Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Superhero (drunk rant)"

I am the kind of heartbroken that
is nuanced enough to not come out most of 
the time, for I have been heartbroken before
and it takes tears that match the raindrops on 
a bus with a drunk friend in the corner
to understand what I have been escaping from.
I love you and even though I know we are
not right for each other, I wish that
I could hear you tell me that you 
love me one more time and I cry quietly
hoping that the bus driver doesn't notice.
My friend is asleep and I wonder whether
I miss you only because I am lonely and I am spiralling
downwards in my thoughts. Is my love for you
conditional on not having been able to
find someone new? Or have I always loved you and
just been able to successfully suppress it until now;
I do not know but I am alone and these words come
out and all I know right now is that I wish I was strong enough
to accept the kind of love that you were offering me because
our lives would be so simple like that. There were many times
I never quite told you how I felt because I did not know
how to express it and I felt unfulfilled in many of those times
but I am sad right now, filled with grief over the loss of you
and yet not enough that you turn into my superhero.

Monday, October 12, 2015


There's something that I've wanted to write about for a while here but I don't really know how to articulate it. I fear that I am somehow letting other people who are going through the same thing down by not writing about this in a satisfactory way, so here's my disclaimer that this is post is entirely only about my own experiences and does not speak for anyone else's.

Without beating around the bush, I've been struggling with minor anxiety and depression for the past few months. I have been hesitant to use these as I never sought a proper diagnosis, but I will do so here because I identify with the definitions of these words as we commonly understand them. Know that I don't use these words lightly at all, and it took a lot before I could - or had to? - come to terms with what was happening.

I see my anxiety and depression as two things that are never quite there at the exact same moment, two sides of a broader issue that explain and also exacerbate the other. I get quite a lot of pressure from home in my academic life, and I put a lot of pressure on myself too. The reality that I'm doing pretty well makes me worry that I have more to lose, that I might come close to "succeeding" (whatever that means) but not make it. On the flip side, I feel down when I've had too much idle time because I start thinking about how insignificant one individual life is in the grand scheme of the universe; does anything I do really matter? In my effort to combat to my blues about my life being utterly insignificant, I turn to my control-freak side to do as much as I possibly can so that I don't feel purposeless. In my sleep-deprived, coffee-fueled, stumbling state, I freak out about my schoolwork while taking solace in the consciousness of my stress, my mind being stretched, and my vitality. I feel the most alive when I'm stressed because I feel like there's a challenge immediately in front of me which I can fight. It might be hard, but in times like these I know what I have to do to respond to a challenge of that nature. With enough organization, discipline, and hard work, these challenges are not insurmountable to me. The questions of how to stop feeling sad over how all human relationships come to an end, how to define my purpose in my life, and whether there is truly any purpose in this world are not questions I really know how to even approach. Thus, I kick the metaphorical can down the road by throwing myself into my work. You can see how the reverse connection happens too - in the midst of a particularly dark cloud of stress, I break down when I allow myself to think about why I'm bothering to try so hard. I might never feel fully satisfied with myself in any aspect of my life, but I feel a greater awareness of my being as I feel guilt over the privilege I have to be able to constantly reach higher, to change my mind, to complain about my problems. That said, privilege and inadequacy also go hand-in-hand in my thoughts; for all my privilege, sometimes I also feel like my abilities are mediocre and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes I feel like all my successes are mostly a result of the background I was born into. Am I appreciated for qualities that are absolutely from my own doing?

I hit rock bottom - I'd like to think that's what it was for me - when one day I started crying, like hardcore crying, at the dining hall. Though it might not have looked like it at all to an outsider (I am aware that there might be a disconnect between what my life looks like to others and what it looks like to me), things were truly really bleak for me. I would go home after my classes to cry, and then freak out about having been unproductive during that time. I would start some work, and then resume crying when I asked myself what the point of working was. I was mostly able to avoid these problems in the past few months by staying extremely busy (I went from this past spring semester to immediately working at a law firm to immediately replacing a teacher at the school I taught at last summer to starting the fall semester), but I could only run away for them for so long. All these problems came back to hit me very hard when I felt overwhelmed by my harder classes this semester and feeling like my friends were all further away from me. After sobbing at the dining hall (super grateful for the friends who happened to be there and comforted me!), I decided that I couldn't continue like this. At my worst, I honestly didn't know what I was living for, like maybe there was no point to anything I was doing. That hopelessness was then followed with immense guilt for even thinking that I had a right to feel that way - and like that, negative guilts followed one after another.

At times, I thought about this weird line of logic - if psychological problems aren't supposed to ever be the individual's fault, if these things happen beyond an individual's control, then perhaps I was supposed to just accept the circumstances I had been given and just stick it out? But that passivity scared me, and I was like, "nah, fuck that."

[Side note: this particular train of thought made me examine my own subconscious stigma towards psychological issues. If we praise people for being strong when they overcome their problems, are we silently implying that the people who haven't gotten better are weaker? How is it that we say that psychological problems are not the fault of the sufferer, and yet we implicitly look down on those who fail to get up as quickly as some others? Or can a more nuanced argument be made to distinguish between attributing responsibility to when people develop psychological problems, and to what people do about said psychological problems? I'm no psychologist, so this is just a digression.]

While I think that my controlling, "I need things to go my way" self is part of what got me into this mess, I believe that it is also the thing that might save me. I finally sat down, acknowledged the extent and complexity of my problems for the first time, identified the things that get me in a bad state, actively wished to get better, and came up with a plan to get better. I read a bunch of articles on overcoming anxiety and depression, and felt incredibly hopeful that the odds were in my favor. I have an incredible support system, I hadn't let my problems really affect my work so there wasn't much to catch up on, and I have so many possibilities in front of me. I concluded that personally, it was best for me to keep working super hard at school - by striving to give myself less reason to be anxious, I can spend more time checking in on my mental health, trying out new things, spending time with my friends, and actively making my days happy ones. I asked myself the miracle question (it's been a while since I took Psychopathology, so I might be wrong) - I thought about how I wanted this semester to end, assuming no limits. Of course, I want to do well, but I also want to leave for home in December feeling like I had a lot of good times, and feeling like I made the people in my life happy too. With this end vision in mind, my personal plan to get better involves detailed plans for most days so that I continue to do fine in school, and more scheduled quality time for the things I enjoy doing - I do have minor crises about what it is I actually like, but I think these things include talking and listening to people, reading, and writing.

I'd like to think my plan is working well so far, a few weeks in. This post is not about that time I conquered anxiety and depression. My well-being is definitely still a work in progress. I still don't have the answers for the greater questions that trouble me surrounding humanity and my purpose in life. I still get stressed out all the time sometimes, and as much as I want to be organized about everything, that doesn't always happen. However, I am proud of myself for putting my best foot forward, and for trying really hard in the various aspects of my life. I am proud that I managed to articulate what I felt would be really hard to put into words, and I am sharing this with you because...well, there actually isn't one definite reason why. On a selfish level, it has been incredibly liberating to acknowledge my problems openly. That said, I realized after telling a couple of my friends about my struggles that these feelings are not uncommon. There is beauty in the way people relate to each other and draw strength from connections. Yet, it's totally okay if nobody relates to this; this post can merely be an update on this blog about how I feel. I'm a little lost, but it's going to be okay.

tl;dr - my current Instagram bio, a quote from Beau Taplin - "She was unstoppable - not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them."

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A mid-summer report.

[Note: This is kind of a follow-up to this post.]

Eight weeks of summer have passed and they completely flew by for me. Here are some key takeaways:
  • I've moved from my dorm to temporary housing and to the townhouses and to a professor's house and back to the townhouses again. The next major move will be in two weeks, when I head home for the remaining four or five weeks of summer.
  • Thanks to my roommate, I've become exponentially better at feeding myself (proof is on my Instagram) and I'm no longer deathly afraid of kitchens. When I was on my own for dinner on Thursday, I decided I was going to make "something simple" - which turned out to be seared zucchini in tortillas with homemade avocado salsa, along with two semi-cooked eggs with soy sauce (it's a Singaporean thing, I think. or at least, a Toast Box thing. it sounds weird, but it's really good) as a side dish. I sat there, ate what I made, did the dishes after, and it was only then that I realized how far I've come. If I was in this situation before May, I would've had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or gone out to eat. In the past month, I've made all sorts of dishes, expanded my tastes, and used spices I previously didn't even know existed. I still have a long way to go, but it's been really cool recognizing that there are so many more options when you have the determination to learn how to cook.
  • Another thing about food - I work in Utica, NY, where there are way more restaurants than in my small college town. Though it's kind of not the smartest fiscal decision, I've been trying out a lot of different places and indulging the foodie in me. I was told that chicken riggies and steamed clams in butter are both "Utica things", so I tried them. Other memorable dishes include Asian-style calamari, the best grilled portobello sandwich I've ever had, and greens (they look so simple, but they're strangely addictive). I'm also told that there's great Lebanese food nearby, so that's something I'll have to try within my last two weeks of work. Through all this, I've become good friends with a coworker who's a law student and also loves food; we go for lunch together and we probably wouldn't have gotten to know each other on such a personal level if not for being foodies.
  • I did a lot of thinking (when do I not? do I ever?). I know that my rarely-quiet mind and need to constantly reflect internally form one of my biggest strengths and also one of my biggest potential source of problems. It's been interesting beginning to try and objectively analyze whether my overthinking in each specific situation is constructive or not before moving forward; I can't tell whether I'm just less stressed because school isn't in session and I feel better in general (but I generally feel pretty good all the time?), or maybe I've gotten better at letting go of the things I know I can't control and just "going with the flow" (an expression I normally despise because it's like, we are conscious beings, why be passive when you could be in control of the outcome) with things that I realize won't matter that much in the grand scheme of things. So, lots of thinking, but also lots of living in the present (not that these two are completely mutually exclusive, but you get what I mean).
  • I had this image of myself living in a nice apartment with a cat as a grownup. I guess I thought having a cat was like, an alternative to having children. Living with two cats for a month in the professor's house made me decide that I don't actually want this; I've been scared of/never really been crazy about animals and I was silly to imagine having a cat despite knowing this. (I guess I just wanted to copy Taylor Swift.) This makes me sound awful, but they were just kind of there at best and a minor burden at worst. I followed the instructions that I was given for feeding and litter, but that was pretty much it. No cats for the girl with the green glass heart.
    • Yet another thing - I have pretty strong feelings for when people insinuate (or flat out say) that not liking children or animals is not normal, or is an indication of being a heartless/bad person. I might be biased because I don't think of myself as a bad person and don't want to be perceived that way by others, but sometimes I feel like society has dictated that it's unacceptable to dislike them - we're all supposed to find pictures of kids or animals super cute and be super warm towards them. I think that some people - as a result of nurture and/or nature - just simply dislike children and/or animals; that's just how it is and everybody should accept that without judgment as long as these people still treat children and animals respectfully.
  • A word about my work - I love it. I'm a student paralegal at a nonprofit legal organization that provides pro bono legal services to a certain demographic in the region. I finalize bankruptcy cases before they are referred to private attorneys who then represent the clients in court for free. So in everyday terms, I write memos, do research, piece together a greater picture of a client's financial situation from all their letters and bills, and use a certain software to produce bankruptcy schedules. I'm learning a lot everyday and I've gotten to know a number of the staff well. This is quite different from my teaching job last year - for one, I carpool with four other kids working for organizations in Utica, so there's no staying back late (I always say that I don't think I ever worked as hard as I did last summer, especially in terms of time) because it's not like I could just hold everyone up. I was surrounded by other college kids last summer, and this year I'm clearly the youngest person at the firm. Other than the coworker who's in law school and is five years older than me, everyone else is between their late thirties and their seventies. I think that leads to a different dynamic in interactions. It's really crazy how only a few months ago I thought, "hey, maybe law might be a path for me" and it quickly became one of my driving forces to do much better. I also can't believe I managed to get this particular internship, so I'm grateful for that.
  • Something memorable happened a few days ago. One of my favorite people at the firm who's this super-sharp old man and lives right outside my college town said to me, "Don't let this get to you, but you have a great personality. You're so extroverted, and you just have this passion for life that shows. It's not something that can be taught." I didn't know how to react because:
    • I've self-identified as an introvert (even if my MBTI result says otherwise) since my early teens. Though I've definitely become much more outgoing in college (wasn't crazy about many people in high school), I know I derive my strength and energy from within, and I prefer to be around a few close friends instead of being at a huge gathering of people I don't know too well. Sometimes I feel like I have to consciously flip a switch in order to get out there and talk to people because of a vague notion that it might be good for me. (How selfish?)
    • Which brings me to my second point - I feel like there are introverts out there who feel this way too. Sometimes I think about how extroversion is valued in a lot of situations and whether that's necessarily justified. 
  • I've also been having a ton of good times. I'm now several shades tanner after a few books (and naps) under the sun. I've gotten to row and cycle a bit. Once, I curled up under a blanket on a sofa on a porch, watched the rain, and said out loud, "This is a Tumblr dream come true." The other kids who are also staying this summer and live nearby have all been nice - I've made some new friends, so that's cool.
  • This post is now just a wall of text and I'm not sure what to do about that, but basically my summer's been great :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"I remember more (about you)"

[This poem can be read 1) straightforwardly, 2) by taking just the text outside the brackets, 3) by taking just the text inside the brackets.]

I will (make the first move)
Take this picture of us – (we are sitting next to each other)
Capture this moment because (your arm is around me)
You said goodbye before I said hello but (right now, you’re holding on tightly)
I want to forget that you may (kiss me and tell me how much you want me),
Then meet someone else (fall in love)
And feel (no doubts);
Like what you cherish (because alcohol is involved)
Is also worth reaching for (in daylight).
You and I (we are just friends, we)
never last long enough to (want the same things)
Make it past a few nights, a few moments; (but I keep looking at)
The history we pointedly strive not to mark - (the way it is all in my head)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Things are not what they seem at first"

you did not catch my eye at first, but you had the
lost look and clearly my priorities were in the right place.
the sun stopped hiding when I suggested we break up. you and I might still be
best friends, but last night I fell asleep wondering why we couldn't fight this
thing, this burden - I never wanted to be with someone who thought
that it would be unrealistic to be happy with me everyday,
ever since I realized I wasn't afraid of being alone. the start and the end
happened for a reason, so I choose
to believe that the playwright looked at
you, then at me, and said, "not now. not yet."