strings: organization and chaos

i’m embarking on a journey of doing-a-uchicago-prompt-every-time-i-find-myself-too-sidetracked-to-do-actual-work, stay tuned for more monstrosities (and as i try to sift through them to find things i can actually use)

string. in its most basic sense, what is it? like rope, yarn, and thread: a long fiber. string connects. string vibrates. string flows, attaches, knots, blows away. string lights are abundant in the wintertime and teen bedrooms; strings of music and chatter float over the wind from an open restaurant by the waves at night. strings of light, strings of numbers, strings of text. clothes strung on a clothesline, themselves made of string. a string of consciousness, string of ideas. one word leads to another. one thing leads to another; a string of events. a string of molecules: ribonucleic acid. double it and we get DNA, which encodes our very existence.

let’s go back to strings of ideas; that seems interesting. so a string of ideas is a set of ideas that are connected by a common thread. thinking along these lines reminds me of ‘stream of consciousness,’ which brings to mind the difference between stream of consciousness and a string of ideas. in the former, ideas are connected to adjacent ones but the whole doesn’t necessarily have a uniting idea, while a string of ideas should have one, I think. so a string of ideas must be more organized, then, and essay-like. although maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive, either.

stream of consciousness can circle back around and connect to itself, and it usually does revolve around or return to a single topic (at least in my experience). and while we might argue that a string of ideas should be more deliberately placed, like beads on a bracelet, sometimes the beads just slide on by themselves, without much interference of decision making. anyways, I find that my best writing happens when I get so lost in a string of ideas that they string themselves… but it isn’t always like that, either.

going back to string- it binds books, ties things together. again, the theme of attachment. you can trip over a line of string; string can also divide. anyhow, I don’t know if this really went anywhere but it’s been twenty minutes, nice to thought dump with you.

extras: spiderwebs, food webs, strings that overlap create webs. interwoven chaos that’s connected and everything has an affect on another thing. time is connected, we are connected through time? consequences of actions?

____

Superstring theory has revolutionized speculation about the physical world by suggesting that strings play a pivotal role in the universe. Strings, however, always have explained or enriched our lives, from Theseus’s escape route from the Labyrinth, to kittens playing with balls of yarn, to the single hair that held the sword above Damocles, to the Old Norse tradition that one’s life is a thread woven into a tapestry of fate, to the beautiful sounds of the finely tuned string of a violin, to the children’s game of cat’s cradle, to the concept of stringing someone along. Use the power of string to explain the biggest or the smallest phenomenon.
—Inspired by Adam Sobolweski

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on the freedom of choice

for stream of consciousness saturday!! i finally caught the whim at the right time

a collar. white and crisp, sharply ironed. or better, a dark blue shot through with burgundy stripes on a silky material that’s beginning to soften at the edges; the single pintuck in the back allowing the navy blue to billow out gently and gracefully. the front is buttoned with navy blue also, and the shirt is long enough to reach quarter-thigh and rounded in the front and back, reaching inward on each side. one of my favorite shirts, that I barely ever wear. it’s a little much, since my dress pants also have vertical stripes on them, and hard to tuck in properly. I’m not quite sure how to wear the shirt, because it fits me well above the waist and in the back but the front is just awkward.

if you’re a woman (or a man, actually, or anybody having to deal with button-ups, really) then this situation might be a little familiar. if you’re wearing dress pants, then tucking the shirt in is a must. especially if it’s long. but tucking a shirt in can be awfully awkward; with this shirt, there are bumps in along the seam with the buttons that get pronounced when tucked, and then there’s the matter of finding the right balance between how tucked in it is and how slack it is. because if it’s tucked in too tight then you really can’t move at all without pulling it out, and if it’s too slack then it’ll bunch up when you slouch only slightly.

alas, my favorite shirt satisfies my style but eludes my comfort. it’s definitely a stylish shirt, but I never feel quite right wearing it; which is really such a shame because it’s a beautiful shirt made of high quality material that is all too rare these days. seriously, i miss the clothes that i had when i was younger because they all felt sturdy. now a lot of the clothes i see in stores (marketed towards teens in summer) might be good for a one-off photoshoot but i can’t understand how people can wear them in public without some mishaps happening.

for me, crop tops and off-the-shoulder tops are an intimidating leap; so I choose not to wear them. it is a mixture of inconvenience and trepidation and the simple fact that i do not own any. (well, i do own one jewel-toned butterfly sleeves crop top that looks pretty good but that i’ve never worn out.)

that this entire mind dump went straight to clothes, the literal and most common way a collar is thought in the context of, is a little disappointing, but this is what i have to say, apparently! oh, the fickle life of a teenage girl who has always resented expectations to make herself pretty.

on that note, it is a bit confusing when people say they are dressing up to look good for themselves, rather than trying to appease others. I think it has to do with uniform/costume; certain clothes get you into character. there’s a fine line between that and just trying to blend in, though; if one were truly confident then wouldn’t they be able to wear anything to any occasion? although confidence can only get you so far against scandalized people.

so it is more like dressing up to make yourself feel good; but what if you feel good only because you think that other people will think you look good, and isn’t that the whole point of appearance anyways? how much of it is choice and how much of it is decorum? what choice do we really have over what kind of collar we wear?

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Sept. 12/2020

Hope vs Fear: a debate

During English class last year we had an impromptu debate about whether our lives are led by fear or hope. The vast majority of the class stood up for the side of fear, while only two of us were neutral/hope. We debated on for a while and things came up such as “do you live life because you hope to live, or because you fear death? Do your dreams and aspirations come from a place of hope or are they driven from fear?” (I only remember this because as one of two representatives, I had to speak a lot, and I spoke pretty impulsively, which is rare outside of my home.)

To me the answer is still hope. I don’t entertain ideas about dying much, and my dream of a world where people actively care for the Earth and each other, is because I want it to happen, less so because of a fear of the opposite happening.

And yet, as I think more about it, the more I realize that there actually is a fear there. But there’s also a little despair, and a little cynicism telling me that the opposite is the way things already are (or the way things are already going). Maybe my indecision in a career choice is caused by fear- fear of judgement, of failure, of discouragement, of disappointment- as well as hope. Hope to become independent, to provide for myself, to create change, to share happiness, to protect the world.

So it could be that actually there’s an interplay of hope and fear at hand in our motivations; one is the antithesis of the other, so you cannot really isolate them. You cannot experience one without experiencing the other, especially for an entire lifetime of experiences. It is probably quite rare that a decision is motivated by only hope, or only fear, but rather a combination of the two. And I think that perhaps I have been downplaying the fear that I feel in life, and twisting it into a tainted optimism; it’s time that I faced things the way they really are.

(But what is really the way things are? Maybe all I need is a change in perspective to get the juices flowing.)

seeing that//

//it’s summer now, (in fact, it’s actually august. i’ve been mostly at home for the last july-june-may-april-march, and it’s been both fruitful and disappointing) march me thought i would have a better grip on things at this point: where and when exactly i want to apply for college, at least a full draft of my personal statement, some idea of how to string all the parts of me together and tie up the narrative of high school me, a meandering path point a from point b.

the truth is that although i have a better idea of all those beads on my bracelet i still don’t quite know what to do with them (well yeah, the metaphor would suggest to make a bracelet, maybe i’ll take that into account). i’ve got a couple of ideas, inspired by people around me and people on the internet, and if i’m enterprising then maybe they’ll lead somewhere.

_____

to be more specific, i’ve been thinking that starting some sort of project would be a good way to connect some dots. i’m going to be taking a capstone class, and i have some pretty awesome research experience.

stars: cello, piano, chamber music, and classical music; biobuilder club and synthetic biology or maybe just bio in general; visual art and photography; research-y stuff that could be more statistically based; sustainable energy; food and baking; hiking and biking and ecology i guess (birds!); philosophical discussion; community service (i.e. free online mentoring and delivering food to pantries).

all righty.

constellations:

#1: debunking the stigma around GMOs. i have noticed that most people seem to steer clear of GMOs when given the choice; i myself used to do that also. but GMOs are revolutionizing the way food is produced and the amount of energy and resources that are put in to agriculture. some crops have been genetically modified to be more resistant to pests and disease, and produce their own nitrogen fertilizer. this could involve surveys for public opinion, working with food suppliers, interviewing farmers that use GMOs, and checking out any organizations, as well as exploring the possibility of negative effects.

#2: flow batteries. because if we want to rely more on renewable energy sources, we will need better energy storage, because nature does not heed our demands like our power plants do. flow batteries are a possibly superior way to do this. i could… build my own flow battery? explore how they are being implemented?

#3: trees…? i mean, i really like trees, first of all. i don’t think i’m getting the message through when i say that- i’ve just grown up with a pretty profound connection to trees. and they’re extremely important to humanity and life in general as the biggest source of oxygen. they also provide shelter and resources for both humans and animals. deforestation is a huge problem all over the world, and the amount of virgin forest that exists is a mere fraction of what it used to be.

#4: photography expedition for my town to document wildlife. this sounds really fun. i don’t have the hang of wildlife photography yet (birds are especially tricky), but plants a lot easier. there might be a lot of people around town who do this already that i can work with!

#5: james, butterflies, and citizen science.

there may be more. as you can see, i am fond of making lists.

two songs in my head and a heart-shaped frame in my palm

Preface: it’s perfect! It’s Saturday! It’s stream of conscious Saturday! Finding that this is still an ongoing this is such a comfort because I haven’t been on WordPress for months, yet it is still very much alive. Love you guys even though I never really talk to you haha. Now on to the prompt!

So today’s prompt is “song,” and I have to find a picture near me and a song that I think of when I look at the picture. I also want to note that my last name is actually Song so this prompt has a special place in my heart ❤

Moving a container of Maple Black Tea to the side, I can see the dusty metal heart-shaped frame of a tiny picture of my parents. I think they took it when they were still in college; they’re in front of a cool rock structure or something, and they’re both wearing oversized t-shirts. I’m actually kind of jealous of the fashion style at the time, it looks really cool. So… what song?

At first my mind was empty, and then they all came rushing in. The first one title that came in is “Younger,” by Ruel I think. I don’t remember the melody line, only that the song is pretty chill and raw. I think the singer has a slight raspy voice. First melody that came into my head is the Prelude from the first Bach Cello Suite, which is also kind of fitting. That movement has a lot of parallels and arpeggiations that kind of mirror the streaks in the rock behind my parents. It’s also a comforting song, set in G major. Beautiful resolution.

Though these seemed like pretty arbitrary songs (or pieces, if you will) at first, they actually kind of make sense! Two people, who would go on to start a family, a photo of when they were younger, both wearing oversized t-shirts and sitting on a rock, somewhere in nature, enjoying life and being themselves, love I guess.

Summer again

I almost forgot that this blog existed! So cool to find it again. I’m looking through one of my notebooks right now and yet again find myself wondering where my passion went- and my writing talent (probably gone along with all those hours of sleep). But this is an unproductive mindset and I’ll just have to believe that the person who wrote these things is still inside me, and that I can bring them out again and maybe more.

The notebook is the one from CTY Creative Nonfiction, it’s purple with the Skidmore logo on the front. I found a draft of my 9th grade english final, some angsty poems that I can still relate to, and some ideas for college essays (yep, I’ve been painfully aware of it throughout high school). It’s fun looking through it and definitely nostalgic, and I’m hoping some of its magic will rub off on me because that’s definitely how things work.

It’s also pre-sophomore year so I was preparing for AP chem at that time.

There’s also some stuff I wrote this May!

Maybe I’ll post some of the things on here just for archival purposes.

Here’s a little something for now:

College essays are stupid. They’re like personal essays, but self-advertising. They’re the root of tremendous pressure and anxiety on any student; they have the power to make or break a college application (please shut up, mom, and go away???) The problem with them is that they’re not personal essays. The message has to be positive, the aftertaste is almost sickly sweet. Look, I’m such a curious mind. I’m a caring, passionate, determined person. Quirky stories like folding 1,000 cranes or becoming a human 20Q [are the ideal]. How much of that is true, anyway? Nobody really feels that way about themselves. Not everything has a positive side. Maybe they’re just looking for people who are able to mask the world’s true bleakness, inspiring the same cheerful ignorance in others. Look at me, I’ve taken the high road, can’t blame anyone for wanting to create a happy, healthy, supportive world.

Actually, I’m inspired.

me in ca. 2016-2017

And here’s a little analysis/response: okay, it’s true. in the end, the essay does have to be positive. and all of the ones i’ve read are more than a little cheesy, although that’s simply a fault of the genre. some of the ones i’ve read also were a little icky with the logic and analogies, but that’s okay; they worked. however, i would argue now that these essays are really similar to personal essays. they’re crafted with a goal and a specific audience in mind though, so there are definitely tricks that people can use to appeal to that audience. no guarantees on success, though. (no guarantees on failure either!) “Masking the world’s true bleakness” is truly the epitome of pessimism; and my friends all think I’m an optimist! while i still think the world is bleak, i am trying to see the good as well. there is hope out there, somewhere. not sure what i meant by “the high road,” that might be an acknowledgement of the snootiness in my tone, as if i’m above the others and looking down on the college admissions process. wish i could still do that but it’s summer before senior year and unfortunately i can’t have that kind of attitude.

hmh.

just remembered something.

i’m writing an essay on the history of immigration policy in the U.S. and its implications about the American identity, and it’s really quite difficult.

as an chinese american who grew up quite sheltered, in a strong chinese american and asian american community, i don’t recall any incidents of racism or outright prejudice. however, i’ve always been aware of and conflicted over my ethnicity.

most of my friends are asian american; that could be because of the social network i was a part of in chinese school and via family friends. i don’t know if that’s really evidence for anything.

(this is what i remembered:) but my younger brother has used the term ‘american’ multiple times to refer to people who are not chinese. not even just caucasians but also african americans, hispanic/latinos, i’m not even sure what the full list (if it exists) of all the minorities in the US is. it was weird the first time i noticed it. i corrected him then, saying that we too were american. it was a label that we both knew was a bit clunky. it happened again, and again. i kept correcting him. but even so, i still knew what he was meant when he described people as american.

chinese americans definitely have a reputation for being good students, meek, really talented, competitive, nerds, a ‘model minority.’ people chalk up our achievements and attribute it to our race/ethnicity (i still don’t really know the difference). we even say it ourselves, usually in jokes and memes; “there’s always an asian better than you,” “of course you got an A on that paper, you’re chinese.” i call b/s. i know plenty of not-asian americans who are definitely more brilliant than i am. they just don’t care as much in class, don’t try as hard, have a little more freedom behind them. and i’d also say that increasingly i’m seeing non-asian americans meeting/exceeding asian americans in school, i’m seeing asian americans be really outgoing and social and have worse grades. everyone just wants to get into college. there are no hard lines; there are hardly any lines. but the lines are there, and that’s what makes me uncomfortable.

not saying that i want everyone to blend in and be the same regardless of culture and ethnicity and race. but there are tensions, and there is certainly racism. it is abating, thank god i can call myself a legal citizen of the USA, but especially with the coronavirus you can see that racism towards chinese people is definitely alive around the world. even while writing this, i have a qualm that people will think less of this piece, this blog, and myself because i’ve revealed that i’m chinese american. hopefully that isn’t true.

people, please don’t make assumptions about me. being asian does not make school a cakewalk. i am my own complex person with random thoughts. i try really hard and i fail a lot. i’m not a robot, i’m an introvert, i’m kind of a hot mess. i know others that are the complete opposite.

please don’t make assumptions about chinese people, and please don’t extend those assumptions to people from other east-asian countries; the cultures within and around china are extremely varied.

inevitably this piece contains evidence of my own perception of stereotypes and prejudices. to combat this, i try to keep my mind open when i meet new people, and don’t assume things i don’t know about them. i hope you do the same.

growing up with privilege

I may not reek of privilege, but I certainly am not short of it.

I am privileged to have a family that loves and supports me; I am privileged to have friends that understand me and connect with me; I am privileged to have a house in a neighborhood in a town I call home; I am privileged to enjoy the miantiao that my grandma makes for lunch; to have met people I admire and learn from them; to have a properly functioning body; to enjoy the delectable rush of sound that comes from four people with string instruments and the rumble of open C against my chest. I am in no way short of privilege.

But that can be constricting. My parents are first-generation immigrants who came to America with nearly nothing (yes, I’m aware this is a classic trope) but scholarships and the ambition of carving out a life (not even necessarily in the United States- my mom had planned to leave after uni). Together, they’ve given my brother and I a stable home, a family, love and nurture, a supposed head start in life.

That makes failure feel worse. Because when I don’t live up to expectations, of starting here and ending here, I face my own qualms of letting people down- letting myself down. I see other people who have started in roughly the same place as me far, far ahead of me. Why should I keep pushing forward when there’s no way I’ll be able to beat them? But I do anyway because that’s the track I’ve decided to take. I know I’ll end up at the finish line, maybe without distinction but at least I’ll be finished.

I wonder how I can be successful, how I should go about carving my own life. But there are so many choices and I falter at every step, second guessing myself. Is this path really going to lead me where I want to be? Do I even know where I want to be? So far all I’ve done is kept my options open, leaving the future a gaping question mark.

See? No room for large failures, because I haven’t committed to anything completely. And, I think, that’s precisely why I’m not distinct. I’m not sharp edges and straight lines; I’m a blurred amorphous blob quivering indecisively. Even when I know how much needs to go into a particular passage, I don’t know how to give myself, to completely go in without reservations or trying to save face. But the lack of commitment is wrecking me; it’s a form of self-sabotage because I’m left with so many ends to pick up and maybe somehow tie together.

So this is where my privilege leaves me: I have the opportunities, but I have yet to be someone of worth, someone worthy of privilege.

packing//unpacking

Unpacking. It’s really such a pain. I went on a trip this past weekend from Thursday to Sunday afternoon and I still haven’t taken heels out of the luggage. When you say unpacking you could mean a lot of different things, because there are a lot of things to unpack. You can unpack a luggage, a suitcase, a bag. Or you could unpack a burden, thoughts, or feelings.

In a way writing is kind of like unpacking. You have to untangle everything in your suitcase of a mind, reorganize it, and put it out. You have to clear our a mess of thoughts and put them through the washing machine, dry them and fold them. Sometimes there are things hidden in the deep, hidden corners of your suitcase but you still have to get it out or else you can’t say you’re done unpacking.

This all reminds me of George Orwell reading, in which Orwell wrote that he felt compelled to write stories because there was something he had to wrench out of his mind, something he had to lay out for the world to see.

But writing is also similar to packing in that you need to gather all these things from the distant dregs of your mind and put them together, and it also requires a level of organization. All these thoughts need to fit into an essay or a poem or a book. And you can’t bring everything, even if it’s your favorite dress or your fluffy penguin socks, if you won’t be needing it for your purpose.

I suppose stream of consciousness is more unpacking than packing, though, because we’re not supposed to be organizing things or purposefully looking for facts and details and memories; we’re just taking out some of the mess inside.

This was written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday (prompt here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/02/07/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-8-2020/)

And now I really need to go write my history essay-

things I want to do

It is currently 7:46 p.m. My art class has been canceled, and I have very little homework. Of course, “if I every find myself needing something to do,” I can always check out college websites. That’s what my parents are telling me to do. And it really is in my best interests, but I’m defiant and naive so I’ll write down things I’d rather be doing.

I want to draw. To be fair, I was drawing before dinner. But I want to draw and paint and try again and again. I want to lose the fear that I have for making mistakes when I draw, a fear that has been instilled because there’s so much pressure on the big works and I have little confidence and not enough ideas or practice. I want to draw pages and pages, but not mindless patterns. I want to make art that flowers, that blooms, that reminds people of things they’ve almost forgotten. I want to go outside and look at the stars, I want to go to the library and hang out with my friends, I want to have a nice warm cup of coffee standing under a streetlight as snowflakes grace my eyelashes and gloved fingers. I want to bake a cake, and play with my brother, and read the book on my table, I want to write, which at least I am doing, and I want to play with my quintet. Both of them. Because I love Schubert more than I love myself. And I only like Schubert because of his quintet.

I want to venture out into the mountains anywhere, but somewhere safe, and camp under the stars, I want to hike again to that glacier with my family, I want to count banana slugs in a temperate rainforest, I want to pick up a pencil, I want to run and shower and go shopping. I want to look at the shampoos in target and try almost every one to see which one my hair likes best. I want to live a life where I’m doing something useful that I don’t mind and where I’m appreciated by the people around me, and where I appreciate the people around me. I want to eat chocolate and blueberries. I want to drink ginger tea and eat graham crackers. I want to swim in a pool and in the ocean and in a lake, or go kayaking in the state forest. I want to adopt a cat or a dog (I’m a both sort of people), get a facial, finish all the work I’m supposed to be doing. I want to spatter paint on a large canvas, I want to save earthworms from getting scorched on my driveway in the hot sun after it rains, I want to splash in puddles and ride bikes and climb trees. I want to visit an art museum and take portraits of random people (with consent) and talk to them. I want to watch videos on YouTube and listen to music that I like. I want to sing and dance and do yoga. I also want to do word searches and puzzles and do a beach cleanup with some friends in the summer, I want to see justice served and truth prevail. I want to look into a camera and look from behind it. I want to produce music and go to concerts, have a jam session and learn theory, write and perform slam poetry, have long conversations with friends and reach that point of understanding and easiness between two people, do calligraphy and knit, plant herbs and roast marshmallows by a campfire…

this list has been abridged because I do too have a life and I should probably get back to it.