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.

split

split ends? i have none (in my hair, at least).

there’s a split in my life. it’s been there all along. the sciences and the arts and the career planning are at odds with each other.

as a result, i’m here writing a blog post that no one will see because i can’t decide how to use my time. i’m here after seeing so many wonderful and inspiring people through the internet, and i’m here trying to imagine myself as one of them, as someone inspiring and worthy of admiration and whole, someone who isn’t splitting apart, atom by atom.

summer slump

this week, I’ve been staying home and languishing in the heat under the pretense of trying to get some other things done. honestly, I’d been looking forward to this time so much. 

my summer break began exactly one week ago. we were the last school in our state (possibly the entire country) to get out. so, this week, I’ve been staying home and languishing in the heat under the pretense of trying to get some other things done. honestly, I’d been looking forward to this time so much.

but in the past week, I’ve always been tired. kind of cantankerous, stuck in a sort of mind fog. always wanting to do nothing, yet wishing for anything that I’d find interesting to do. yesterday, sick and tired of this slump, I took to the internet to see if my symptoms were treatable.

two things that stood out the most (from a list of top 10 things making you tired all the time) were anemia and depression. (also lack of exercise and dehydration but let’s not talk about that right now.) I’ve already been diagnosed with anemia, and have been on iron supplements for a couple of weeks (but I’m not feeling much improvement). then depression. it’s such a depressing word, isn’t it?

I’ve suspected I might have had depression for a while. however, I definitely don’t want to take meds for it. I don’t think it’s very serious at all. it’s a mental thing, you go and talk to someone and hopefully it’ll be better. change your mindset… etc. besides, this week has had some pretty good moments.

anyways, the depression bit launched me into a new web surf. some articles came up. “why so many people are stressed and depressed“, “Why Gen Y Yuppies Are Unhappy” (even though i’m not Gen Y, but close enough), the book called Generation Wuss, and some more about the general uninterestedness of the iGen, gen Z, whatever you’d like to call it. all of those articles are based upon the premise that those in my generation are generally more depressed than others. they cite many reasons, such as smartphones and increased electrical “connectivity” bringing down the formation of real human connections and relationships, which we mentally depend on. they cite the fact that we’ve always been told we were special, but actually aren’t, leading us to be delusional about ourselves and causing a reality vs expectations gap. (this one made me mentally thank my english teacher for that speech she gave us, click the link for more on that.) they’ve noticed that life today is more about far-reaching goals and the long term, which causes stress. they have so many more reasons that i can’t bother to recall at the moment. they’re not wrong, either.

perhaps I feel this way because I can’t seem to grasp any far-reaching goals (idk what I want to be when I grow up), even though everyone seems to have expected me to. maybe because I am perhaps more glued to my smartphone and/or the internet more than I’d like to admit (after all, I’m posting this rather than talking to people) and I am grappling with the fact of me not being special (which has been proven to me many times in the past year and a half). perhaps it’s the thought of “i’m not special, but that’s only because i don’t work hard. if i really tried, i’d be more special than anyone else out there” that constantly pervades my mind.

it’s summer break. it’s only been a week. a week of languishing in the summer heat, a week of constant scrolling through social media feeds and web searches and youtube videos that never fail to come when boredom calls, when that gap where school should be needs to be filled. a week of slump. at the end of next week, I’ll be leaving for a 3-week stay-away camp, and school starts on august 20-something. there’s not much time, but right now it seems like all the time in the world.

so I guess what I should do is try and have real conversations with people, not the constant “small talk” which seems to be the only thing capable of leaving the confines of my brain. I’ll try to be honest with myself and the people around me, as that’ll save having to deal with keeping up images. (Mitch Hedberg once said, “my fake plants died because i forgot to pretend to water them.”) I’ll bike to my friend’s house again next week, and I’m going to Maine tomorrow. I’ll try to do less thinking and more doing. Or at least an equal amount of thinking and doing.

we’ll see what kind of person emerges from this summer.

oh, and also, if you’re like me and inclined to click on anything that remotely interests you, check out this slam poem that I think is at least slightly relevant to this post.

will it be enough?

distraught observations of an outsider

she sits at her desk, laptop open, cursor blinking. blinking. blinking. she forgot to close the blinds- the sun is not shining in any more. scattered across the desk are papers. scratch papers, which she used to finish her math homework, and worksheets. a textbook lays open with more pages stuck inside, slanted to the side. there’s a lone chocolate wrapper. a red flashlight. forgotten water colors made in long lost leisure time. a knit only just started, but long abandoned. eraser shavings dust the entire thing. a white cord is connected to her laptop and she has long since ripped out her earbuds in frustration at the muffling effect they have on her thoughts. she has open five windows and one of them has twenty tabs of research filled pages to be read. but that’s not what’s on her mind. a bed only five feet away, but sleep cannot come until she is done with this sentence. her brain is lethargic, and she doesn’t know how much longer she can bs it.

will it be enough?

overwhelmed

the frenzied state I found myself in on the eve of November 5, 2017

I just

I can’t put my feelings into words

I tried to explain to my mother but ended up saying shut up under my breath

Today I went to a math class, and everyone there basically already knows the material

and I don’t

and they’re all just loud

and I don’t know anything

and the teacher just stands at the front and gets mad at the loud people

and goes on with the lesson

he’s smart but he’s annoyed

and that makes for a bad lesson

and I’m sinking slowly into the depths of despair

keeping a face on that says I’m mature, I know what I’m doing (I really don’t want to be here right now)

a long time ago this class used to be fun

I don’t know what the teacher is talking about

well I should, but

I can’t pay attention

and then I go home

and I go over the material with my dad

who somehow gets the impression that I need to be less shy

and more loud

and ask more questions

but my questions

where are they?

I’m just lost, I have no questions

or I do, but they just get lost in the general chatter

or I kind of get it, and I just let myself think I’m fine

before going home and just

freaking out

and he keeps telling me to be louder

be less shy

ask more questions

don’t be shy

why are you so shy

why are you so soft spoken

just ask the question, goddammit!

And I cry

because I’m so done

I don’t want to answer his rhetorical questions

deal with his annoyance

his fury

well I know it’s not fury but

I get the material now because we just went over it, end of story, we’re all good now, okay?

stop asking me why I couldn’t ask questions, okay?

and I cry

walk away

say, can I do something else?

and he says sure

so I go work on my essays

I have two due the day after tomorrow

one is half done

half, because there’s a shit ton of editing to do

I don’t like my partner’s writing

the other hasn’t been started yet

although only the rough draft is due, so that’s okay

I can write it tomorrow

I tell myself

but think about it, what time do you have tomorrow?

tomorrow you have cello class

so you need to practice,

and you’ll have more homework

cello takes away three hours

thank god I don’t have cross country any more

oh right, we still have to get and oral presentation together

and there’s a math test on tuesday as well

all this is running through my mind as I’m trying to edit this mess of an essay

it’s not a real essay it’s so freaking messed up

and music is going through my head, red hot chili peppers

and my mom pops her head into my room (I’m wrapped in my blankets, by the way, all i want to do is read my fanfiction)

she tells me to go to bed soon,

am I almost done with my essay?

I want to scream

and I almost do

I drop my head onto the bed

and burrow under the blanket

and groan

and she just

she doesn’t understand

oh right

my dad texted my math teacher’s wife

who runs the classes, basically

and he said I was having trouble

and the wife told my friend

who probably also thinks I’m having trouble

but I was really just overreacting

all that chaos inside of me being let out

please stop overreacting to my overreacting, dad

just help me get through it

the whole world doesn’t have to know

okay, back to my mom

she comes in

tries to comfort me

but I’m too far gone

she leaves eventually,

not having helped at all

a little later, she returns

watches my stare at the screen in perpetual dismay at the carnage that’s sure to happen to my grades

she goes out again,

telling me to go to bed soon

as she leaves

I can’t just go to bed

idiot

I have two essays due the day after tomorrow

and I have no time tomorrow

so I have to do it today

but today is over

so when

will I do it

instead of doing my work

I feverishly type

this

an

example

of

my

overreacting

.

fear of failure

trust me, I’m an expert at failure.

Sometimes when I listen to my brother practice piano, I notice that when he stumbles on a passage, he’ll get frustrated and keep playing it, faster and faster, until he gets it right- but then he can’t get it right because he’s making it even harder for himself, so he switches to a different song to practice. It’s easy to see why he didn’t like playing the piano.

It’s probably partly because he wants to be good at it, so badly, because he thinks I’m really good at it- as his older sister. I try to show him that he doesn’t have to play it perfectly every time. There are strategies he can use to perfect imperfections other than pointless repetition, but he doesn’t listen to me. He tells me to stop talking and get out when barely a word escapes my lips.

I know he wants to be good, I know he’s trying really hard, I know he just wants to catch up to me-

But that’s not how you’re going to get there.

I wonder- when I’m practicing, struggling, failing, doesn’t he notice? That before you get good at something, there’s a period of disarray and chaos and mistakes and failure and correction and improvement. It’s a process I’ve gotten used to, having over eight years of experience and two different instruments.

I want him to know that it wasn’t easy for me, either. There was hard work, there were times when I got so mad at the world, too, sulking and screaming and crying.

When he keeps stumbling on the same phrase, I want to say, “David, you don’t have to play it every time like you want it sound in a performance. There are better ways to reach that end- Instead of playing it through faster all the time, it might help more if you played it slower, and accented every note- that way, you make sure you hit every note, and you won’t stumble as much when you play it faster.”

Because sometimes it seems that he only wants to play it faster and faster and faster, and I’m shouting into a void.   

I hate it. (I know he does, too, because:)

But- I do it, too. When I practice cello, and my mom’s watching and listening, it feels like I’m being trapped in a corner and I become incredibly passive aggressive, trying not to be mean yet wanting her to just go away. And eventually, she does, because the pressure just gets higher and higher and I implode, and it’s tangible in my demeanor and my music. And when it’s over, the self-loathing barrels in and it’s all a vicious cycle. My cello teacher said that I was learning to play for other people, but do I want to play for other people? I keep reminding myself that the answer is yes.

Yes, I do. I want people to hear me, hear all the time that I’ve spent dedicated to this instrument. But I don’t want them to hear me and think that it was a waste of time, that time and money was wasted on me. That’s failure. However, if you simply avoid playing for others to avoid humiliation and failure, it’s still a failure because other people aren’t getting the opportunity to enjoy what you’re playing. And if you go out there, on a stage, you have to follow through. That’s how you overcome the fear of failure.

action-deprived

If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be to just do it. The consequences can only be so dire, and when it comes to amazing opportunities, you can’t just let them go by (like I did.)

both my mom and my cello teacher have said that I think too much- that instead of thinking, I would do better to act instinctively. I hold back too much, I’ve got too many reservations to completely let go.

case 1:

2 years ago I switched cello teachers. I did this because my bow hold was not working and my teacher at the time wasn’t helping much. the biggest thing I’ve been working on since then is bringing out a bigger, fuller sound from my cello and myself. the bow hold issue is only one component of this. actually, the technical issues as a whole make up only one component. the other is getting past mental barriers. she keeps telling me, “music is something we share. it’s great that your music is so personal, but wouldn’t it be even better if you could share it with the audience?” after all, that’s what music is about, isn’t it? so I’ve also been working on being more open about the emotions I try to express through my playing. you have to exaggerate some things for it to carry out into the void. music is also an ephemeral thing: once the sound is released, there’s no going back. so everything about that sound has to be done before it’s released, and there really isn’t room for hesitation. you just do it.  I’m working on it.

 

case 2:

I was planning on reapplying to a private school this year. since September, I’d been planning to reapply. I even sat for the interview (which, granted, wasn’t very good.) but as the school year dragged on, I became less and less sure about applying to the school. I would tell myself that it’s a good school, it’s closer to your home than your local high school!, it’s so much better than the public school, you’ll be with your best friends from middle school, your parents will be really proud, and college applications won’t be as stressful. there were so many reasons to at least apply, and I really regret not doing so now. I’d like to think I would have had a chance- after all, I’m a very well-rounded, somewhat accomplished, and friendly candidate.

anyways, as time dragged on, Christmas break passed. I was still missing the teacher recommendations, and the deadline was the second of February. my math teacher has always been busy, and I wanted to meet her after school instead of sending an email, as it would be more sincere and she’d take my request more seriously. (my math teacher is also pretty intimidating, yet still a good teacher.) I never succeeded in catching her after class or after school; I never worked up the nerve to write an email. then, one day in class about halfway through January, she told students in my enriched geometry class who had asked for recommendations to meet her after class. I didn’t go; I never asked. I took that as the official ‘too late,’ and basically gave up.

I’m really disappointed in myself, and I think my mom is, too.

If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be to just do it. The consequences can only be so dire, and when it comes to amazing opportunities, you can’t just let them go by (like I did.)

Writing this makes me feel old; I’m really not. I hope in a few years I’ll have gotten better at not putting off decisions and just doing things of my own accord. That’s my self-development plan.

Also, a post-Easter resolution: go to sleep before midnight. Seriously.

 

 

This post isn’t really of interest to anyone, and I realize my audience isn’t super big- I don’t necessarily want one. This blog is more about me ranting and possibly (?) gaining some interhuman interaction from anonymous people.

if the latter isn’t fulfilled, I’ll still be happy with having an archive of hundreds of rants. that would be cool.

 

if you’re still reading, wow. Thanks! please comment 🙂