Monday, October 20, 2014

When your heart is broken in a sophisticated way: An open letter.

Hey you.

I know you hesitate to say you're hurt because you don't like the connotations that come with being hurt; that you're weak, that you somehow allowed yourself to get hurt even though this whole time you expected this would happen, and you tried to brace yourself for it. You think you don't deserve to be hurt because none of this was a surprise; you are only disappointed because as much as you don't want to admit it, at the back of your mind you had expectations and hopes and dreams. You don't want to say you're hurt because having a broken heart suggests a sense of dependence in a way you wouldn't dare to acknowledge - you are independent, smart, beautiful, funny, and you know it. You knew it before he stumbled into your life. You still know it, and you still believe it. You're too sophisticated for this broken heart business. That's way too simple, too all-encompassing. Surely someone with a broken heart is, well, too broken-hearted to function elsewhere in life?

You're silly. You can call it whatever you want and you don't owe it to anyone to diminish how you feel. It's okay to admit that right now you're looking for someone to be the things he couldn't be just to remind yourself of how sorely he lacked in what he lacked. You can indeed be sad...but also genuinely be pretty happy about everything else in your life. You don't have to prove yourself worthy of saying you're disappointed by being disappointed about everything. Be sad, accept you're sad, but keep doing what you're doing. Be pleased about how you're handling everything much better than you used to in the past when you were hurt like this. It's not because you had lesser feelings than you did; give yourself some credit for having grown up and having built a person, a mind, and a life that stands even when you don't have that certain someone standing next to you.

The next thing - you know everything is going to be okay. This is a useless, trite phase that you believe in the bigger picture but not in the moment. What if you never forget the night you still consider to have been one of the best in your life? What if it was just another night to him? You felt a pretty instant connection,you kissed so naturally, and you made yourself study his features carefully when you woke up before he did because you already suspected you might not get many chances to do so; the little scars below his neck, the way he held on to you in a way that he never did whilst awake, figuratively...what if these memories never stop making you smile like you did the whole weekend after that night? That's also okay. You're allowed to keep these fond memories and move on.

You say it hurts more because you believed you had a chance and had the possibility to see what you wanted to see. You wish you knew that it was essentially an unrequited crush. No, not "essentially", it was.

And that's okay too. You opened your heart and allowed yourself to have all these feelings; good and bad, and it defied all the times you said you were going to protect yourself. You know deep inside that love makes you crazy but it propels your mind and heart to a place many people are afraid to go to or even admit they want to go to and you know you're not about the fear-filled life. You know it's amazing. You know you'll be back because being able to feel these things is beautiful and you're strong enough to do it again.

Love, me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"The Photo Album"

Burgundy fountain.
I'm sitting down, standing up, falling, walking
I remember and forget like a camera;
Capturing sights, emotions, colors, words, fear
Larger than life, sharper than the best resolution
But when the photos are developed - 
What happened between each of them?

Hospital? Oh no, no, no.
NO. No, no, no. No. Please. I can't.
It hurts. Why does it hurt so bad?
I want to stop hurting, to stop causing a scene.
I would give anything to be invisible right now.
I promise you, I'm normally a pretty nice person. 
I'm so sorry.
I feel your judgment and indignation; I feel my own too
I'm the person I never thought I would be; I believed I was better than this.
You will tell me tomorrow that it happens to all of us
But you look at me in a different way - pity, anger, embarrassment
And I deserve it. I really do. But what can I do to undo the damage?
"Sorry" won't clean your shoes, mend your reputation, or give you back the concert you missed.
I should leave, but I can't do it
How do you walk? 
How have I regressed to this level?
Click. Clop, clop, clop. Cold breeze. Forget. 
Click. Clop, clop, clop. Lobby. Forget.
Click. "Is she okay?"
Your voice when you answered. I want to forget.
Click. Bed. 
Pitch black.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Allergic to fun.

Romantic relationships are peculiar in that they are a title, a meaning that you ascribe. But it's very unlikely that two are alike in dynamic, length of time, seriousness, and the impact it leaves on your heart and your mind. Forgetting is also very peculiar, following a breakup. It just happens, without meaning to and it actually only happens when you don't mean to. It's interesting to think about the details that do linger in your mind after everything is gone; from the particular outfit that they liked and still wear but you think is completely godawful to the way their voice rises that little bit and reveals how much they care about something seemingly small. It's strange coming back to read things you wrote while you thought you were in love - even the irrelevant bits somehow have influences from the way you felt and you find yourself reading details that at one point, you wrote down because you were afraid of forgetting them. And if you're like me, always making lists and chronicling memories, it's very easy to tell exactly which periods of time my mind was overtaken by these feelings. Personally, for the most part, looking at the logged dates on my lists is indicative enough; I make lists to parse through my emotions and to think through my thought processes rationally, and where overthinking was absent, so was attachment to a particular person.

Forgetting is harder when you have to see that person regularly. Whenever I see him, my gut instinct is to leave. There have been a couple of times where I've chosen illogical routes around the dining hall or between buildings because he was in sight. That probably makes me really immature, but to me, I feel like I either have nothing to say to him, or too much to say, and neither seem very good.

Forgetting happens when you completely don't care about who's doing better after the breakup. I may have had the most amazing Friday night ever, in an "oh my god!" kind of way. He probably stayed in, watched a movie, played cards with his friends and did his own thing. Inside, I know that if this was a competition, I lost as soon as I began to think of it as one. It's strange, because I did really have fun and don't think I have any feelings for him anymore but I care enough to feel weird about caring, and that I likely care more or that I'm the only one who still does. It's kind of like that quote about how people truly die when their name is brought up for the last time; in this unnecessarily morbid reference, it's like I'm dead and he's not.

Forgetting him is a process that started a while ago for me.  But I haven't forgotten the niggling feeling that him and I didn't have fun in the same way. I'm reminded of this every time I decide what to do on a Friday night.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dat passionfruit.

Currently, I'm going through staff training and orientation for my summer internship as a teacher. There is this non-profit organization that provides a free English immersion summer program for children from less privileged backgrounds or from environments where Chinese is the medium of instruction. They hire older students who are mostly from colleges abroad and grew up speaking English as teachers. Teachers come up with their own content, as long as it works towards the overarching goal of helping the students become more confident in speaking English. I'm teaching the history of fashion, and I think this whole thing is a step out of my comfort zone; I've never seriously taught, I'm currently not a big fan of kids and don't really know how to talk to them, and I don't know much (or anything) about the history of fashion. I've never studied this subject, and I'm not even fashionable myself. I'm just kind of interested in fashion and haven't really explored it from an academic perspective. So...yeah. My students will have the most ready teacher ever.

In these past two weeks, we've gone through a LOT of things; handling all sorts of classroom scenarios, micro- and macro-management, leadership, developing spirit, English Language Development, understanding students with a holistic mindset, teaching approaches, and the list goes on. We get to school at eight every morning and finish at about five or six in the afternoon, so it's quite intense. I'm really enjoying it though because I can feel myself growing as a person and learning so much everyday. Even though I am not sure about going into education as a profession, I see this internship as a very comprehensive, jam-packed set of life skills lessons that can be applied to a lot of places in life.

Today was big because we got to know who was in our "cross-departmental collaboration", which is a fancy term to mean a group of four teachers, one from each department, who are assigned to teach the same students but at different periods of the day. After that, we got to read these students' applications to the summer program in order to have a better understanding of their strengths, weaknesses and interests. 

These students' responses were honestly a lot more intriguing than I expected them to be; at times, there were some interesting trends to be seen. One of the questions on the application was "What do you think is Hong Kong's biggest problem?" Out of the eighteen kids in our CDC, I think all but three of them wrote "air pollution". I feel like air pollution has become one of those things that I've accepted and become so apathetic about that it probably wouldn't be on my top ten list of the city's biggest problems. 

Some of the responses made me laugh. One of the questions asked students to list three adjectives they would use to describe themselves. Given that admission to the summer program is pretty competitive, I thought that students would be aware of this, and choose positive-sounding adjectives to make themselves look good as an applicant. However, some of these kids were really honest - one wrote "lazy", another wrote "careless". I am these things too (sometimes), and it was really refreshing to see them reveal a side of them that I am sure most of us have too but hide from others at the beginning. On a more serious note, it also made me wonder if they wrote these things because that's how they are described by negative people around them all the time. 

Some of the responses tugged at my heartstrings. One of the questions was "What was the happiest moment of your life?" and some kids wrote beautifully simple answers that made me question my own life. One kid (who I think misunderstood the question and didn't choose a specific moment) said that hugging his mother makes him happier than anything. Another kid (who also probably misunderstood the question) wrote that she loved going shopping with her mother because they could talk then. A third wrote that his happiest moment was when his brother was born six years ago and he's so proud of his brother.

What would I have written if I had to answer that question too? I thought about how I do think I'm a pretty happy person most of the time and I have a lot of happy memories to talk about, but I don't have a specific memory that means more to me than anything else. I don't even have a proper shortlist of the best memories. Is having an absolute happiest moment necessary? I would be inclined to think no, since different memories are wonderful because they impacted me in different ways and had different contexts. I think it would be difficult to replicate a context in order to create a memory that trumps one you already have. 

See, my job even makes me contemplate questions like these.

To finish off, here's a cheer that my department has to present to the rest of the staff tomorrow. It's utterly random and beautiful for that reason.

Happy llama, sad llama, totally rad llama
Super llama, drama llama, big fat mama llama
Baby llama, crazy llama, don't forget the rocker llama!
Fish! Fish! More...fish!
Turtle! Ugh.
Unicorn, peacock
Passionfruit!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Small but awesome.

"Do you live here? I haven't seen you around recently."
"Yes! I attend college in the States, but I've lived here for fifteen years and I'm back for the summer."
"Oh! Which college?"
"Colgate University, in New York."

If I had to draw up a pie chart showing how common certain responses to my answer are, it would look something like this: a huge part of the pie would be "What's that?" or "I've never heard of it" or simply "Oh" and an awkward pause.

This is an uncomfortable exchange I've had quite a number of times in the past year in Hong Kong. It's uncomfortable because I feel like there is the assumption that if one has not heard of a school, it probably isn't very good. This assumption (or an assumption of an assumption?) is an issue to me because I love my college and think very highly of it. It's a top liberal arts college with great classes and has been compared to lower-ranked Ivies. It bothers me when people don't recognise this and it makes me feel like its excellence, my effort and my intelligence are disregarded when people correlate its relative unpopularity to its strength. Growing up, the adjective people gave me the most was "smart" - not "pretty", and not "funny" - so to tell these people where I go to school and see them change the way they look at me because of this hurts. I wish I could completely not care about how other people back home think in this case, but I can't because...just because. Logically, I understand that liberal arts colleges tend to be less well-known out of the country because they are small, meaning that so are their alumni networks and the chances that one knows a graduate of the school is lower than say, a graduate of a larger college. I am sure that there are other international students attending great, small colleges who face the same issue back home.

How can this issue be resolved? I don't know, I wish I did and that would make this post a lot better. At the moment, I'm just writing about an issue without a proposal or a call to action. It's difficult to change assumptions or the way people think (with their thought process of "haven't heard of school = school is probably not very good"). I've tried to explain why it's a great school several times but it hasn't been very successful so far; from people's reactions, I get the impression that they think I'm just overcompensating for my college's perceived shortcomings or trying to make myself look better. The latter is probably true to a certain extent; I do want to look better in other people's eyes if I think the way they look at me is unjustified. The way I see it, there are only two "solutions" for now; learn to care about what other people think less, or work on continuing to be whatever I am and hope that in time, people can see the virtuous impact my college has had on me in the way I behave and speak. These aren't really proper solutions that can alter the reality of most people and their mindsets, but they are all I can think of for now.

In the meantime, you now know how to have a great first-time interaction with me; just show that you know something about Colgate when the question of which colleges we attend comes up. I will love you five-ever for that.