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.

a vessel filled to the brim yet always empty

Alternative title: romance is dead

I’ve realized the problem with myself. My problem is that I want to be too many things at once, but I have so many things I already need to be, and not enough of myself to do it all. Instead, I am a half formed glob of artiste, yes i did put an e at the end of that, writer (thought dumpster), cellist, scientist, student, teacher (of little kids, at least), daughter, cousin, friend, human

Because, after all, this all brings us back to the age-old question: who am I? This is certainly not the only time I’ve thought about it. My dad is driving me back from school and I’m staring out the window, thinking that a part of these neighborhoods is forever embedded in me and how wonderful yet terrifying that is. That all the experiences I’ve ever had have left an imprint on my being and that everyone carries what is around them. That maybe globalization isn’t so great because then we’d all be so similar, and life would be so dull if all we ever heard were our own thoughts back and back again.

The latest essay I read for my english class was an essay by Brian Doyle called Joyas valoduras. (Not too sure about that spelling or punctuation but that’s how I say it in my head, at least…) That essay was confusing to read. Yes, it was beautiful. I appreciated the sweeping view of all life forms, and upon closer examination the parallel structure between paragraphs and sentences and phrases and words, even. Yet it was hard for me to grasp the crux of Doyle’s purpose in writing the piece; was it to pay tribute to the exquisiteness or fragility or variety of life, or was he simply pouring his own thoughts down on paper, suddenly astounded by constellations in his mind? And how did it all connect to each heart being alone, because we cannot bear the closeness of another person inside?

P.S. regarding the title, I am conflicted. I like the sentiment, but “yet” doesn’t read as effortlessly as it should, and “but” is much too clunky. Which one is preferable to you?

today’s inspiration gallery.

songs to listen to: false confidence by noah kahan; behind the sea (alt ver.) by P!ATD; thinking 2 much by jeremy zucker


i wonder why
i tear myself down
to be built back up again

pending life decisions: should I try to music major/minor in college? should I get bangs? what if I got my ears pierced?

look at me all fucked up over someone i’ll never meet

which colleges do I apply to? what do I write my college essay about? should I practice cello? I really need to go to sleep earlier. Is it worth it to do robotics again next year? should I drop art? should I start a sketchbook? how do I be the person I want to be? why should I even try?

probably should have made holiday cards for my teachers and friends…

don’t take your self so seriously

happy first hours of vacation

on thelovesongofjalfredprufrock

some intense meta here

I just finished annotating TS Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and it was a great joy. There’s no one to whom I can really vent this joy (my friends and classmates would accuse me of arrogance, my teacher would be jaded and unimpressed, my parents require too much explaining, and my brother wouldn’t be interested), so I have come here to capture this great feeling before it fades away.

I can say with confidence that many of my classmates forgo actually annotating a piece and search up texts on schmoop or other literary analysis sites dedicated to thinking for you. I didn’t use any of that (besides Googling the epigraph to find out that it came from Dante’s Inferno).

The poem is a culmination of some dreary and dry reading on existentialism (which I still don’t have a clear understanding of). I used a robin’s egg blue Uni Ball Signo dx 0.38mm to annotate, and the ink flows beautifully- it’s smooth with no skips and pools just a little when the tip lingers on the page.

When I began reading the poem I had no idea where it was going, who it was about, and how the title (“Love Song”) had anything to do with it. I couldn’t figure out why “the women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo” or the repetition of “‘that is not what I mean at all.'”

The first connections I made were between the “hundred indecisions… visions and revisions,” “I am formulated,” to prepare a face.” After deciphering those references to creating a persona (a concept I’m used to seeing in literature now), I was at a loss. Had he realized his freedom as an individual and is now “afraid” of the isolation of existence? (This was probably inspired by those existentialism readings.)

A few random filler comments later, it came to me: the Love Song, “after tea and cakes and rice,” “Should I… have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?” And that is why he is afraid- because he knows he “is no prophet,” and could very well be rejected should he force the crisis. He is afraid, yet he knows that he cannot back down. And all that stuff about creating a person? He was creating a persona to present to the lady, filtering his words and actions, thinking and overthinking (the bald spot?). And he resigns himself to his true self with “I am not Prince Hamlet.” However I can’t tell if the rest of the stanza refers to what he is or what he is not. Is he a fool or not?

And then, because we are in the middle of reading The Great Gatsby, I thought of Gatsby. Gatsby, who spent five years building an entire world on top of an over-the-top persona to woo Daisy, the not-so-object of his interests.

Obviously, I’m far from a complete understanding. I still don’t know what mermaids have to do with anything. And what explanation is there for the fixation on his bald spot? What does growing old have to do with anything? What about the yellow smoke, and the etherized patient? Lonely men leaning out windows? What does having “known them all already” mean?

The pride I feel is rueful, however. Is it too much, is it deserved? Maybe everyone else in the class was able to get it right away, it wasn’t exactly hard. It was just a really nice feeling. Will I be able to prove to myself later on that I really do have a better understanding of the poem? Will I be able to explain it to other people? Look at me, a hundred indecisions and visions and revisions. I guess people really are the same after all.