Uninspired, but at peace

My Awesome Life, Uncategorized, Writing

I’m on the cusp of a profound transition, arguably the most significant one in modern life: crossing the threshold from 20 to 21.

My grand initiation into the 21 Club is scheduled on Pi Day, which may be more than 50 days away, but I thought I might as well reflect on and immortalize in writing the bizarre and uninspiring person I’ve grown into over the last two decades.

The first 20 years of my life have been a collage of confused decisions, abandoned resolutions, disillusioned attempts down various career paths, and random epiphanies about both myself and the world around me.

My teenage years revolved around an emotional pendulum rooted at equilibrium, refusing to even flirt with either extreme. I’ve been frustrated and lost, hovering in a purgatory of mediocrity and indifference for the better part of the last four years. I’ve been sad but never heartbroken, I’ve been happy but never ecstatic, and I’ve dated but never in love. At times I feel like I’m incapable of feeling anything to the fullest extent, like anything I experience will only be a dimmer version of what others have already felt. I love writing–always will–but I’ve never felt that scorching thirst to sew my dreams into narratives, never been inspired enough to write for hours on end until the sun bled into the horizon and hours bled into days. Can I ever feel as passionate about anything as professional athletes do about winning a damn trophy, or as actors do about, well, acting? Can I ever commit to anything?

My state of mind is the Jamie xx album, “In Color”—not any particular track but snippets of the entire album. In electronic music, we anticipate drops. We dig bangers that take us on pulsating mind trips and emotional roller coaster rides. The spectacular is what expect from life, too, and if we don’t get it, we lash out: “I didn’t deserve this. I just thought there’d be more.” When the going gets tough, we tell ourselves to hang in there, push through the pain and wait for eminent arrival of better days. I think that’s been my attitude for the majority of my adolescent years: You haven’t seen shit. Just wait for the bass to drop.

The bass never drops in “In Color.” It’s just an impressionistic painting of intelligent beat-making and ethereal atmospherics, delicate but brimming with wonder. Some tracks (“Far Nearer,” “Loud Places”) bottle a fountain of youthful emotions–optimism, desire, dread, yearning–into a quiet and exquisite world of gentle, fluttering synth sequences and stirring vocals. “Gosh” builds up to a two-minute climax of lush keyboard soundscapes that douse you with euphoria and hope. On the other side of the spectrum, “Stranger In a Room” envelops you in spellbinding warmth using minimal percussion beats against deep baselines, hinting that life can be okay without staggering achievements or life-changing revelations.

Electronic music is an enormous and expanding world of countless sub-genres that defy categorization. Bangers comprise a recognizable but very small part of that world; extraordinary milestones comprise but a small part of ours. I’ve been so lost and frustrated that my youth–the most exciting years of my life–has so far been defined by a maddening indifference, and that I couldn’t find the motivation to reach my full potential to make my parents proud.

But maybe I’ve been asking too much. The way we package our emotions determines the way we experience them. I’ve never been euphoric about anything, but I’ve been happy about plenty: getting into college, road-tripping with mom, feeding my dog, hanging out with friends. I just need to believe that happiness can give me the same satisfaction as euphoria. I’ve never been obsessed with writing, but I want to write and I’ll continue doing so, inspired or not. What if you don’t need to live life to the fullest to be at peace with it? I’m not in love with life, but I feel lucky to be alive and to live this life.

I doubt much will change about my appearance or attitude 12 months from now. Maybe I’ll be single and jobless at 25; maybe I’ll be profiling Leonardo DiCaprio for Vanity Fair. I can’t see either happening, but I have always been dreadful at predicting the trajectory of my life. And I’m still young. I want to believe that one day I will fall in love with life.

 

Worlds Apart

Musings/Rants, Writing

My titles have gotten progressively dumber over time. I apologize for that. If I ever write a book I’ll probably have to improve on that. Oh well, don’t judge a book by its cover, amiright?

Anyway, I briefly mentioned in my last post my discomfort with showing my blog to people I know, and I’d just like to explain that a bit more. It has nothing to do with the possible backlash or indifference. I’m used to both of that, especially from friends. If indifference is what I will receive then I’d be more than willing to share this blog on Facebook. A reaction is what I’m nervous about.

Imagine wearing a skanky dress to a club in, say, Ecuador or somewhere far and exotic. It’s miles removed from all the judgmental assholes back home. You feel free and loose for the first time in years. You flirt with everyone and drink everything that smells like it can fuck you over. You’re happier than perhaps you’ve ever been. And you just don’t give a shit because you know no one’s gonna treat you any differently after tonight.

What an awful analogy, but that’s exactly how I feel with about blogging. It’s like wearing a thong in a club and knowing that no matter how many lap dances I give my life in the real world is still going to be the same. You know, holding a secret identity with no strings attached.

Why do I care so much? Don’t I trust my friends or family? Honestly, I’m not sure. Some of them, some of the time, absolutely. But once I show them my blog – all these darkest, truest thoughts I’ve ever had – I’m not gonna be same. I’m not going to write without reservations. I’m going to be haunted by dumbass questions that I just don’t want to care about. What will they think if I say this? Will they be okay if I say I’ve never agreed with them on this thing? What if she thinks I’m attacking her? These are bullshit problems I have to deal with in real life. And the blogosphere is a much simpler, quieter, happier world. It’s a place where I can just write in peace and discover the person I want to be.

I don’t want to censor myself for other people’s sake. That’s not what good writers do. They may be sensitive to public response but they know it’s less valuable than being true to their visions. I’m not there yet. Maybe when I get there I’ll be able to fuse these two worlds and reveal my most private thoughts to the people I consider most important to me.

Freshly Pressed??

Writing

So I logged onto WordPress yesterday afternoon to check on my new post and almost got a heart attack. My stats exploded. My notification feed was bombarded by dozens of likes, comments, follows all directed at my Dream post.

I freaked out. My stats have been pretty consistent – a couple of follows every couple of days, a handful of comments on more interesting posts, a few pity likes on the boring ones. Spikes have happened numerous times before, but never this drastically. I thought a friend must have found out about my blog and shared it with everyone on Facebook. But that doesn’t make sense because all the traffic was directed at one post, and I don’t have that many virtual friends, and even fewer actual friends who would care enough to check out my blog. Besides, I’m still real paranoid about showing my blog to people I know. The social sphere and the blogosphere are two entities that I’d like to keep separate. Anyhow, I browsed the WordPress homepage and stumbled on the Freshly Pressed feed and right there, smack in the middle of the top row, is my post with its long ass title. Then it all clicked, and I was at a loss for words.

Being featured for a days and a half has already doubled my following. It’s brought me more traffic in 24 hours than I’ve gotten in the last 2, 3 months. And the support has been overwhelming. I haven’t had the time to reply to all the comments, but I’ve read every single one. It’s an honor to know that my writing has touched many of you in different ways. I connect with you guys precisely because we know nothing about each other in the real world. We’re strangers but we’re all passionate about human stories. I hope a snippet of my life has left an impression on you, just as your blog posts leave impressions on me all the time.

Thank you WordPress team for sharing a piece of heart, and thank you everyone for all the love. I’ll keep writing and keep believing, so stay tuned.

Why I Started Writing

Writing

I have to wake up in four hours, which is probably why I’ve decided to write this behemoth of a post. Maybe I should rename my blog to “Chronicles of a Chronic Insomniac.” Anyway, I haven’t written a really personal post in…a week, so I’m gonna jam one down your throats to help you get to know me better, because 120 posts later there are obviously still so, so many things you don’t know about Yours Truly.

Writing started as an escape from a reality I hated. It was right after I moved to New Zealand. I was nine years old and spoke no English. I understood a little bit of it, but I hated my accent so much that I never spoke. And I mean quite literally never spoke a word for almost the entire year (I had my fellow Chinese classmate translate everything for me). The thing that hurt me most, however, was my hairdo. I had this weird ass mullet thing that didn’t quite reach my shoulders, and the moronic shitheads in my year all thought I was a fucking boy. Like, I’d go to the little girl’s room and they’d say, “Wait, that’s the girl’s room. You can’t go in there!!!” Honestly, I was not this mad until I looked at my old school photos a couple of months ago. I was fucking adorable, okay? An adorable fucking tomboy. Oh my god I wanna do some awful, awful things to those twats. Moving on. I was such an unconfident kid. Everything around me freaked me out. One time this girl laughed at me after I fell off my chair. Okay, whoever dumb enough to fall off a freaking chair probably deserves a lot worse than that, but it just got me so bad, you know? Questions bombarded me all day. Did she tell anyone? Are they all laughing at me right now? Is that why that guy is staring at me like that?

Insecurity followed me like a plague. The paranoia climaxed (lol) during speech week. I hid behind a bookshelf. Okay I’m gonna stop here because I’m starting to sound like a bully victim and I’ve never been one. Not compared to the really bad cases, anyway. But anyhow, I’ve hated public speaking and socializing ever since. To this day. So I turned to writing. Diaries entries. Notebooks. Dozens and dozens of them. I don’t know where they are anymore but I do remember I never sounded bitter or upset. I sounded indifferent, mechanically recording down every detail of my miserable, though at times joyful, early years. Somehow those emotionless entries were incredibly therapeutic. The more I wrote about my nerves the easier they became to handle, and slowly I began to talk and open up. The more I wrote about the kids around me the less foreign and less intimidating they seemed, and slowly I began to make friends. I think that’s when I discovered the magic of writing: not only does it offer an escape from the complications of reality, it also offers you solutions to those problems.

The rest is pretty much history. I’d fall hopelessly in love with writing, even though I wouldn’t become particularly good at it until my early teens (which, in light of my twentieth birthday yesterday, seems like a century ago). I’d fall in love with essay writing, journalistic writing, erotica writing, fiction writing, and now blogging. I’ve crossed the whole spectrum, from the bizarre to the embarrassing and occasionally the sublime. I haven’t written a diary entry in a decade, but I won’t ever forget that’s how I got into this messy, beautiful, glorious love affair. And I won’t forget that I writing began as a necessity, not a hobby, and certainly not an obsession. I suppose you can say it’s almost an accident that I became a writer at all. But then again, very often the best things in life do begin as accidents.

Not About Valentines

Writing

Continuing my own tradition of not writing anything related to Valentines on Valentines, I’m just gonna recycle another article I recently wrote. I didn’t want to but this bloody holiday always puts me in a very bitter mood, and I don’t want to inflict that on anyone. So here is the first travel column I wrote for an internship I’m applying for…which I haven’t heard back in about three days now. Uh oh.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Milford Sound is the most exquisite site you’ll likely never visit. When people think of New Zealand (if they miraculously happen to know where the hell that is), they think of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown for Lord of the Rings. They think of the whitest beaches, the greenest farms, and the most-wicked cup of latte. But there is no place that embodies the essence of New Zealand quite as poetically as a single fiord cutting through south west of the South Island.

Approaching Milford Sound is like entering a dream you know you cannot latch onto. In fact, it’s been so many years since I’ve been back that my memories of it have started to fade, despite the special place it’ll always hold in my heart. I’ve only been floated down the fiord once, but even a couple of minutes is enough for that image to tattoo itself onto the back of your mind.

Historically, Milford Sound was a playground for the local Maori with expertise in predicting tidal patterns and fish feeding. It wasn’t discovered by Europeans until 1812, when Welsh explorer John Grono set food in the country. Carved by glaciers, sharp ridges emerge vertically on the calm blue waters, their peaks topped with ice. On certain sides of the 15-km fiord, waterfalls cascade down the side of jagged verdant mountains like blades of silver lightning crashing down an emerald green carpet.

Luxurious boat cruises run hourly from day to night, costing between $45 and $119 depending on the service you choose to receive. Part of the package includes a full three-course meal and an audiotape explaining the history of the magical fiord. The most exotic and magnificent marine life – from seahorses and dolphins to sea lions and whales – are on display from any angle of the cruise. Head over to the cruise decks to capture on camera sights you will you see only once in a lifetime.

11,000km from China 18,700 km from England, and 12,500 km from America, New Zealand is not a place you’d visit often. Likely, the first time you fall into the dream of Milford Sound will also be the last. Dream that dream, and don’t let it slip away.

Ink on Paper, Black on White

Daily Prompts, Writing

The last time I wrote something substantive by hand was probably on the third last day of high school. Our English teacher made us write letters to our future selves, which she would safekeep and send it to us, wherever we may be, in exactly four years time. I ended up writing about two pages of childish, clichéd, cringe-worthy bullshit that I really don’t want to read again, but still it was nice to hand write something that wasn’t an in-class essay.

Since then, I haven’t hand-written anything memorable or meaningful. Do Christmas cards count? Probably not. I still jot down ideas for new stories and sketch out rough drafts in my notebooks. But the final product is always completed on the computer. It’s just easier and faster. And Facebook is just a click away. As is Youtube. And Netflix. And Pornhub. K I’m done.

Still, I can imagine returning a pre-keyboard era. I’d like to anyway, because I love writing with a pen and all the memories it evokes. Ink on paper is intimate and human. It has character, soul, history. But the keyboard has speed. If we were to return to a pre-keyboard era, what we’re giving up is time. I don’t think we’re willing to compromise time for intimacy. Back in elementary school, I wrote notebook after notebook of journal entries, but to a kid time means nothing. The keyboard is not a magic wand, and the pen is not a liability. They just represent two different cultural mindsets in two different worlds. The world we live in right now is always short on time. Letters that can be delivered in a week or two need to be delivered in three days. Meals that can take hours to eat need to be consumed in ten minutes. We can’t afford pen and paper.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/pens-and-pencils/

F@#$***

Writing

I have a very foul mouth. If even an hour of my life was taped for reality TV, probably 60% of my lines would be bleeped out. On second thought, that happens to just about everyone who goes on reality TV. But back to the point. I wasn’t always like this. At one point in my life, during my younger Christian days, I actually regarded cussing as sinful. Along with lying and “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” Yeah, I was a sanctimonious little bitch.

Anyhow, I picked up the tween cussing fad when I was around 12 or 13. Everyone was doing it, throwing shits and bitches around the playground and demanding to fuck each other in everything they do. Integrating a “fucking” or a “shitting” into a sentence was the most gratifying experience ever. At least we had wits to keep our dumb little antics outside of the classroom. For about two years, I cussed just for the sake of cussing. I mean, if I can throw in an expletive somewhere without screwing up the grammar, then I sure as hell will make it happen. Somewhere along the way my severely underused brain realized that I was acting like an absolute retard. So I stopped doing that and became a natural cusser. Profanities just flowed out of me when it felt right. I never had to ruminate over the effectiveness or accuracy of using any particular expletive.

My predilection for obscene language does affect my writing, and that’s actually what I wanted to talk about today. Lacing prose with profanities is a stylistic technique that I often enlist in some of my stories. I think it’s necessary to capture the animated and frustrated workings of the teenage mind. Also for the sake of authenticity, since some of my more “troubled” characters are based on actual people who can’t put together a sentence without mentioning private parts. Yet, people have told me to go easy on the profanities because using them routinely dampens the impact they could have when the situation calls for it. It’s hard to argue with that, and I have been thinning out the fucking profanities in both my normal posts and my fiction pieces. Over-saturation is never a good idea.

But to be quite honest, I’ve never been bothered by obscenities. Writing shouldn’t always be confined by decorum and modesty. If vulgarity and irreverence is the theme you want to go for, then by all means go all the fuck out. It’s entertaining and funny as hell. You know, like The Wolf of Wall Street. Or that Beckett play. Waiting for Godot or something? Well, that one’s neither entertaining nor humorous, but whatever. Point is, sometimes it’s okay to shove a shitload of mud into your motherfucking mouth and just write whatever the hell you feel is right for your damn story.

Okay, I’ll restrain from cussing for the next two posts.

Invisible Light

Musings/Rants, Writing

“To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness. Beneath your world of skies and faces and buildings exists a rawer and older world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air.” – Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

I feel like I can quote Doerr forever. I’d give up every last one of my pitifully unremarkable talents to have even a tenth of his creative genius. To for just a second see the world as he sees it.

Why is the alley so much scarier when it’s dark? Why do we have trouble falling asleep after seeing something unsettling? Why do we associate light with goodness and darkness with evil?

Because darkness renders our eyes useless. Light is the key that unlocks the windows to the soul. We rely on a twin of aqueous spheres to navigate the treacherous terrains of the world and the labyrinth of life. In those spheres we place absolute confidence. But do our eyes really deserve that? Does the world contain only truths that can be seen? Is all light visible? In a way, we are never more blind than when we use only our eyes to see the world. Eyes make us followers, absorbing and accepting only what’s laid out in front of us, only what’s visible. Eyes tell us to reject the heart, to disregard instinct for truth and imagination for pragmatism. But what if the truth is wrong? What if it’s conscience and courage, the invisible light, that can lead you to the right path? Maybe the eye that gives us insight resides deep within ourselves, inside some bloody, muscular, always-throbbing pear-shaped thing no bigger than a fist.

Unlike those milky spheres, this eye illuminates darkness.

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

Throwback Thursday: College Essays

Throwback Thursday, Writing

Don’t we all wish we can relive the sweet torture of applying for colleges? Sacrifice months of sleep and sweat and hope on bullshit resumes and essays for a bunch of rejection letters. Best bargain I’ve ever made. But I guess it was all worth it in the end, because I can’t imagine having a better time at any other school than NYU. Anyway, the following essay is the only one I didn’t get to use at all, and being the narcissist I am, I figured it would be such a shame to let such a rare piece of literary genius go unread. I’m kidding. Sort of.


Excitement surged through me as I zoomed down a familiar double-black route on Mammoth Mountain, relishing the crisp scent of the pines and the gentle swish-swash of my snowboard against the soft snow. The biting wind sliced into my cheeks as I descended the almost vertical slope. As I leaned on my heels to make a right turn, I lost balance and crashed into something sharp. My torso lunged forward in the familiar manner that preceded a painful fall. I dived into the snow and felt ice seep into my fleece jacket, piercing my skin. Gasping with the cold, I sat up and ripped off my goggles. The sepia landscape blossomed into vibrant colors. Pine trees blotched the bumpy snowy slopes like splashes of green and brown paint spattered across a rough, white canvas.

I found myself in a vividly familiar yet unsettling situation. Lost and alone.

Seeing bark and rocks scattered dangerously over the snow, I realized that I had landed in the off-boundary territory, far from the lifts and farther from the lodge. The darkening sky indicated that I had less than a half hour left before the lifts closed for the day and I would be stranded. I was about to dig out my cell phone to call my parents when I remembered that there was no signal at this altitude. I began to panic. Taking a deep breath to calm myself, I assessed my options. There were but two: to head down this haphazard route or to walk up the steep hill, carrying my board. While the latter was much safer, it may not take me back before dark. My gut instinct was to storm down the rocky slope and take the last lift back to the lodge, but images of broken limbs kept flashing through my mind, like a typical scene from Wuthering Heights. But I was accustomed to taking risks. Taking risks handed me detentions and injuries, but it has also fostered my decisiveness.

Deciding to trust my gut again, I dashed down the craggy hill.

Getting lost on a mountain may not have been particularly profound, but it demonstrates the potential of my tendency to take risks. If audacity combined with naive curiosity was the catalyst that drove me to wander off so much as a child, perhaps it can give me the courage to find unexpected opportunities as an adult. Though life in college will undoubtedly present more complex dilemmas, I believe I will manage as long as I remain calm and take calculated risks.

Speed Demons vs. Slow Burners

Writing

I don’t know if there’s a “right” approach to writing. Some people brainstorm and research about a topic before they start scribbling, then they go through at least three drafts before they publish the real thing. Others, like me, just wing it. We sit in front our laptops or notebooks and stare into space, chewing our thumbs while waiting for inspiration to strike. It’s not the most efficient approach because inspiration is a fickle little shit. It’s like an electric shock that comes at random intervals, leaving you in alternating waves of elation and despair. It works a bit like resurfacing memories – vignettes from a past era that randomly materialize in flashes. There is no way to control inspiration; you just have to run with it when it strikes and wait for it when it’s gone.

This is the way I’ve been writing for years – spontaneous but directionless. Under most circumstances, it’s worked pretty well for me. Except, of course, during in-class essays when the clock doesn’t accommodate inspiration’s fickle ways. (To be honest, I just don’t believe timed essays are in any way an accurate assessment of anyone’s writing skills.) I’ve never exactly bombed any of those stupid ass essays, but I haven’t gotten that many As either. And every single time I stare at my blank test booklet, freaking the fuck out and praying for an idea to hit me while everyone else relentlessly scribbles away, I always kick myself for not adopting another approach to writing. A more mechanical one that included brainstorming and fast thinking.

But then again, our writing process, unlike our writing style, is not something that we get to choose. The way we approach writing is linked to the way we think. Some people can just think on their feet and crank out an 800-word paper in twenty minutes. I’m not one of them, and I never will be no matter how fucking hard I try. And I think that’s okay; there are different career paths for both fast and slow writers, which is another reason that I think I’m a doomed journalist.