Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Not Alone



I was single when I was introduced to Maddie in an LGBT networking event on campus. I was in the middle of studying for three back-to-back finals then, and she was a business graduate student. I noticed her immediately; she was tall, with long blond hair tied into a ponytail and bright blue eyes that appeared to light up the room. I stared at her from a safe distance, and after a lot of convincing from my friend (and maybe some liquid courage) I positioned myself in her space and after introductions, we gave each other our numbers.
I saw her again later that evening (or night rather, it was around 8 or 9 pm). The friend I went with had already started to head home. Being the only familiar person left, she walked up and we talked for a while. One thing seemed to lead to another, and pretty soon I heard myself (I felt like I was having an out of body experience) inviting her to my dorm.
 She smelled really nice, that much I could remember. Anything else I don't because apparently, I fell asleep while she was talking.
(I was cramming around 300 pages of tiny text every day. I swore I was just going to close my eyes for a few seconds.)
So anyway, long story short, I woke up to a bright morning light coming through the thin university-issue curtains, and I saw her sitting across from me on my black chair a few feet away from where I was lying on the couch. I immediately realized that I had fallen asleep, and I apologized while feeling extremely embarrassed. She smiled at me and told me she didn't mind. She said that she was glad that I didn't talk that much before falling asleep.
With anyone else, I would have laughed out loud because that sounded so cheesy, but somehow she managed to pull it off. I felt like I was falling in love with her already.
I asked her if I could make her anything to eat for breakfast. She said that it was already a little past lunchtime. I checked my watch and saw that it was already 1:30pm. My face turned a bright red. This whole situation was just so mortifying.
So we walked down to her car, and headed to Tyler Mall and grabbed lunch at one of the small restaurants there. She was extremely easygoing and really charming such that the whole date (was it a date?) passed by in a very comfortable and relaxed way. It was getting fairly late in the afternoon before I realized how much time had passed without me realizing. I told her that I needed to study for my classes because midterms were right around the corner, and she said that she understood. She drove me back to my dorm and hugged me goodbye.
On the way back to my dorm, she asked me quite bluntly if what had happened between us (or not happened) was a one time deal, or if I had wanted to see if I wanted to take our date to the next level. I didn't know what to say. I didn't how to explain how to explain that she was too good for me and that I didn't feel like I deserved her. Or that even though I thought she was amazing I didn't think I wanted anything more. She was amazing, but at the time, I wasn't ready for anybody to be in my life. And after getting to know her, I didn't want to lie to her and lead her on. I didn't want to be "that person" in her life who lied to her about what I was looking for in a relationship.
And for whatever reason, I told her all of that. She said she understood.
***
I saw her again about a year later during another event campus. As things would have it, we were both still single, and she was still as pretty as I had remembered. I asked her how she was doing, and she said that her friends had asked her to move to New York to start a small business with them. She had thought about it and decided it was worth a chance. I told her that I was happy for her, and I truly was. She deserved to be happy and achieve her dreams. We talked some more, and it was as if we were old friends who hadn't seen each other in a long time, not strangers who had one date and (almost) a one night stand.
She asked me if I had come with anyone. I said that I had come with a friend, but she had left. She met with someone that she knew from another event, and they had gone somewhere else. I told Maddie that I was alone at this event, which was kind of lame and pathetic. And she told me "Of course you're not alone. You're here, with me."
I smiled at her and forced myself to looked away. To this day I'll never know how she managed to pull off these cheesy lines.
It's been almost three years since I've met Maddie, but I never saw her again. But to me, she will always be that girl who reminded me that I was not alone.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

How I Failed at College But Aced at Learning

Titles can sometimes be deceiving: I did, in fact, successfully graduate from college and get a degree. One year earlier than I expected, but not with the academic record that I wanted.

Finals: a series of tests that collectively make up around two and a half weeks of hell on earth with a rather large portion of your final grade at stake. Screw up one of these tests, and you most likely will find yourself retaking this course during the next quarter.

Now that I am successfully applying to medical school and writing up my secondary applications, I thought I would give myself some time to reflect on why I believe that even though my GPA is abysmal compared to most other applicants to medical school, I still succeeded at learning.
I could go on and on about how science courses don't come easily to me, or if I applied myself more, I would have gotten a better grade. But I would like to tell everyone about a class that I did well in, academically at least -- an upper-level political science course. The professor was young, never assigned any homework, never took attendance, and admitted in our first day in class that reading the assigned book was pretty much useless. To this day, I couldn't honestly tell you if I loved her or hated her. But I'm getting off track here.

The responsibilities that a student had to take in order to pass the class were pretty basic: one group paper, a midterm, and a five-minute group presentation that counted as a final. I found people who I knew to be responsible, so in other words, no real room for error. For our midterm, we were not only allowed two pages worth of cheat sheets, but we were also allowed to work with a partner. It may sound too good to be true, but at the time, it felt like I had scored a gold mine.

After going through all the lecture slides, flipped through the "useless" book in the library (thus saving myself $150), I started copying down the main ideas on my cheat sheet. I didn't really understand all of the concepts that I was copying down or why some concepts were more important than others, but I knew for a fact that the question "why was this event important" would never be tested on for a grade. To be honest, I copied down the ideas and promptly forgot about them until test day.

But as I looked up my grades online, I had to take a moment to laugh to myself: even though I received an A in this course, I just failed. The only thing that made my grade was an ability to manipulate the system. I didn't know what I was doing for the majority of the course. I didn't know the importance of the various figures that were in the textbook. And I definitely would not have gotten an A without copying down the concepts.

This brings me back to the title of this post -- more often than not, the grade that we receive is not indicative of the amount of material that we learned. After I let this sink in, I realized that this is not the first time that this has happened. In fact, after talking to a few friends, I realized that this is a pretty common occurrence. We will sit in these huge lecture halls without paying attention to a word that the professor is saying until it's a week before finals. Then, we will finally crack open the assigned book and spend a few restless nights cramming the subject material as best we can.
This, of course, is not indicative of every course that I took in college. I took a second-semester organic chemistry course at my local community college where the professor was fantastic. I managed to pass the class, but it was only through daily practice and several sleepless nights that I managed to do so. There were no cheat sheets, you either knew the content or you didn't.

Sadly, for most classes, there are not many great professors -- at least not in my three-year experience. Which, then begs the question: is getting a college degree worth it? It just doesn't happen often. More often, there are professors who are tenured or land themselves as the head of their department and are then content with being a mediocre professor at best. I remember watching a Youtube video of a professor who was complaining (that's putting it in a very diplomatic way) about students in his class using the test bank provided by the college to land a good grade on his tests. He said that the students (who got these tests through a legitimate service provided by a department which was funded directly by the university) should be sent to the dean's office for academic dishonesty. I had to pause the video and take a moment to laugh at this man's ignorance. This man -- who's getting paid more than $100k a year to teach a few classes per week -- is complaining about having to work harder for his money whereas there are students who are honestly drowning in student loans.

So instead of using the sixty or so questions from the textbook (which I assume he didn't have to buy or even know how much it costs) he now has to choose between two options:
  • A) Actually coming up with a list of questions that he wrote on his own time using his "intelligence" as a professor
  • B) Continue using the test bank and be angry at students who know how to use the resources provided to them by the university
In my opinion, he can think what he wants, but the fact that these students know to use what resources are available to them shows a lot more character than his little temper tantrum.
This brings me back to this massive question that I have been asking myself for the past few years: what do grades mean anyway? This is a scary thought, especially since my parents had paid quite the pretty penny to send me through school. I keep thinking about all the money that went into renting me out a dorm room in college, and how that money essentially became wasted in the seemingly endless bureaucracy that clogs up our college experience.

I realize that my thoughts of choosing "pointless" classes that I feel will never help me in real life is a common experience amongst students across the United States. Sometimes I think (or maybe it's coming from being young and inexperienced) that I would have been better off majoring in something like Sociology or English, something that didn't require pure memorization or knowing how to work an equation. Sure, these majors are not as "competitive" in the workforce, but I know for a fact that I would have gotten a higher GPA if I had majored in a "soft" humanities subject.

Whenever I ask my mom about what the point of all these classes are, she simply tells me that loving what you do and doing what pays the bills are usually two completely separate things. Even though this is incredibly annoying, it's also an extremely accurate statement. As much as I hate to admit it, she was right. As controversial as this is, choosing a major that will get you a steady (or very good) job is typically more "useful" than studying something that you "love" but won't pay you a dime. That's not to say you shouldn't follow your passions, far from it. But the reality of graduation is this -- how will you survive in the real world when all hiring managers have to go on is a resume?

I know that this post most likely sounds like me complaining about how I should have done things differently when I was an undergrad (and a little bit of this post is). But I don't believe I am alone in the sense that I felt that the majority of the classes I took were of little consequence to me. I can't possibly be alone in thinking that just because someone has a higher GPA, it means that they are somehow better qualified for a job. I have met many people who are considered successful but don't have a fancy degree from an upscale university. Again: is having a degree worth it? Or is it just another piece of paper?

So what's the point of this rather long post? I guess my point is that my core belief of numbers (birth year, SAT scores, GPAs, etc) are not the full measure of ability, intelligence, or knowledge of subject material. Sure, they're a good measure of what you may have learned, but it's finite. I remember a class where I got low B's on all of the tests, but I went to class every day and got "extra credit" points just for being there. I ended up getting a high A based off nothing else but the "credit" in the class. So, what grade did I really deserve? I honestly couldn't tell you.

So the next time you look at a B grade (or lower), ask something of yourself: is it better to receive an A and walk out remembering next to nothing or receive that B and walk away having learned something? If you ask me, I would rather have had learned something than get a "good" grade and remember next to nothing about my class.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Masks That We Wear


I was in a club in West Hollywood with my friend Allison, looking down from a balcony at the large group of people dancing on the main floor. Allison was not in a good mood, mainly because her boss was giving her a hard time. When she was in a bad mood, she tended to rant.

"Look at them. It's so gross."
Raising my eyebrows, I looked at her and asked, "What do you mean?"
"Everyone is fake. They're all just pretending down there."
"Pretending? I still don't understand."

"Fake. Pretentious. Example: look at that dude over there." She pointed at a guy wearing a thin tie dancing on a table on the right side of the dance floor. "I'm pretty sure when it's not the weekend, he's hauling ass at a minimum wage job who probably had to save up a week's worth of money just to afford to be in here. But look at him! He acts like he's the coolest guy in here. It's just so annoying."

"I'm sure he just wants to have fun. Besides, we don't know his history."

"Of course he isn't. Just look at him. That annoying posture. That fake swagger. He acts like he's a gift from God."
  
I didn't really know how to respond, so I decided to keep quiet. 
"Look, here's my theory. A lot of people who act cool, composed, and perfect, both here and on social media tend to be such losers out in the real world."
She now had my full attention. I looked at her seriously this time, trying to see if she actually believed what she was saying.
"That's what frustrates me so much. Why we wear the masks that we do."
"We all wear masks to some degree Ally. You should know that better than anyone else here. Hell, your job is to make people look better than they really are. I believe that you call that advertising or something. But here, in the real world, we would call that lying."
"Haha, Gina. I don't know how to respond to that because there is some truth. But here's the thing, it's one thing to wear a mask and know that it's not your true self, and really it's quite another when you start to believe your mask is the real thing."
"That's true. But the thing is, I think we all need to wear masks for our own reasons sometimes."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Family


A few weeks ago I had dinner with a few friends, most of whom I haven't seen in a long while. To put into context: I used to see them at least once a week, and this time around I haven't seen them in a couple of months. I missed them very much. They were practically my family when I was in college.

 The idea of what a family means has always been interesting, in the sense that it implies so much: love and responsibility, affection towards one another. Parents. Perhaps children. And we hold the ideal of a family like a shield against everything else; that is to say, we assume that family members are not capable of hating one another, or not be responsible, or that it requires two parents instead of just one, right along a lot of other notions that we associate with the word "family". So many people are surprised, or even angry, when a family does not resemble their ideals. A family is supposed to look like this you say, because families just are supposed to be like this. People say this as if all families are supposed to be cut from the same cloth. People say this like families cannot be as different as the people who make them.
But what about the other kinds of families? The families that you create when the one that you were born into are too busy, or just don't care to spend time. The standards that we place aren't the same, because they're not our real family. But what does a real family  mean?

For many people who are naturally inclined for something else, and being pressured by society to be similar to everyone around them, they are chained, and rebel because they feel as if they have no choice in the matter. Some people are quiet about it, fearing the consequences of being different. Some do it loudly, putting a finger out to what the world may think about them. And there are those who choose to simply live, and hope that no one bothers them and they can be left in peace.
In a sense, we are all different (hopefully not in fundamental qualities like love or a capacity to care for others) because of the lives we live. Many of us have an ideal of what the term family means, but what reality is tends to fall short of the ideals most people set forth. It's the same with everything in life, I think. We start out with an ideal, and when reality sets in it always surprises us when the person or object that we idealized falls short of our expectations.

When I was growing up, I always felt like there was something different about me. I couldn't put a finger on what it was, but I always thought that I needed to fit in to whatever image other people expected me to be. I was taller than many of my peers growing up, so I hadto play a sport. I was a girl, so I hadto be attracted to guys. I was Asian, so I hadto do better at school so my mom could tell other families in the neighborhood my grades. All these chains that held me down chafed at me, and the endless barrage of what was expected of me morphed into resentment towards my parents, some drinking problems, a sense of having to prove myself to the world, and a lot of anger. All these expectations and the feeling of never living up to what my parents wanted led me to seek approval in all the wrong places.
  
But who knows where I would be if these expectations weren't there in the first place.
Tying all this back to what a family means, it blows my mind that we put so much pressure both on ourselves and on each other to fit an ideal that we made up in our heads of what a "family" means. This isn't to say that there's something wrong with a family that does fit the traditional ideals of being loving and compassionate to each other; all I'm saying is that if we broaden our minds a bit, maybe we can at least believe to a degree that all a real family needs is to be loving and caring towards one another. Maybe nothing else is needed. In other words, why should the concept of a family be tied down to a few superficial standards?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

This Way, Not That: A Letter to My Mom


I remember sitting in the car with you, and you were talking about my future, and how you wanted me to be this way, not that. What you meant by these phrases, you never fully explained, but I remember you putting your point across by flipping your hand back and forth. And that flip-flop of your hand spoke louder than words to me, because in that one clumsy gesture with the flick of your wrist, you summarized to me what it meant to be gay.

And I remember feeling awful for both of us, and how difficult it must have been for you to even broach this subject considering the fact that you couldn't even say the word out loud. So instead of saying it, you flipped your hand over and over again, knowing that I would know what you were talking about, because I knew where you were going with this conversation, and because I knew your daughter.

Maybe you couldn't say the word out loud because saying them would make it true. And I know that to this day, you want so much for the opposite to be true. Maybe you regret ever bringing the topic up in the first place, like ignoring the problem would have kept the issue away.

I also remember not knowing what to say, or whether or not I should lie to you, someone that I've never lied to before.

So I decided to say nothing. As you were talking, I wanted to hold your hand and say to you that your daughter would turn out to be more than just okay, she is a caring, decent, thoughtful human who is in the process of possibly becoming a fine adult, and that this, the word that you couldn't even make yourself say, it doesn't matter because it shouldn't matter. In the grand scheme of things, it is a defining attribute but is also the least important attribute your daughter has been blessed with.

And I also wanted to say that I know you are worried about her because she lives in a society where there are people who would think of her as abnormal and weird, for something that she has no control over and that differentiates her from the majority of the population. And that worry you have only comes from your love, but that it doesn't change the fact that your daughter would rather have you support her because, at the end of it all, it is only when she accepts herself for who she is, and when the people she loves accepts her, will she be truly happy with her life.

And I wanted to say that you did not make a mistake with parenting, that you did not do something "wrong" to make your daughter feel "that way" about girls, and that she is simply who she is.

But instead, I remained silent. Because, to this day, you would rather believe a lie than to hear the truth about your own child. Your only child.

And so we continue to live our lives, my thoughts a blur, you in your seat worrying what you did wrong to make your daughter go "wrong". Yes, the world can be a terrifying place to live in, but it is even more so when the people who claim to love you the most are the first to reject you for the person you are.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Being Preppy



The word "preppy" means different things to different people. But what image comes to mind when the word is said?

Do you think of someone who is well off, dressed in pastel colors, with gelled hair? The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes the word as "Someone who dresses or acts like a student at a prep school (such as by wearing neat, somewhat formal clothing or by using particular words and phrases)".

Since starting college, I've been looking into switching up my style. After two and a half years, I felt as if I had found the style that fitted my personality. In the past year or so, I've described myself as being preppy, not only in terms of dress but also in the morals that I believed in. To me, being preppy meant setting yourself to a higher standard and putting yourself second, if not third. I guess I've always had these inner standards. It just took time for my outer self to match my inner one.

In many ways, I see being preppy as being respectful of traditions and history. It is being respectful of where you come from, and the belief that just because something is new does not mean it's necessarily better. But most of all, being preppy means embodying charity, compassion, and the desire to help others without wanting something in return.

However, this leads me to what we see online: Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest. What do we see when we type up "preppy"? We see guys with monogrammed polo shirts posing in front of "their"sports cars that their parents paid for, girls lying on beaches sipping on some tropical drink. In short, we see people with backgrounds of privilege, affluence, and the attitude of getting more than what your neighbor has.

How about all the other things that are behind these pictures? Is being preppy having a closet stuffed with clothes and accessories? Or having money/property passed down from generation to generation instead of having a work-hard ethic to get where you are? Is that what preppy means?

There may be an endless number of attributes to what being preppy means, but at the end of the day, what does it all mean?

Am I guilty of playing into this trope of wanting to be preppy? Of course -- but who isn't? In the past 20 years or so (or should I say in the last 2-3 years), I've definitely tried to fit in, materialistically at least. In the attempt to find my own style, I had lost myself in a cycle of consumerism.

In short, it seems as if being preppy is not what it used to be. The word has been photoshopped, filtered, and edited to the point where the word has more extrinsic meaning than it does intrinsic. However, this doesn't mean that I don't respect the term --I did at one point in time, but it's been changed to the point where it's hard for me to find any part of the word that still relates to who I am today.

And what does this mean for me? I can't give you a clear answer. Based on how the term "preppy" is defined by pop culture, I definitely do not fit this definition, and I don't want to. I don't go on vacation in Southampton. I don't come from a rich background, nor do I have a plush bank account. My parents were foreigners from China. And my style of dress? It's a mix of everything.

So if there's one thing that you take away from this post, it's this: large brand names, big houses, and fast cars doesn't make a person better than the next. The best style is being true to who you are. At the end of the day, each one of us will be remembered for the kind of people we were, not what possessions we had.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Performance Art



I'll put this out there: I'm not good with kids. If you leave me around with a kid for more than half an hour, that is a minor inconvenience to me. If you leave two kids or more with me, then you either hate your kids or you hate me.
Don't get me wrong, I love kids. I really do, it's just that I'm not good at dealing with them in a mature manner. I'd make the worst parent because I don't have the nerve to say "no" to them or do what has to be done. And speaking of that, teenagers? Don't even go there with me. If you think I'm bad with little kids you should see me try to deal with a teenager. It's a joke.

But kids are great when they're supervised by their parents or if they are with a nanny. In that situation, they can be pretty entertaining and I can put up with them. Put that kid in a public situation with people they don't know and you get double the entertainment. That's your entertainment for the night.

Marina Abramovic once said that performance art was all about context and that the context of what you do is different in a museum than out in the real world. For example, if you bake bread in a museum, it is considered art, but if you do the same exact thing at home, you're just baking bread. Children have no sense of what "context" really means, which makes them the best performance artists in the world.

I was running around the track with the kid of one of my friends when she says to me "My mom told me that you're different from other people.""I...uh...hmmm." "She says it's okay to be gay. Are you single?""I....um.......no...uh."

I have another theory. I once read some commentary about what art should mean (I read this in a required reading for one of the classes that I took while in college). The author, who was quite prominent in the art community in San Francisco, said that "good" art should be disruptive; in other words, the goal of "good" art should disrupt people's perceived idea of what "reality" means to them. I wanted to see if the author had kids because if that was true, then kids would fulfill that purpose to a T.

To back this up, I would like to bring up an example. I was celebrating my birthday with a few friends in West Hollywood. I have friends of all ages: those old enough to be my parents to those just entering college. One of my friends brought her two children with her: one son and one daughter: the son was two years old and the daughter was 7 months. If there were ever an embodiment of hyperactive energy and restlessness, it was these two children. In the restaurant that we were in, there were several other large tables with people focused on their own events.

 Now, the two-year-old boy decided he wanted to run around all over, and my friend, after half an hour of running after him and trying to get him to settle down, gave up and thought that it would be best to just let him run until he was tired. This situation was already bad enough, but then the 7-month-old little girl decided that this would be an appropriate place to practice these bloodcurdling screams that she was passing off as human conversation. It felt excruciating. My friend tried to have her stop but this kid just wouldn't stop screaming. When I looked over at the other table I saw the disapproving stare of a teen. I gave her a fake smile and pretended that having a screaming kid at your lunch table was the most normal thing possible. Disruptive indeed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Trading Up



Over coffee in a popular part of town in downtown Arcadia, Madison told me a story that touched on an aspect of dating which those of us who have been around the dating game for a bit could probably relate to. This story revolved around another friend of hers named Abby, who we viewed as a successful person (or at least as successful as you can be for someone who just graduated college). She, like so many of us, was looking for the love of her life. At some point, she was going out with someone by the name of Jonathon. From the looks of everything, it seemed as if they got along great; their personalities seemed to match, and they enjoyed being around one another. In terms of the relationship itself, or at least how they talked to and behaved around one another, it seemed like they didn't have any problems.

In terms of problems, the only one they had was that everyone around them thought that Jonathon was not in Abby's league. He wasn't particularly handsome, or motivated, or blessed with a natural talent that could have made up for everything that was average. In short, he was average in every sense of the word. Abby's friends didn't know why she was dating him, and apart from the fact that she liked Jonathon, it seemed as if Abby had no idea why she was dating him either. But because she tends to listen to her friends' input and opinions on who she dates, and also because she felt as if what they were saying had logical reasons, she decided to break up with Jonathon. It wasn't a nasty breakup, but Jonathon still had his heart broken.

A few months later, Abby heard that Jonathon had moved on and was dating another girl named Shavan. Shavan was a popular girl who was even more successful, better looking, and seemingly had a wealthier background than Abby. Abby couldn't comprehend what had happened. The main reason why Abby broke up with Jonathon in the first place was because she felt as if she needed to "be better" so to speak, and in the most ironic twist, Abby was left alone while Jonathon was the one who traded up. To her, the whole situation was confusing.

 This story was particularly interesting to me because when I was still desperate to date someone, I would always fall into this cycle. I was never truly satisfied with the person I was with, and therefore I always kept an eye on a possible person who was "better" than the person who I was currently dating. Here's what I learned from my past in this regard: that's the worst possible way to go about dating people. It's not fair for either party. It's exceptionally superficial, and doesn't get to the heart of what dating should be about, which is being with someone who you truly care about. You can either love someone or not. If too much value is put in superficial things, thinking that there is only a group of very specific people you can date or can have a possibility of falling in love with, it seems to limiting and unnecessary. From my experience, it seems that falling in love with someone (or "liking" them) is more often than not a tricky thing. It's often better to accept these feelings as a gift rather than look for problems in the other person.

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."

"Why?"

"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

Changes


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.

-Gina