on to chase their dreams.

But when Nichole asked me what I felt I learned in the 24th year of my life, I think the answer would be: I learned to have faith in myself.

I learned to trust that I am more than a cog in someone else's machine, more than a pawn on someone else's chessboard. I learned I can own my narrative and my voice, all while being part of a team too, and I learned I could do all of that because I had the right people who made me embrace humility and then put their trust behind me to encourage me to do the work they knew I was capable of all along.

To be just 24 and to have been told most of her life she wasn't quite capable, that was huge.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

ugly.


Some late night near the end of 2011, Jenny and I had just left an ugly holiday sweater party and were walking the wrong way back to the apartment where we were staying. We didn’t realize it until I saw the alphabet going backwards, and even then we went two more blocks down the wrong path before deciding to turn around and call it a night.

But before we realized that and before we backtracked, we were walking and talking about something fairly inconsequential for 2 a.m. in the dead of winter. We passed a couple sitting on the steps in front of a row of houses. They were having an intense discussion, and I remember glancing down for a moment at the girl with her head in her hands, but we kept walking because it was cold and all we could think about was tea and warm blankets.

And then we heard shouting. We stopped and looked back and the guy was standing and punching down at the girl--screaming at her, hitting her--and people were walking right on by and trying not to look. I couldn’t not look.

She was screaming. He kept hitting her, and for a moment I saw a flash of a girl I recognized.

Next to me, Jenny snapped.

"Are you serious?" she asked. "Is this serious?”

She didn’t hesitate and ran back toward them. The guy saw her, stopped, and ran away. The girl was huddled into a ball on the ground, her arms wrapped around herself. She was crying, and Jenny sat down next to her and put her arms around the stranger. I shook myself out of my daze and joined them.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

the living room.

When you walk through the door of my parents' California home, you're immediately placed in an impeccable living room. The white couch is adorned with silk pillows, the piano is dusted and ready to be played, and my mother's glass cabinet of international collectibles is unmissable. It's a living room, by name, but I don't remember much of my life happening in that room.

The room was always a room for entertaining, a room for visitors. The real living room, as far as we were concerned, was through the dining room toward the back of the house: the "family room," we called it. There was a plush floral couch, a TV next to shelves of videos and books, a corner for our toys when we were young, and a desk that held our computer--before laptops ever entered our lives. It was a room where we did all of our living. It was a room just for us.

But in every TV show I watched growing up, there were never two rooms for living as a family. On the sets of every sitcom family's home, the front door opened up straight into what I knew asthe "family room." It was the main room where the sitcom family would sit down for "family meetings and where conflicts and resolutions would often take place.

I could never understand how a family could keep its problems so close to the surface. How was it so easy for the Tanner girls to open up to their father? How could Will Smith be so candid with Uncle Phil after his father walked out on him yet again?


I never saw a family that looked like mine on TV. The TGIF lineup I watched religiously contained a variety of non-traditional families (single parents, extended families), but there were hardly any characters I identified with at all. In my family, we didn't talk about problems the way the families on TV did. When my parents fought, when my dad got mad at my sister and me, when I was bullied at school or got a bad grade--our first instincts were never to sit down and talk about it. In my family, as with many Chinese families I came to learn over the years, we kept our problems in the back--in the family room.

If TV shows were a portrait of American families, I often wondered what that said about mine. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

hollowed.

We met six years ago at the bottom of a staircase.

I wanted him because I thought he was bad, but he turned out to be good and one of the greatest friends I ever had until he cut us all out and became a stranger to the world.

But before he left, he put a firm hand on my shoulder and said, “Stop,” and I thought a lot about that conversation in the years that followed because he was the first person to look me in the eye and say, "You’re worth your life."

your worst date.

Someone asked me last week to describe the best date I ever went on. I don't think I have an answer to that (there have been plenty of decent and pretty good dates/things-I-think-might-have-been-dates), but I don't know if there's really a "best" or "perfect" label I can slap on anything right now. But I can tell you my worst--or, at least, the oddest one:

I met B on a bus in Maryland. I was heading home after work and had forgotten my book at the office, so I had nothing to do but eavesdrop and, apparently, think of ways to complicate my existence. B was talking to the bus driver about when his stop would be coming up because he was still trying to figure out the lay of the city after moving from California, and because it had been two very long weeks since I moved was still friendless and bored, I decided to insert myself in their conversation.

"You're from California?" I asked. He looked over at me, which I took as a cue for some reason to literally get out of my seat and sit next to him. "I am too!"

We started talking and I learned he was in DC for an internship for the fall (he was a college senior) and was staying with his uncle just a mile from where I was living. Before I got off the bus, he asked for my number and I gave him my work email address instead (because that felt less complicated), and texted my best friend about how I finally made a friend (how kindergarten, I know).

The next day, B emailed me and asked if I wanted to hang out that weekend. I had told him I was still new to DC and he said he could show me around since he'd spent a summer interning before on the Hill. I said yes, we exchanged numbers, and met up on Saturday at the metro stop--where he instantly started rambling about the day he had planned out in hopes I would have fun because he wanted me to like him.

If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I'm really bad at discerning signs. The first time one of my exes asked me out on a date, I had no idea it was actually a date until he kissed me at the end of the night and I said, "Wait, was this a date?"

Yes, I am both that oblivious and that awkward. If you want me to know it's a date, you should probably hire a skywriter.

So when B started talking about how nervous he was, the thought, "Is this a date?" crossed my mind once, but then I ignored it because I didn't want to ruin the first friendship I thought I was making in DC. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

growing up is hard to do.

I never had a "dream job," or one that I ever realistically pursued. When I was a kid and someone asked me what I thought I'd be doing when I grew up, my only answers were vague hopes: I wanted to be an archaeologist. I wanted to be an Olympic gold medalist. I wanted to live in a house made of cheese.

Three distinct problems:
  1. I hate dirt. I also don't think I understood what being an archaeologist would actually entail. 
  2. I'm the least athletic person most people in my life know.
  3. Unfortunately, a house made of cheese is 100% structurally unsound. (But it would age incredibly well.)
The idea of having a job was terrifying. My dad used to come home from work and spend an hour venting out his frustrations of the day to my mom. Why would I want to do something for a living that made me feel like dying?

"If I ever wake up and realize I hate my job, I'll quit," I wrote in my diary in sixth grade.

That's so much easier said than done when you're 12 than when you're 18 or 22. Although I had several reasons for quitting the grocery store in college and for moving from one internship to another in the span of one month in the fall of 2011, I don't think I ever really lost the naivety of the girl who wrote that sentence.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

not a nightmare.

So we’re all in this room, and we made some weird suicide pact because, one by one, everyone is preparing to die.

One person starts and takes a giant pair of sewing scissors and stabs herself and twists, then hands the scissors over to the next person. Then the next person. Then the next.

It’s finally my turn and I look down at the blood dripping from the shears. People to my left are dying, and the ones to my right are anxiously awaiting their turn.

I can’t do it. I freeze.

Instead, I pass the scissors on to the boy next to me and ask him to stab me in the back. He nods and, without hesitation, embraces me in a deep, strong hug. It’s a familiar hug. For a second, the anxiety melts away, and I close my eyes and exhale just as he plunges the blades into my flesh.

And because you can’t die in dreams, I wake up.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

the way i see it: be authentic.

Three pints later, and it was all about faith. I leaned against the cold tile wall under the Christopher St. sign and listened to him talk about community and God, and I told him about how sitting in a garage doesn’t make you a parked car. He laughed. “I like that.”

It was an uneventful event, and certainly nothing worth writing poetry about, but it was clear that the city had done something to our friendship in the month since he arrived. It's what the city always did to friends reunited after weeks and months apart: it changed things--at first for the better, then later for the worst. Somewhere along the way, it changed us as individuals too, and whether that effect was positive or not remains still to be seen.

I don’t think it takes much to feel shunned in a city of outcasts, but it sure takes a lot to feel part of the pulse that beats beneath Manhattan's soaring skyline. The city has a steady heart, and the more blood, sweat, and tears you pump into it, the more alive you eventually feel.

It takes everything in your soul some days to feel alive, but God—when you feel it, you feel it: that moment when the city feels as indestructible as your resolve to survive in it.

Authenticity is not elusive, but it sure is hell to find.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

my face is just a face.

My face is incomplete.

I've stared at magazines and television shows and familiar faces, up close in personal, for years and years. I know what haircuts work for certain types of faces, where the peak of an eyebrow should be above the eyelid, how eyelashes should curl.

I've stared at mirrors long enough to know what's missing from my own face.

Backstage before every musical or play, I would sit captive in makeup chairs--the routine, always the same. The artist would pick up a mascara brush, and stop as she neared my face, realizing the eyelashes were gone. Then, she would move on to the eyeliner pencil and trace the lines of two brows. They never ended up looking quite right.

For every dance and every event that warranted a special trip to a hair salon in high school, I stayed home. All it took was one motion to put a wig on my head, and there was nothing fancy needed. For my high school graduation, I sat on the couch for half an hour with my hair on a styrofoam head and curled it. My sister spent more time getting ready for the evening.