Outgrowing

Last weekend, I was sitting on an unmade bed in a hotel room and scrolling down my 165 pages novel draft. In our English class, all honors students are required to do an Independent Writing Project. While it might be a pain in the ass for others to write two hours per week after school, it has never inconvenienced me. I write for two hours every day if time allows.

My IWP project was the YA novel I finished during NaNoWriMo and rewrote without a revision outline. I typed the last word with a smile on my face and a feeling that I won’t come back.

When I go to college, I probably won’t read YA novels as much. Not because my taste becomes more “advanced”. My to-read list is just too long (it has 56 books already!) and there are so much in the world that I want to explore. I want to live the life of people who are so different from me that I shout with delight, “I didn’t know a person could think like that!” They might be at a drastically different age, live on the other side of the world (or a different world!), and/or come from a different culture. And I want to read more literary books and non-fiction. 

That’s how I feel about my novel. During the teenage years, a writer grows immensely, and the improvement is even more tangible for a non-native speaker. I am amazed at how much I’ve grown every time I read something that I wrote two months ago. 

Counting Clouds was a fantastic project—it was right what I needed. I started writing it when I fully accept my sexuality, when I question about religion and love, when I finally let go of the feeling of abandonment. And when I miss the elephant (whom I still couldn’t bring myself to call a stuffed animal) I lost years ago but still couldn’t get over, because the countless days and nights when my parents are “too busy”, she stayed by my side and listened and comforted me. 

Carmen Kessler was so different from me, yet we experienced growing pains and confusions together. We bonded over of our passion for writing and chatted from the warm summer liveliness to the chilly fall tranquility. I have amazing friends now and no longer seek companion from fictional characters, but Carmen and I shared a special relationship that I always hold dear to my heart. 

But now, it’s time to say goodbye.

Farewell, Carmen Kessler. May your future be clear and bright. May you get into your dream college. May your young love with Leela lasts forever. May you stay lifelong friends with Joanne and Dylan.

So, Dr. H, is it too late to change my IWP project?

Being Not Okay

I have been gratitude journaling for more than a month. Every day. It helps me to appreciate life in a whole different level. But lately, I couldn’t bring myself to it. 

Saying “it’s okay to not be okay” is unbelievably lame. In fact, I used it in my first blog. But sometimes, I couldn’t bring myself to believe it.

I know under all the gratitude, I am not okay.

My stomach feels terrible.

Activities that I always enjoyed have only bred insecurities. They bring me no joy but stress and anxiety which aggravate my performance. I wish one day I won’t feel like the most untalented person in the world. I wish one day I can be normal.

Seasonal depression—or maybe it isn’t about seasons after all—has returned. I have gotten nothing done after school (not that we got much done at school this interim). Trust me, as an overachiever in high school, this is like the end of the world. (Apparently, exaggeration does not make me feel better. I’ve tried being an edgy teenager.)

Suicidal thoughts came back, too. Though I haven’t told anyone, I’ll hand my keys to my host family and stop driving if I have them one more day. I don’t want to risk my life. I want to live. Every little thing could go wrong. If I simply close my eyes for three seconds. Please help me, dear universe. Please don’t let me hurt anybody.

I feel ugly and monstrous. Inside and out.

Is it the weather? The coldest winter was gone. We just had a gorgeous sunny day. But I guess monsters always come into sight at the least expected time. They hide in your shadows and attack when you’re laughing with your friends thinking everything will be fine. That maybe it’s different this time. 

I’d like to believe that it’s the darkest moment before dawn. Like when you write about the “Dark Night of The Soul” in a novel. It’s a mountain that I can, and will, conquer. Except that, no matter how much I love writing, real life is much more excruciating than any fiction. 

I have hope somewhere inside me, although I wish to disappear. The rock on my chest is so massive that I scarcely feel the pain in my stomach. I haven’t been studying. I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been petting my cats. I long to do the things that bring me joy, but I couldn’t bring myself to.

I hope no one who knows me is reading this. If you are, know that I’m terribly sorry for sharing and that I love you.

(This was written on February 6th, 2019. I suppose I am feeling a lot better when this is published. I’ll be okay. Maybe it will take a couple days, maybe it will take two weeks. But don’t worry, I’ll be okay.)

The Consequences of Pulling an All-nighter

Most of us have unfortunately pulled one or multiple all-nighters when we had been procrastinating on a school project, reading a fantastic book, or partying with friends on the New Year Eve. When you have a paper due tomorrow, sacrificing your sleep seemed like the only solution. There are numerous resources on pulling an all-nighter without dying from exhaustion, but I thought I would share my personal experience.

Disclaimer: I have never pulled an all-nighter working because my body literally can’t. So……

During the New Year sleepover, after playing “what do you MEMES” and “Apples to Apples”, most of my friends gradually surrendered to the Roman god of sleep, Hypnos. Only one of them and I were awake, thank our already-messed-up sleep schedule during winter break. So we decided to play cards, and hours passed by without our notice.

What kept me conscious were water and fresh green apple. I love water. I love the feeling of cleanness in my mouth and being hydrated. I love hot tea too, but it makes me sleepy. I personally never tried coffee or energy drink, but they might work for some people. During an all-nighter, it’s extremely important to eat food that make your body feel good.

When I got a little bored, we switched to doodling random things on blank papers. This was when all the tiredness summoned me. My friend said, “You have gone through hours, don’t give up in the last minute! (paraphrased)” So I didn’t. The next morning we ate donuts and leftover pizzas.

My host mom picked us up and we got home around noon. The first two hours of the afternoon I allowed myself to relax (which was pretty rare for a workaholic). I wrote in my journal, “It’s pretty amazing how my body is functioning properly despite the lack of sleep.” NO. Around three o’clock I tried to study, but my brain flatly refused. So I thought, “Okay, I’ll just take a short nap then.” 

I woke up at ninety thirty at night. I ate dinner (because I skipped lunch) and went back to bed. I woke up at noon the next day. Turned out there is no way to cheat on nature. I spent the first day of 2019 doing nothing, which was a great way to start a new year (no sarcasm here) because I’m learning to be okay with doing nothing and not measure my self-worth by productivity. 

Still, don’t pull an all-nighter unless it’s necessary……

PS: Happy Chinese New Year!

Dyeing My Hair Purple

On the last day of 2018, I bought a box of violet hair dye and a small bag containing a pair of plastic gloves and a color brush. I picked a deeper shade of purple because my natural hair color is really dark and I didn’t want to bleach it.

I sat on a tall chair in the laundry room while my host sister brushed the violet dye gently on my head, matching the beat of Hamilton. The dye felt cool on my head. It would be enjoyable in the summer, I said my thought out loud. My host sister agreed. A year younger but had watched much more Youtube tutorials, she was much more skillful on hair coloring than I would ever be. 

We didn’t record how long it took, but when my host sister used of the last spoonful of dye, the phone was playing A Winter’s Ball. My host mother combed my hair to make the dye smooth and even and wiped off the purple marks on my forehead and the back of my neck. “Does it look any different?” I asked eagerly. “Not really, maybe you need to wait a few minutes.”

So I sat next to the washer with Bridge of Clay in my hand and a bagful of fruit snacks in my mouth. My host mother and host sister were eating lunch on the kitchen table, Hamilton soundtrack still playing. After another half hour, I looked into the mirror: nothing changed. My natural hair was too dark for the hair dye to show, and there was a purple line on my face that looked like a humorous birthmark.

My host sister said she can see purple highlights under natural lighting. My best friend said the purple intensified the black. When I went to a friend’s house for New Year Eve, I accidentally dyed their pillow purple. In summary, although the result was a little disappointing, it was a fun experience. Now I know when I dye my hair, I better bleach it first, which will also give me more options. Maybe I’ll dye my hair light blue next time, who knows?

If you would dye your hair, what color would you choose?

Merging Into Another Culture

When I decided to come to America, I had no idea what I was getting into.

I was fourteen years old, and despite the adversities I endured, naive and unsophisticated. I exceedingly underestimated the cultural difference and overestimated the quality of the social rules my no-often-around parents taught me. When someone told me I should say “can I please use the sink water” instead of “I’m gonna use the water sink”, I was enraged and ashamed.

Since then, I had always been afraid that people will find out something uncouth about me.

When I look back, it’s less about cultural difference and more about social interactions. Spending all of my childhood weekends alone and never really talked to anybody besides my one best friend in the boarding school (spoiler: we broke up), I never learned how to interact with other human beings. The misunderstandings caused by language and the cultural difference just magnified the problem. 

The fear still exists, but I’ve learned a lot about American customs.

There are millions of unspoken social rules in this country, in this area, even in our tiny high school. I observed and analyzed how others behave and imitated them. I made countless mistakes, recovered, and learned from them. I felt a secret accomplishment each time someone asked how long have I been here and dropped their jaws when they heard the answer. Your English is really good, they said, and you seem so American.

I’m proud of my adaptability, but did I lose myself?

In a casual conversation, one of my friends mentioned that they admire people who came to America but kept their own cultural identity. She wasn’t referring me, but the incident made me wonder: did I keep my cultural identity? Off the top of my head, the answer is no. I say “oh my god” and swear like any other American teenager. 

How can you still be yourself when you can’t find a hint about where you come from?

Sure, I have yellow skin and black hair. Stereotypically speaking (by the way, I hate stereotypes), I’m good at math. But I haven’t practiced my native tongue except for the occasional phone calls with my parents. I have wondered if I am cold-blooded by not feeling joy when I see someone with the same heritage. But there is nothing wrong with being indifferent with race, is it? I guess in a foreign place, people who came from the same country are supposed to help each other out. America isn’t a foreign place, it’s my second home. But I admire other transplants and use my experience to help them. 

I haven’t forgotten where I came from.

Since a young age, I was fascinated by the rich, enchanting culture of ancient Asia. How the language evolved in thousands of years, how empire raised and fell, and the food……omg. THE FOOD. It would be a lie if I say I didn’t miss Asian cuisine at least a tiny bit.

Sometimes I think that if I stayed, I’d be a completely different person. This realization terrifies and excites me. I’m content with where I am now and I will stay in America because of the culture, the possibilities, and my friends. Not gonna lie, last time I went back to my native country, I had a culture shock. I didn’t have any culture shock where I came here……

So maybe, this is the place where I’m meant to be? 

My First Car Crush

The day after Christmas, I walked out of the spa with an asymmetrical bob, ready to start a new year. The weather was a little chilly, but the sun was shining. I waved to three older ladies parked on my left, and they waved back and smiled warmly. I put my car in reserve and started pulling out a couple inches away from the wall. I was pretty close to a silver truck in front of me, but I didn’t give it a second thought. My car has a pretty short front. The first few times seeing your car being so close to another was nerve-cracking, but it became nothing after a while.

And then, crash. 

My first thought was that I can’t believe the three sweet ladies are witnessing this. I hoped they’re okay. I hoped they aren’t scared by it. My second thought was: drive away. No one would notice. I looked back and double-checked there was no damage on the back of the truck. Trucks are strong, they should be okay.

Google says that an average person gets into three car accidents in their life. Hitting a parked car probably doesn’t even count. Of course getting into an accident is always a possibility no matter how careful you are, but I never thought it would happen to me. Or at least, not this early.

I’m seventeen and I got into my first car crash. 

I remained ridiculously calm for the rest of the afternoon. I even went back to the library and finished a YA novel about college rejection (We Regret to Inform You). I seriously considered not telling anyone, which was totally what I would do a year ago. But in the end, I decided to talk to my host family, because we have a foundation of trust and I don’t want to hide anything from them. Also, one year away from being an adult, I should take responsibility for my own action.

But things only get worse. 

When I came home from working out the next day, I couldn’t open my passenger door. As unobservant as I was, I didn’t realize that there was a crack on my car front until then. Because we planned to meet someone for lunch, I got into the shower and started panicking. What should I do? I regret not leaving a phone number on their car. What if there is some damage done on the truck and I just missed it? 

After telling my host parents, they called the hair salon and asked if they heard anything about it. They promised they will tell us if they anything new arises. I wouldn’t want the other car owner to pay for any damage to their car. My host dad told me that it probably costs a couple thousand dollars to fix my car. 

But I’m glad I handled the situation maturely (and didn’t have an anxiety attack). The other day I was texting my friend and she said she was proud of me for doing the cool adult thing because so many people would just pretend that it doesn’t happen and not pay the other car owner’s repair bill.

Of course, I hope this never happened, but any incident can be a potential a life lesson. I’m grateful that it happened when I’m seventeen instead of twenty-one because this experience would be so much scarier if I’m doing this alone. 

Thank you for reading this post! I hope what happened to me won’t ever happen to you guys. Have you ever been in a car accident?

How I Want To Feel In 2019

As an INTJ (MBTI personality test), I find myself making decisions based on gut feelings more and more recently. There is nothing wrong with it: how we feel is largely connected with our values and where we want to be in our lives. When I was watching Youtube videos for New Year Resolution inspirations, Lavendaire suggested making a list of how do you want to feel in the new year. So here’s my list:

  • I want to feel motivated and creatively inspired for the right reason. I was told many times by my family, friends, and even teachers that I am too hard on myself. I always smile and dismiss their comments, because that’s what it takes to be a self-starter, right? But when I sit down and reflect my values, I realize I was motivated by the wrong reason. I don’t want to study just because of the GPA, but for the love of learning. I don’t want to write just because of the dream of writing something that will outlive me, but for the desire of writing. I don’t want to volunteer just because it would look good on my college application, but for the care of my community. In summary, I want to be more growth-oriented rather than reward-oriented.
  • I want to feel youthful. I had always been a “mature” kid. I learned to take care of myself at a young age so my parents never need to worry. But the more I spend time with myself, the more I discover that although I had been proud of the label, I wasn’t happy behaving the way society encouraged instead of being myself. I was too prudent, taking things too seriously, and unwilling to take risks. In the new year, I want to be more open to new adventures. I’m seventeen, for heaven’s sake!
  • I want to feel curious. When a kid is first invited into the world, they is curious and excited about everything. “Look, there is a dog!” “What is that flower called?” “Why do we brush our teeth before washing our faces?” I still ask these questions to my loved ones, and they always explain patiently to me. But sometimes I feel self-conscious about if I am seen childish or odd. Like my friend said, I don’t know anyone wise who isn’t childish, at least in their personal life. In the new year, I want to care less about what others think and keep an open eye on the world.
  • I want to feel free. I craved for freedom ever since I was born. I longed for America, the land of free. Although the land of free turned out to be flawed as any other country, I found a host family who loves me for who I am. Since then, my friends had described me as a child a heart, and I’m freaking proud of it. I want to explore the endless possibilities in the world without the fear of failure. I’m young and I have the freedom to fail as many times as needed.
  • I want to feel secure. Despite my love for freedom, I have often felt rootless. I don’t have a close relationship with my family and my host family is more like friends than blood. I have been up all night, questioning the meaning of “home” and will I ever find one. I fantasize about building a family with the girl of my dream (hey, it’s legal here!) and my cats, but how can I start a family without feeling secure in myself? In 2019, I want to reassure myself that my parents don’t define me. I am almost an adult, and I can be on my own.
  • I want to feel peaceful. Anxiety has kept me from feeling peaceful for a long time. Although I haven’t had an anxiety attack since December, 7th (Yay!), I need to take deep breathers several times every day to convince myself everything is okay. Journaling helps a little bit, but I still have a long way to go. Peacefulness isn’t something you achieve like finishing your homework or writing a thousand words. I hope in 2019, my healthier lifestyle would guide me to find peace in my heart.
  • I want to feel confident. Low self-esteem is pretty common among teenagers and many of my friends and I suffer from it. I grew up in a culture where kids (especially girls) are told to be humble. I value humility, but talking down myself isn’t the healthiest way to do it. A factor that plays into self-deprecating jokes is my fear of criticism. Somehow glass-hearted me think that convincing myself that my works are crappy and worthless will prepare me to not feel heartbroken when others tell me so. NO. I love my writings and creations, and trash-talking them only kills me. In the new year, I want to stop telling others I’m not good enough. Because I’m awesome.
  • I want to feel worthy. Towards the end of 2018, I discovered one of my unhealthiest habits: I judged my self-worth based on my productivity. I was guilty every time I am doing nothing because wasting time felt unethical and intolerable. In another words, I blamed myself for being a human. I’m still looking for the line between self-acceptance and self-improvement, but I want to remember that I am worthy of love, friendships, and opportunities just by being myself.

How do you want to feel in 2019?