Up in the Air

My Awesome Life

I’m on the plane right now, leaving a place that I’ve come to regard as a home like no other. Funny thing is, I’ve probably had this same feeling about every place I’ve lived in so far. Places that hold a special place in your heart not only look spectacular but also produce the kind of memories that evoke neither bitterness nor ecstasy–just a dizzying fondness.

Home is running barefoot all year round, across scorching sand and frozen grass. Home is circling around the same blocks searching for cheap eats at 2am. Home is driving with mom at dusk, dozing off to shitty radio hits and craving cheeseburgers. Home is the bookstore with the greatest flat white in the entire world.

And home is where friends are–real friends who talk to you because they care about your opinions, not because they just want to brag about parties and sex. Home is where you can nap on a cliff and know that someone’s always there to catch you. It’s where a genuine conversation is not some shallow one-way traffic that leaves you feeling like you’ve just wasted hours of your life.

Home has nothing to do with time. You can fall in love with anywhere instantaneously or gradually. It’s never isolated. Maybe I can’t hate New Zealand because the memories there are so pure and the scenery is so beautiful. Maybe I can’t love California because I’m not going back to the same people I met and cared about 2 years ago, or the same family that I moved there with before high school started.

Maybe home is just a mirror of our consciousness. It’s supposed to change with time, with us. We can’t love something with the same intensity forever. I want to go back to New York. The place that I’m in love with at this moment.

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Moments.

My Awesome Life

If you’re one of those few awesome people who follow my blog regularly, you’d know that I’m obsessed with time. I used to write about it frequently until I realized that my obsession is so ironic because I’m always wasting time.

If I have a two hour gap between classes, I’d spend it stalking people on social media or playing that stupid new iPhone game instead of finishing those seven excruciatingly long pages in Symposium. That means those seven pages are reserved for midnight, after Netflix and dinner with friends and the internship columns and the ten other distractions that I can’t even remember right now. But at midnight I’ll remember that I haven’t showered in two and a half days and, being obsessed with time, I’ll feel obliged to change that. So instead of reading those pages and getting a good seven-hour sleep for the test tomorrow morning, I’ll hop in the shower and start thinking about the dumbest shit like the first time I’ve ever listened to Nirvana or that remarkably beautiful moment each fall when I realize that the leaves are no longer green.

And before I know it it’s 12.40am, but for some reason I don’t start reading until 1.40am. By then I’ll feel so guilty for wasting so much time that I only read 3 pages for 20 mins and hop into bed at 2am. But ofc I don’t sleep till 2.30 because my perpetually nostalgic mind will wander down memory lane to a bunch of obscure memories from 6, 7, 8 years ago that I had long since forgotten.

I haven’t stopped feeling guilty about my inability to conserve time until yesterday morning at 5am, when I went to sleep. I got back from a friend’s friend’s birthday party (because I have no friends of my own) at 3am, slightly tipsy and quite lonely and very, very depressed because all my (very few) friends ever talk about is their significant other halves while I, talented kind and exceptionally beautiful, remain directionless in life and partnerless in love. Anyhow, right after I got back two of my friends wanted to Skype together. I obliged despite my exhaustion because in that frame of mind I would have slept next to the security guard just to be next to someone. And as we Skyped and bitched about people and life and love and school, my drunkenness and loneliness and self-loathing slipped away one by one, so subtly that I didn’t notice anything until happiness, the intoxicating happiness associated with familiarity and company, pretty much made my head explode. Life is better with company. I fucking hate that line because it’s so fucking true.

And that, finally, brings me to my grand epiphany. Maybe wasting time is how we’re supposed to college. Maybe not knowing how to focus on the important shit is the beauty of our 20s. Drinking past midnight. Talking till dawn. Procrastinating on absolutely everything. Sleeping so late every night that morning doesn’t begin until the clock hits double digits. Reminiscing on the not too distant past, speculating on the not too distant future: nostalgia and optimism so closely intertwined that they’re almost interchangeable. It’s toxic, I know. But it’s temporary. We can’t afford to waste time and abuse our bodies so carelessly in our thirties, or forties, or God forbid fifties. Maybe it’s okay to be that reckless, spoilt college kid once in a while.

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.

Me me me me meeee

Musings/Rants

I had a déjà vu moment on the plane yesterday. I was sitting next to two other college kids around my age. They could have been NYU students. We didn’t talk or even look at each other that often, but I kept thinking that maybe I’d bump into them around the city, in some random diner in the East Vilage or on the subway to Dumbo, or just in Econ class. There has to be some reason that three young adults were placed in the same row two days before spring semester took off.

That reminded me of my preschool days, when I was convinced that everything and everyone revolved around me. Maybe it’s a very typical prepubescent mindset, but the idea that most objects/people I encounter actually have nothing to do with myself and my life just made zero sense to me. I was still young enough to believe that everything had a purpose. Oblivion was a concept way too complicated and bleak for my untainted little head. I believed that everyone I spotted on the streets would, perhaps unbeknownst to me or them, shape my future in some small or big way. How or why never occurred to me. All I knew is that they wouldn’t have appeared in my consciousness if they weren’t important. Nobody passes by without leaving a footprint.

I don’t know if that was naive or narcisstic. It didn’t matter anyway, because I was a five year old dumbass. At five you can skin a cat and people would still call you cute. Uh I would, anyway. What I mean is that as a kid you have an excuse to be self-centered and naive. At nineteen you don’t. So I don’t know why the hell I thought that I’d meet those stupid people again just cuz they were my age and acted like me. Maybe because things like that happened in movies all the time, and I just wanted one part of my life to feel like a goddamn Hollywood cliche. Maybe I just haven’t been around college kids for too long. At least that’ll change soon enough.

Hyphens

Bedtime Stories/Fiction

“Don’t you dare start episode 2 without me.”

Those were the last words he’d ever hear from her. It’s been five years and the agonizing truth of that statement still hasn’t sunk in. When he goes to the bathroom in the morning, he’s still wary of her popping out of the blue, shoving him aside with a infuriatingly smug expression, and taking her usual 40-minute shower while his balls turn blue. When he game-rages at his laptop deep into the night, he still awaits that pissed off scream of “shut the fuck up.” When the ghost of winter creeps into his dorm room, he still opens the door on Sunday mornings expecting a small cup of Spanish Latte to be smiling up at him from the floor.

14 years they’ve slept a wall and ten feet away from each other, and now all that’s left of her are some fading, disjointed images that return to him at random intervals with diminishing lucidity. Like a group of flickering candles about to be extinguished by the gale of all the intervening years.

Nose sharper than broken glass. Eyes greener than lime peel. Hair browner than bark, dryer than wheat. Exact replicas of his own features. His female avatar.

The same questions still bombard his mind. Why couldn’t he have told her that he’d watch the whole damn season if she took even one step out of the house? Why couldn’t he have insulted her dumb friends like he always had and made her start a cuss war with him? All he needed was a few minutes. Perhaps even seconds. Just a moment longer for her to jay-walk at the intersection right after the Lexus zoomed by. He alone had the power to prevent that goddamn car from crashing into her narrow hips, from inflicting a lifetime of sorrow and regret upon his whole family.

A cool Autumn breeze picks up the yellow leaves from the grass, twirling them around his sister’s gravestone. 1995-2009. He lights a Marlboro and stares at the hyphen linking the two numbers – the representation of her whole existence. In that hyphen is everything that happened between her first heartbeat and her final one. Every laugh every dream every accomplishment: condensed to a single line. The same line that represents every life ever lived on every gravestone ever erected. He lifts his eyes to the silvery blue sky and expels circles of wispy white smoke, remembering with a blinding clarity the one time she asked him if their children would also look like twins.

Perhaps the hyphen is the perfect embodiment of every person’s journey through life. Souls may be created with unique features, but they all leave the same way – as memories for other souls.

Why?

Musings/Rants

There was a time when buying books was as rare as an April snowstorm.

When I was kid, the library was my favorite place. I’d grab as many books as my tiny hands could carry, pass my card to the librarian, patiently wait for her to scan each book, then sprint back home so I can dive into a new world. We get to keep the books for a couple of weeks at a time. It’s like Netflix without the subscription fee. Well, sometimes I just stay in the library for five hours, reading no more than ten pages of twenty different books and return home empty-handed but certainly not empty-headed.

The library’s every bookworm’s dream, but it’s been years since I’ve borrowed a book. It’s been years since I’ve gone to a library for any purpose other than cramming for a test. I read just as much now as I did back then. The only difference is that the books are now stacked on my own shelves. Or stored in my kindle. Or saved as PDF files on my computer. Yes, many people still borrow books and frequent public libraries, but kids my age want to own everything. want to own everything. We’re greedy and stingy at the same time. We want free ownership…hence the illegal downloads. I do that for music and movies (unashamedly cuz I’m a horrendous human being) but never for books. Maybe it’s just my prejudice against the Entertainment world, but to me books are the only one of the three that are worth paying for. More than that, ownership of books demand to be paid for.

Yet none of that explains why I’ve stopped going to the library. Truth be told, I’m not so sure of the answer myself. Perhaps it’s because I’m always reading on the go, and borrowing and returning books just became too much of a hassle. Perhaps it’s because I don’t to be reminded of the sappy cringe-worthy romance crap I used to love. Perhaps it’s because every other library has become some favorite hookup location for horny couples. I have absolutely no idea. All I know is that I wouldn’t feel comfortable even if I do visit that little library Browns Bay, New Zealand. The chairs would be too small and the tables too high. Too much has happened for me to return to that place without feeling intrusive.

Salad Days

Daily Prompts, My Awesome Life

I think I’m too young to be talking about the good old days, but I do reminisce about my boarding school days with an aching fondness, which is weird because I absolutely loathed my time there.

My two-year journey started in mid-2002, just in time for the start of second grade and the outbreak of the SARS epidemic. If I start talking about my experiences there, I’d sound like a broken record. The academic stress (elementary schools in China are slightly more challenging than those in America), the homesickness, the bullying: you’ve heard it all a million times over. My fears and struggles were no different to any other kid’s, so there’s no point getting into them. What I do miss about that difficult yet rewarding period of my childhood was the purity of it all. It was a time when we didn’t lie about grades to keep our faces. It was a time when breaks consisted of tag and thumb war rather than Youtube videos and backstabbing gossip. It was a time when girls liked boys because they were funny and sweet rather than tall and dashing. It was a time when orange juice was a breakfast staple rather than a chaser. It was a time when 69 was just an odd number that looked weirdly symmetrical. It was a time when we weren’t afraid to dream.

It was a different China back then, and a different me. I was resilient and compassionate without even realizing it; now, I have to consciously stop myself from pretending to be nice. Everything was so transparent back then: every emotion, every thought we had was tattooed in our expressions. Us teenagers are too sly and phony for our own good, and I guess I’m just tired of guessing all the time. At nineteen, I believe my best days are still ahead of me, but my purest and most honest are long gone.

Throwback Thursday: July 2004

Throwback Thursday

Moving to a new place is challenging, especially if it’s 8000 miles away from your old home. It’s been more than a decade since I moved to New Zealand from China, but that first day of school remains one of the scariest experiences of my life. Walking into my 5th Grade (it’s called Year 5 in NZ) homeroom was like crashing a Christmas party. All the kids were sitting cross-legged in semicircle, eagerly awaiting the fat, loving mother (in this case the teacher) to pass out the presents…then in walk me: this weird Chinese FOB who spoke no English and had only seen one Caucasian in real life prior to that day.

I felt like an intruder. More than a dozen eyes zeroed in on my face, dripping with naive curiosity. You know, that’s one of the things I miss most about childhood – those animated prepubescent irises, always seeking but never filled with malice. I didn’t know it then, but that was be the first and last time I would ever be greeted with a roomful of those eyes. Aging taints you: that’s just something we have to accept. Anyhow, on that first terrifying day everyone did all they could to make me feel welcome. Some girl helped me set up my desk and invited me to eat lunch with her, the teacher taught me how to play this weird game, and everyone smiled me at some point. Granted, they might as well have been talking to a potato because I never responded once to their questions, but I was pretty freakin touched by their kindness.

I made it through that whole day without speaking a word, and honestly it took me two years to start regularly conversing in English with everyone. Since that day, I’ve just never been that comfortable communicating with strangers, or anyone who’s not particularly close to me. Why that is I still don’t quite understand. Everyone was so nice. If anyone else were in my place, I’d have expected he or she to fit in real fast. I guess the reason I became so introverted is that I just didn’t want that nice crowd to turn on me once they realized how awful my accent was or how lame my personality was. That’s why I stayed quiet and kept to myself, because no one can judge you if you don’t do anything.

It’s been 10 years and many new starts since that day. One thing I’ve learned is that the dread upon starting a different journey never goes away, but you do get used to it. And you learn to accept if not love it, because dread is what keeps you motivated.

Six Hours of College

My Awesome Life

Yesterday I visited my friend Alyssa at UCI. It was the first time I walked onto a college campus since May, when I left NYU for summer break. It’s only been five months but it sure felt longer than a year. Seeing all these people and hearing all the excited chatter was a strange feeling. Kind of exhilarating and sweet and nostalgic all at once.

At around 5, Alyssa took me to a frat meeting. Maybe it was the familiar freezing air-conditioned room, or maybe it was the friendly inquiries about professors and majors and career goals…perhaps both, but either ways I felt like I was back in Washington Square Park, where I was exactly a year ago, where I am supposed to be right now: new and nervous and ready (kind of like a virgin about to be fucked to pieces. JK). When I found out four months ago that I had to skip fall semester of sophomore year, I wondered what I was going to miss the most about school. The freedom? Friends? Assignments and all-nighters? Or just NYC in general (a.k.a the food, the nightlife, the noise, the people)? As I sat in that cold ass room wondering why the fuck colleges have to amp up the AC so damn high, I realized that I just miss being a fish in the sea, invisible and engulfed by the thrill of it all. People sit next to you, walk by you, see you, maybe even say hi to you, but they don’t actually know you. We’re all part of the same little universe, sharing the same experience, but still we’re mysteries to each other. It was nice to experience that again, even just for six hours.

Home Sweet Home

Daily Prompts

Welcome, Stranger

Think about the town where you currently live: its local customs, traditions, and hangouts, its slang. What would be the strangest thing about this place for a first-time visitor?

Honestly? The strangest thing about Irvine, California is that there’s nothing strange about it. It’s very hot almost 300 days a year, has way too many Asians, and has been voted America’s safest city for I don’t know how many consecutive years. We don’t have any spectacular local cuisines or historical monuments or exotic customs. There’s really nothing to attract tourists. People come here to settle – to give birth and raise families and die. That sounds awfully bleak, but Irvine is the kind of city that makes people feel comfortable and secure rather than inspired and excited.

To me the one standout place in my town is Suicide Hill, which is basically the top of this mini hill that overlooks the entire city. The high school kids in my town usually hike up at night to chill, drink a few beers, and admire the spectacular city lights which are actually not that spectacular at all. If I were to describe this place objectively, it’s really just a barren, elevated piece of land with a few rocks and a bench and a bunch of bright dots in the black, black sky. Yet it’s one of my favorite places in the world. When my friends and I return from college in the winter and summer, the first place we revisit is Suicide Hill. Whenever a college friend or a boyfriend or a sibling visits from out of town, the first place we take them to is Suicide Hill. It’s always like, “oh never mind about food, let’s go to Suicide Hill.” Sounds bleak as fuck, doesn’t it? I’ve never understood the name. For me it’s more like Memory Hill. What I remember about it are not the rocks or the lights or the cold air but the stale beers and the long chats and the laughs. The memories are nothing particularly special, but every time I go back it feels like home. It’s the place where we’ve shared our worries about the SAT and skepticism about love and excitement for college and nostalgia for the good old days. It’s where we grew up.

So why is this place strange for first-time visitors? Because they’ll have no idea why we love this ordinary barren piece of land so damn much.

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