Wednesday, March 6, 2019

What's In A Name?

A few days ago I was walking through the mall when I heard my name being called by a voice I didn't recognize. At first, I thought it was directed at someone else, but I turned around and I saw a guy walking towards me with his hand extended. I shook it and realized that he seemed to know me but I couldn't remember meeting him.

There are people out there who are good at remembering names but not faces? And those who are good at remembering faces but not names? Well, I'm good at neither. I'm one of those unfortunate people who are bad at both. Which is not good for someone who is socially awkward in most situations (namely, me). I'm bad at small talk with people I don't really know, and adding the fact that I needed to pretend I knew someone just contributed to the mess.

Unfortunately, situations like this have become something of a regular occurrence in my life. I'd meet someone who I could not recognize, and they'd talk to me about a conversation or event that we had together with such detail that I knew I was going to be a rude prick if, in the middle of the conversation, I suddenly asked how I knew them. So, me trying to avoid confrontation at all costs, would usually just stand around and nod hoping that our conversation would end soon and that the other person would not realize that I was only pretending to remember who they were for the past half hour.

And soon, I realized, this kind of behavior is a mistake. Here's why I think so: in a conversation, there's a window of opportunity when someone can ask the other their name and how they know each other, without coming off as rude. This window is definitely within the first five minutes. After 15-20 minutes, it might come off as strange, but you can still do it. But after the conversation is over, this opportunity is out the window, as they say. This will make the next conversation not only very awkward but if you ask their name, they will be very humiliated and you will be an asshole.

This is why now, particularly after starting college, I have quite a few acquaintances who I bump into often whose names I don't know, but recognize because I know they are the people whose names escape me. There are some "mutual friends" that I hang out with, and who I sincerely hope never realize that I don't even know what their name is. Sometimes I'll give them a nickname to compensate. "Oh gosh, it's that banana costume dude. I need to look as if I forgot something in my bag so it looks like I didn't see him and I'm not ignoring him; it's just I'm really busy looking for something super important in my bag."

So going back to my mall story, I was standing there very awkwardly, hoping that I could find my way out of the conversation before he realized that I just wanted a way out of talking to him. I figured that I'd listen to him for a few more minutes before I excused myself and pretended I was meeting someone.

All this was going as planned until one of my friends walked along and joined our conversation. The polite thing, of course, would be to introduce them, and I would have done that, except the only problem was that you can't really introduce your friend to someone you don't really know, and that person was talking to you assuming that you knew who they were this whole time.

So of course, there was a moment of silence. I have never been stuck in a more awkward position. I was standing there looking at both of them like an idiot because I knew they were both waiting for me to introduce them. After another period of silence, I just decided to take a risk and introduce them.
"Hey, so this is my friend Mark." I just pulled a name out of a hat and hoped that I was correct in my guesswork. "Peter? Are you sure? You look like a Mike," I might have added.

Another period of silence. Then the guy looked at the ground, smiled, and introduced himself. I forced a smile back, and tried to look as if I knew his name the whole time, and that I just didn't know how to make a good introduction. Which I realize makes me look rude and incompetent at understanding social cues. Apparently, there is no winning option.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

My Philosophy

As many of you may know, I've been visiting a lot of blogs lately. To be honest this experience has been both interesting and harrowing in its own way. I see people who are depressed, happy, or more often a bit of both. Most of these posts are boring, mainly because I can somehow feel that this person was not being true to the audience. That they were somehow lying to their audience.

With the year (about) that I have been blog-hopping, I have discovered something cool. Every blog is different in its own special way, but there is one main ideology behind each successful one. The way to really connect with someone is to really be honest about how you feel. The more you connect to the reader, the more they will enjoy reading your post, no matter what. 

Anyone can be a good writer. A good writer is constituted as having good grammar, good mechanics, nice structure. But that doesn't attract people. It's not what strikes people in the heart. People get honesty because they can emphasize with it. Good writing can definitely get you somewhere, but honesty really gets you to the point where you want to be in your writing.

And that is probably why I keep looking at blogs even though I'm so busy with other areas of life (classes, finding a job, etc). Sure, there's a lot of people with bad writing out there, but if there's honesty, there's something to be learned. It teaches everybody a lesson.

So this is my point. If I can express something that other people can just feel in them, then I believe I have succeeded. We all live in the same world, and I feel that my world is pretty much the same as yours. We're all the same, even though we give each other all of these labels to show how we are somehow "different". All of these differences are not important. Inside, we are the same person. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Why You Should Date A Writer

"Why would I date a writer?", you ask. You should date a writer because she will write about everything. She'll write about the things that you did together, or the things that she wishes you've done. She will write about the time you held her hand at Starbucks, and how warm she felt for the rest of the day. She will write about how, during a mellow summer evening when the two of you just started dating, you asked her to reach for something in the cabinet, and when she gave it to you, you looked at her with such intensity. And that's when she realized she had already fallen in love with you.

You should date a writer. You should date a writer because she will write about everything. She will write about how you look in the morning, and how you were so beautiful even when you were sleeping. She will write in great detail of your lives together, and her words will make ordinary events sound like music.

You should date a writer. You should date a writer because she will write about everything. She will write about how she was tired, but she stayed up anyway to talk to you because you asked her. Or that time where she really wanted to keep talking to you, but you said no. She will write about how you broke her heart when you said that "It's all for the best", and of how you no longer wanted to work on the relationship.

But you will also learn about how she fixed your door before you came back home because she wanted you to feel safe after having your house broken into. Or about the time she tried making you breakfast in bed, burning herself in the process, and had to throw away the food on multiple occasions because she wanted everything to be perfect. Or about the time when she woke up at 4 in the morning to get your favorite flowers from the farmers market because she couldn't afford the ones they sold at the mall and she knew how happy they make you.

Or about the time when you were sick, and she came by to see if you were okay. It was raining really hard out, and it was dark, so she didn't see the slippery part of the sidewalk and she slipped. She won't tell you how she twisted her ankle and the taste in her mouth as she laid on the sidewalk. Or how she limped all the way to your place. She had a key to your apartment, and there were no words to describe how good it felt to enter your place unannounced. She will tell you how, after she made sure you were safe, she limped back home. She shook from the wind but felt safe because you were.
You will learn that when she first told you that she loved you, she had never felt so relieved and scared at the same time. And when you said that you loved her back, it sounded like a promise she did not dare believe.

You should date a writer. You should date a writer because she will write about everything. She will write about the promises of love, and how she will always love you even if you didn't love her anymore.

Inspired by "Never Date a Writer" -- xstephens (Redbubble)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

What It's Like to Fall In Love

First step. The two of you meet and it's amazing. There's lots of conversations and laughing with each other and it seems like there's no end. She'll spend all night with you and the two of you talk until the sun rises. You two talk until there's no talk left. You two talk until both of you are struggling to keep your eyes open. And after that you two talk some more.

Second step. She'll leave in the morning and you realize how much you miss her. You'll pick her shirt up from your bed and breathe deeply. It smells like her perfume mixed with the lotion she likes so much along with her natural smell. Your foot begins to tap as you count the hours, minutes, seconds until you get to see her again.

Third step. You sit throughout dinner staring at her. You stare at her as her eyes light up when she tells you the story of how her sorority sister did something silly on pledge week. You watch her lips move and curl as she talks, only thinking about how it would feel to kiss her again. She stops talking and you panic for a second. Did she ask you a question that you didn't hear? You were too busy daydreaming about her lips again. In an effort to cover up your mistake, you nod and say something like, "Yeah, that sounded like it was fun." She nods with a smile and continues with her story. Phew. You've dodged a bullet to daydream another day.

Fourth step. You're hanging out with friends and you tune out of the conversation. In your mind, you're playing a game with yourself as you try to remember what she looks like. You will close your eyes and remember the patterns you traced on her skin, her face when she's still sleeping, the stray strand of hair on her face. You'll think about how her arms would feel when you're tired and she cuddles you. Your friends get up and you guys move along to the next destination. You're so hopeless. At this point you're not even pretending to pay attention to what's going on. You stalk her Instagram. You scroll all the way back to see what she looked like three years ago. You accidentally double tap and see the heart symbol appear over a selfie she took in her dorm room. You don't hit unlike.

Fifth step. You come home from work. You go into the bathroom and stare at her towel and toothbrush. You make your bed and wait for her to come home from work. She takes longer than usual today. You go back to the restroom and pick up her shirt. Her scent is mostly gone but it sort of lingers in your nose. You hear her knocking on your door. You run across the living room to see her. You open the door and pretend to be tired. She asks, Did you miss me. Eh, a little. This entire time you are staring at her and the way her lips move as she talks, and that blouse that you know will smell like her for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Why Pizza Is Not Important

I was drinking a raspberry vodka cocktail on the patio of a fairly popular bar in West Hollywood when I was introduced by a friend to RJ. At the time, I was with my friend Sarah, who knew RJ because they had met at a party a few months ago. We made small talk, and because I was somewhat drunk, I flirted a bit and hoped I came off as charming. I thought she was extremely attractive so I asked her for her number. She gave it to me and made me promise to text her later.

(Side note. I thought Sarah introduced me to RJ because she thought that I would find her attractive and we could hit things off. I didn't realize that she had been hitting on RJ the whole night and that she introduced us because she wanted to leave a good impression. When I found out what happened, I apologized to Sarah, but she said that it was no problem. She went even further to say that when she got home, she thought that RJ and I were good for each other and that we could possibly be more than friends. I still felt guilty about the whole situation, but that didn't stop me from going on a first date with RJ.)

So afterwards I ended up texting RJ, and we made room to have dinner with each other the next night. I came late because I had to come from a friend's birthday party and I couldn't blow her off. She said that she didn't mind waiting, mainly because she was catching up with her reading for class. We ended up eating in this small restaurant near campus.

Here's the thing that I hate about first dates: I'm awkward and easily embarrassed. I hate going on first dates with a burning passion. And because of this, I tend to be too quiet and polite because I'm always scared that I'll say or do something that would make me look like a fool. This, in turn, makes me seem extremely boring.

RJ ended up telling me that she thought the exact same thing about me. She told me that she didn't know where the charming person she met two days ago went. I told her that I was only charming because I was extremely drunk, and that I'm usually more reserved when I'm first getting to know someone. If she wanted to get to know me more, she'd have to hang out with me more until I felt comfortable around her.

Despite the boring dinner, RJ asked me if I wanted to get drinks with her. After a few drinks, I started to relax and feel more open. We ended up having much more fun after that, which then led to several more dates after the first one.

At a certain point during the first date, I remember telling RJ that I had something for girls who would be down to do things such as get ice cream or pizza together. Basically, someone who didn't mind what they were eating as long as it tasted good and they were having fun. Most people hate eating oily things with other people because it's messy. I'm the exact opposite when it comes to that: I like eating with someone that I like. For me, it's a way to get to know someone better. It also saves time because you get to hang out with the person you like and you get to eat something great. What more could one possibly want?

About a month after we met, I asked her if she wanted to sleep over at my place for the weekend. It seemed like we were getting serious, and I wanted to talk to her about maybe taking the relationship further.

That Friday evening, I picked her up at her apartment. At that point, I had a compulsive habit of holding her hand and either rubbing my thumb over her hand or kissing it once in a while. Most of the time, I wouldn't even realize that I was doing it. RJ didn't seem to mind, so there was nothing to stop me from making this into a habit. When I did that this particular Friday, I realized something was off.

"What is that in your hand?"

"I'm holding a pizza."

I looked at her and narrowed my eyes. I quickly reverted my eyes back to the road. "Did you get that for me?"

There was a pause. "Yeah."


"I thought it would help you like me more."

"I already like you. You don't need to bribe me with food in order to do that."

"I know. I thought that you'd appreciate the gesture nonetheless."

"It's very thoughtful of you to do. You don't need to try that hard to gain my affection."

Her smile was so wide I could see it from the corner of my eye.

And suddenly it hit me all at once.

I liked this girl a lot. Like as much more than a friend. 

My brain went blank for a second, and then into overdrive. She had waited for me for about an hour and a half on our first date just because she wanted to spend time with me. Despite our extremely boring first date together, she decided to give me a second chance. She let me hold her hand (despite not knowing where my hands had been the whole day), just because holding her hand gave me comfort. She didn't really like pizza, but she got me one because she knew I liked (
loved) eating pizza. She got one, for me. There was no more I could possibly ask from her.

And then I realized that this was it. A near perfect girlfriend that was sitting in the passenger seat of the car.

I realized that my brain was trying to tell me something that I should have realized a long time ago.

I told her that I loved her the next week.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Living for that Moment

My hair was somewhat tousled, and I had to make sure my jeans and shirt were a perfect fit. I put on some perfume which I knew would evaporate as soon as I stepped into the club. I waited outside for my friends, and once I met up with them, we talked about how wasted we were going to be before the night ended.

We drank a couple of shots before going in. Liquid courage. And also because the alcohol that was sold in the club was too expensive.

After having our ID's checked, we walk through the double doors to a dark, somewhat lit room throbbing with loud, ear-pounding music, and cramped with people jumping to the beat of the music. The room was very warm, and within minutes I felt a bead of sweat trace itself down down my neck. I smirk at the crowd, knowing that in a moment the many-headed creature will swallow me in and transform me into just another one of its heads bopping in unison to one song.

Sometimes the ability to dance comes naturally to me. Most of the time it doesn't. In those moments, I stand in the middle of the dance floor with a drink in my hand, while being pushed around by people I've never met. I will hesitantly mimic the tapping of my foot of the group standing beside me. Or the stiff swaying of the captivating dancer on stage. Sometimes (when I'm completely wasted), I let go and dance like a wild person, eyes closed, and me imagining that I'm in an empty room, all except for me and the beat.
And then there is a magical moment, when, exhausted and drunk, I look up and stare at the ceiling and feel that all is right with my life. It has nothing to do with thinking, it's just a feeling that I feel in my heart. And this feeling rises and mingles like smoke with the people and music through the unplanned, wild dance that the entire crowd was in.
And I remember wishing that the moment could last forever, and I could feel like the entire world will stand still for this one perfect moment. Except that in reality, the next morning will always come, and always, always I will have to part ways with these strangers who made me feel like my life was perfect for a moment.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Sometime a few weeks ago, I woke up and realized that I couldn't recognize who I was.
It was just how I looked in the mirror. Something had shifted internally. I then flipped over in my notebook to entries written a few months ago, and it was as if my attitude towards the world, how I formed relationships or processed emotions -- it was as if I was a completely different person. It seems like I'm only now realizing how large that change was.

I guess it all started when I resolved to start saying yes to doing new things and to start making memories even though they might be out of my comfort zone. I started saying yes to going to new places and reconnected with old friends that I hadn't talked to in years. I said yes to a few blind dates that my friends set me up on, and even though nothing really came out of them in a romantic sense, these experiences helped me realize something within myself -- I was reminded that I could give value to a relationship and that I shouldn't compromise my happiness just because I didn't want to be alone. I started going out regularly with friends, and that sometimes doing crazy things is necessary for me to "get out there" and truly have fun. And then I started working, and people who I never would have met at school or otherwise in life have become some of the best people I've met in my life so far.

There are also things that I did out on my own. I started going to the gym again. I talked to people in the weight area (it was extremely intimidating at first, but much to my surprise, everybody was nice). I began writing again.

And slowly I realized that the judgmental, introverted person that I was started to become more outgoing and open with people. I would never have thought that was possible. Sometimes, it still feels strange and frightening, but no longer in a bad way.

So I guess the moral of the story is to keep doing what has worked so far -- to keep pushing myself and surround myself with people who support and accept me (despite my flaws), to start trusting more, and find out who I can be if I never give up. For the first time in a while, I'm excited to see what the future holds.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The New Year

2018: Hard to believe that yet another twelve months and 365 days have gone by. It feels like time has passed slowly, or in a blink of an eye. This may sound cliche, but most of the time it feels like time is flying by. And with yet another year behind us, another Jan. 1st always seems to be the "day" in which our excitement about starting anew is the highest. Although I don't consider myself to be someone who gets overexcited easily, I am extremely glad to have the opportunity to start with a clean slate for the new year.

I'll be honest, 2018 was a pretty awful year for me personally. It may seem weird for me to say because, if you look at it from an objective point of view, it seems to be the polar opposite of "miserable". I have had one of the most rewarding years ever, with getting my first official job (even though it doesn't pay too much), submitted my medical school applications (still unsure of how that might turn out), and getting back to writing and have become one of the leaders in fandom fiction. All in all, not a bad year.

But now that the year is coming to a close, I feel extremely tired, like I haven't slept well or had a good rest in a really long time. I've felt like this since the beginning of the year, and it wasn't until last week that I finally figured out why I might be feeling this way.

I don't know what exactly changed, but I have been receiving a lot of more "personal" questions on Tumblr in recent weeks. I know that most people would be pretty uncomfortable with answering such questions from strangers, but for me personally, it's more interesting than the generic "can you write a fic about (insert topic)" or "where did you buy (blank) from?". Another question that I constantly got were political questions that others felt I should comment on. Don't get me wrong -- those questions are absolutely fine -- but sometimes those questions do get repetitive and boring. After all, there are more important things going on, either politically or socially, going on these days than what brand someone is wearing or a work of fiction that somehow found its way through my mind. It was during one of these questions that the term "apathy" came across my mind. Being a political science major, it was fairly difficult for me to be truly "in the middle" about most political issues, but it did make me learn something in the process.

Allow me to explain. 2018 had been a very stressful year, but the vast majority of that stress has been self-induced. A certain amount of stress is good because it pressures us to get things done and move forward with our lives. But no matter how good something might be, there's always a point where too much of something results in a loss.

When stress in our lives begins to negatively affect our quality of life, our relationships, our mental well-being, it's often because we care too much about something. Usually, these things are issues that we can't change no matter how hard we work on them. Personally, stress was something that I forced myself to work and coexist with. For a while, things seemed to be working pretty well, but there came a point when I was winning certain battles but losing the war. In case you want more information on how I did, I lost the war on 2018...pretty badly.

It's quite a long story and difficult to explain, but I was so focused on so many things that at the end of the day just didn't matter. It was like trying to run five different races at the same time. It was a clearly impossible task, but sometimes we feel like we can still do it all. Personally, it was a failure in the sense that I was too consumed with trying to have everything. No one has everything. As time goes by, I started to realize that no one really has everything they want. We all have weaknesses -- but obsessing over our weaknesses don't magically turn them into strengths. It just makes these issues seem larger than they actually are.

That's where my point of apathy comes into play. Apathy doesn't mean I'm not aware of the problems in my life. It's more about not being too concerned about it. How about we go with an example. Let's take medical school applications (a personal example). I (and many others) went through the miserable months (June to November) where we stressed, worried, and played the "what-if" games over and over again in our minds. But what is the point of all of these hand-wringing games? Applications have already been submitted, MCAT scores and GPA's can't be changed, and unless you have the skillset to hack several systems at once, you can't change either your experience or the numbers behind your application. When I look back upon the entire application experience, I want to punch myself. All this time that I used to worry about these things could have been used for things that I could have controlled -- studying more during my classes (thus earning a higher GPA), enjoying time with my friends, or simply just taking some time to sit back and relax. What is my point? I was overly concerned with an outcome that was no longer in my control.

2019 is going to be a big year for me. I finally have a steady job that pays alright, move into the "real world" as an adult, and I have zero intentions of being financially dependent. While 2018 has had a fair amount of happy moments, I would like a pass on a potential repeat. This past year's top emotion was stress, straight and simple. This next year, I will not stress over things that are beyond my control. I am sure this next year will bring its fair share of rejection an failure, but I don't think I've been this excited for a new year in a very long time. Every so often, we need a good cleaning in our lives. Although letting go of things is never easy, some things (some people) simply need to go.

Apathy isn't about completely not caring or trying to erase what happened, but its more of putting things you can't change aside. It's about being neutral about these issues. It's about accepting the fact that you have done everything in your power to get the desired result, and accepting the end result, whatever that may be.

This may sound pessimistic, but we're all going to make someone angry, fail at something we wanted, or make a decision that will be unpopular. Should we be aware of our failures and try to improve upon ourselves? Absolutely -- turning a blind eye is not going to solve anything. But on the other hand, sitting around and trying to find the "perfect" solution can paralyze us from actually going out and living our lives. Being perfect is a lie that has been fed to us by social media. What might be right to me might seem wrong to you. There is no way for us to be able to get everything right, and we should just be content with what we have.

What's the best part about being apathetic? It gives us more time to focus on what's good in our lives -- friends, family, meeting new people. It's using our abilities to change what we can to what is important in our lives. Stress will always be a part of our lives, but, if we can learn to choose what areas we can actually change, it could affect us in a positive way.

So -- cheers to another year and a new blank slate. Thank you to everyone who has kept up with me in 2018 and keep your comments and feedback coming my way.

Happy New Year, everyone.