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?

New Year Resolutions for 2019

Happy New Year! 

I’ve always found New Year more special than Christmas; it’s a new start, a new chance to be a better self. I heard people say that they don’t do New Year Resolution because they give them up during the first one or two months. In my opinion, the secret of success is making goals SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound—except that there is no expiration date because I want them to be long-term habits. Because of that, this list might sound more like a habit tracker than resolutions.

  1. Write a to-do list every day

To-do lists increase my productivity and reduce my anxiety. This will be the first thing I do in the morning during weekends or after school during weekdays since I usually don’t know my homework beforehand. Other than that, I will do a weekly reflection every Sunday, tracking every goal I set for myself. Catching up the goals I didn’t finish the previous day added lots of stress, so I add a new rule for 2019: if I don’t finish something one day, write a no on it. It doesn’t count if I do double-work the next day. Hopefully, this rule will eliminate procrastination or snowballing my workload and allow me to have a fresh start every day.

2. Volunteer once a week

Since I came to this community two and a half years ago, it has nurtured and buttressed me with kindness and care. I want to pay it forward. We didn’t get to do much in Pay It Forward club this year because of the time limit, but during a school interim my friends and I helped out at a bunny house where we did lots of much-needed work. I messaged to volunteer, and I hope to go back there.

3. Work out twice a week

I firmly believe that physical health is the foundation of mental health. But when life got in the way, I procrastinated exercise after everything else. This year I decided to treat myself better. My host family includes me in their gym family membership card, which provides a convenient route for me to work out regularly. To be honest, during the last thirty minute of my last work out I have ever felt the most positive for a long time.

4. Study for SAT half an hour every day (and get 1500 in May!)

The college I want to go is fairly selective, so I want to make myself as competitive as possible on things that I can change. Thanks to the free resources on Khan Academy, during summer I improved my score by a hundred points, so maybe another hundred won’t be that hard? Just kidding. It’s hard. I’m considering buying an online tutoring course from SupertutorTV on Youtube, so please leave a comment below if you have tried it. Some days I wonder why do I try to hard since standardized tests don’t really help me grow as a person. But we all need to sacrifice for things we want, right?

5. Do college search an hour every week

It’s almost the second semester of my junior year! College stress seems to follow me like my shadow. I already have a list of college, but I still need to narrow it down and take a closer look. I feel behind, even though I’m probably not. I also need to plan a college visit during spring break when my mother comes to the U.S. …….It will be interesting, for sure.

6. Read a book every week

Every writer is a reader. When I’m feeling down, a good book helps me to escape from reality. In 2019, I want to read 52 books. It should be totally achievable since I’m reading a book every day during winter break……I’ll write the book of the week on my weekly to-do list every Sunday, the day when I stay at the library from open to close (it’s a shame that libraries only open from noon to four o’clock on Sundays).

7. Edit my novel for two hours every week

I finished the first draft of my second YA novel (currently titled “Counting Clouds”) during National Novel Writing Month! I didn’t completely put it aside during December since I unwisely started rewriting it without a revision outline or notes, but my plan is to finish the second draft, to make a revision outline, to take notes on all the character/plot developmental problems, and to write the third draft! Meanwhile, I’ll participate in the “Now What?” months on the NaNoWriMo website, and hopefully I’ll find a couple of new critique partners.

8. Work on other writing projects for an hour every week

I have been focusing on novel writing for the past four months, but I also enjoy writing poems and short stories. I want to explore different forms of creative writing and have at least two short stories that I’m really proud of by the end of the year. The benefit of poetry and short stories is you get more chances. Even though you finish one and don’t like it, there’s always time for another.

9. Attend the local Wordsmith meeting every month

This year I really want to become more engaged in the writing community and put myself out there. Fortunately, our local library has a writer’s group that meets every month to critique each other’s work. Sharing your work is scary, but I will summon all the courage I need and submit every month, as well as reading others’ work. Although most writers in the group are much older, I hope to make some friends.

10. Blog every Tuesday

I’m so glad that I started this blog! Blogging is an amazing creative outlet and I love to write about my writing and life experience. I will post consistently just for own my sake. Having a schedule keeps my life organized and avoids last-minute cursory work.

11. Comment on two other blog posts every day

One of the main reasons that I joined the blogging community is that I want to read the others’ experience—listening to people with other perspectives is part of the education—to learn from them, maybe to even build some friendships (despite how socially awkward I am). I want to encourage those who share a passion of writing with me, those who are battling mental illnesses, and those who try to live their lives the fullest in spite of all the difficulties.

12. Spend half an hour creating the literary magazine every week and hold a meeting every month

This year I’m the editor in chief of the literary magazine in our school. Because our school is tiny, the works of putting a magazine together are pretty much on me and a few friends who volunteered to help. Again, because of the nature of our school, begging people to submit is a struggle. But since it’s something we’re passionate about, the final result will turn out to be worth it.

13. Spend an hour co-writing a play with a friend every week

Our school has a tradition: all the sixth grader will perform a play in spring. Thanks to the recommendation of my English teacher, this year my friend and I have the opportunity to co-write the play script for next year. We had struggled, but we’re getting it. I’m so grateful for her theatre experience—it makes thing so much less confusing.

14. Journal 15 minutes before bed every day

I picked up the habit of journalling during summer, and I literally spent hours on it every day. So once school started and I didn’t have the leisure time, I had to give up. This year I decided to set a limit for myself and only write about the most meaningful moments. I want to draft down three to five specific things that I’m grateful for every day, as well as a weekly book review. Maybe I’ll even post some of them here!

15. Go to bed before 10: 30 PM

My sleep schedule has been really messed up. Going to bed after midnight and wake up at ten o’clock doesn’t exactly make me feel energetic. Furthermore, I won’t be able to sleep in once break ends. So I resolved to get intentional about bedtime. There will be days when inspirations come, and as a desperate writer I couldn’t resist; days that I find a book that’s just impossible to put down. But it won’t happen more than once or twice per month.

As you see in this post, I’m a very goal-oriented person. But in the new year, I want to be more growth-oriented. I want to try the big and scary things that would help me grow. I want to show gratitude to my loved ones. I want to be kind to everyone at school even though I don’t necessarily like them. But these are unmeasurable, so I made up my mind to only keep them in my heart.

What are your new year resolutions? 

Christmas as an international student

Merry Christmas!

I did some last minute Christmas shopping on Sunday before holiday anxiety hit me. Although I’m not religious, Christmas has always been special to me as it brings back the memory of the two host families who opened the door for me and welcomed with such kindness when I was lost. But at the same time, Christmas is scary. Terrifying. The social situation, and the fact that it’s so close to the end of the year. Sure, every ending is a new beginning, but have I accomplished enough this year? 

Christmas means amazing food, family time, and hanging out with the annoying relatives that you don’t want to see. But for me, things are a little different. I will be meeting with a bunch of strangers. To be fair, I’ve seen them on Thanksgiving, but that’s it. As an anxious introvert, socializing for a few hours is already difficult enough, needless to mention there is always one fear in the back of my mind: am I talking too much? Even if I’m being the quietest person in the room? Christmas is the time for family reunites and I want to allow everyone to talk to their extended family. My host family said I am a part of their family, but missing sixteen years of their life, things aren’t the same.

Or maybe I’m just overthinking.

But I’m still so grateful for winter break! The break is late this year so we don’t go back to school until January, 8th. I have lots of time to catch up with reading and writing: between all the eating, chatting, and opening gifts, I’ll find time to work on the second draft of my YA novel which I ultimately failed to put aside during the month of December. I’ll revise the short story I wrote about Christmas and New Year. I’ll read tons of good books that I borrowed from the local library. I’ll take time to reflect, take care of myself, and welcome 2019 with my best ability.

—December 23rd, 2018

Balancing school, writing, and self-care

Whether I am watching Youtube videos, reading blog posts, or talking to writer friends, balancing writing with life is a topic that gets mentions again and again. As a high school junior, I barely have time to write with homework, studying for standardized tests and extracurricular activities. Needless to say, the anxious voice in my head consistently seeks to persuade me that I’m not good enough, therefore I’m not going to make it.

For years, I struggle to be productive without sacrificing my mental health. Everyone says balance is the key for a healthy and happy life, but a balance is always this mysterious thing that no one captures. Luckily, after devoting tons of time to reflect on past mistakes and reading other people’s advice, I figured out a few tips that are most helpful for me. Although the definition of balance is different for everyone, I hope you find this post helpful.

1.Make your goal realistic

I have seen this advice in many places and dismissed it many times. As an ambitious overachiever, I stupidly thought that maybe that the human condition won’t apply to me. I filled my to-do list with goals that I should be able to accomplish if I use every second of my life effectively. No. The truth is, I am a human. I can’t write every second that I’m alive like Hamilton did (or at least that what they say in the musical). There will be days that I space out. Days that I come home from school exhausted and dysfunctional. Or worse, days that thing didn’t go my way, and after all the unintentional overthinking and overanalyzing, I freak out and have a mental meltdown. I learned one lesson the hard way: forgive yourself for not being perfect. When you have a bad mental health day, pushing yourself to study or write for three hours straight might not be a good idea. Take a break. Add relaxation into your schedule: if you have four hours after school, plan to study and write for two and a half or three hours. Expected things are going to happen at the most inconvenient time. And we all have the experience of being so overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. Rather than failing and feeling guilty, setting realistic goals will make your life is much healthier! In the meanwhile, if you don’t have the habit to write a to-do list, start doing it! It only takes less than one minute, but it will take off tons of stress in your mind.

2. Sleep, eat healthy, and workout 

I came from a culture that has an unhealthy notion of productivity. Growing up, my parents talked about how American college students sleep three hours every day and insisted me to do the same. Okay, first, that’s definitively not true. Second, this misconception belittles the importance of self-care and encourages people to overwork themselves. Maybe that’s why my parents are workaholics. Our biological body is designed this way for a reason. I believe psychical health builds up emotional health: after eight or nine hours of sleep, the little things in life don’t irritate me as much. Similarly, sometimes I’m mad at someone for no reason, and end up figuring out that I’m just hungry. So sleep for as long as you need (but don’t overdo it), and eat nutritious food that makes your body feel good. After filling your stomach with unhealthy snacks during the National Novel Writing month, December is the time to treat yourself better. Last but not least, exercise. I haven’t been working much recently, which probably explains why I feel tired all the time. Go for walks when the weather is good, or simply follow the instructions on Youtube and do some stretches in your room. A little exercise every day can go a long way.

3. Prioritize schoolwork

Most days when I come home from school, I’m not in the mood of doing homework, even though I LOVE homework. Our teachers rarely give us busy work; the reading/worksheets/projects we’re working on are usually really interesting and I can’t be more grateful for my education. It’s just so tempting to open a new document or a blank page and write. In my monthly reflection, there is always a note “finish your homework before writing!” From time to time I become resentful. Writing is what I am passionate about, why in the world should I place it after schoolwork? Deep down, I know the answer. I need to study because my dream college requires a certain GPA and standardized test score. Even though getting a nearly-perfect score on the SAT isn’t important in term of personal growth, I choose to make the sacrifice. When I get home, I do my homework and study. If I only write 300 words, it’s okay. I’m still young. I have time. Don’t feel obligated to write every day; it’s good to have a routine, but you do not have to prove to anyone that you’re a writer.

4. Take advantage of weekends and breaks

I love weekends because I can catch up with all the reading and writing. I love to spend a whole morning or afternoon typing undisturbed by my desk or at the local library. When inspiration comes, I won’t feel guilty for staying up until one A.M. drafting a short story because there is no school tomorrow. I used to be obsessed with writing a certain amount of words every day until I learned that I work better with a more flexible schedule. A writer’s current state of mind will always reflect in their writing. If they’re stressed over a deadline, the reader can see through it. That’s why for me, the holiday season is the most productive time of the year. Winter break is approaching! I hope everyone can squeeze time to write between all the eating, drinking, chatting, and reflecting on the year.

5. Use writing as a form of self-care

Writing has always been therapeutic for me. It helps me escape from the world, the concept of reality, and myself. I also use writing to research, to reach out to others, and to question the universe. But when I get too reward-oriented, the desire to accomplish something can ruin the joy of creating it. Sure, I want to write a novel that will make people think and feel, but I also just enjoy writing. I want to stop worrying about how imperfect my manuscript is, because it’ll never be perfect. And imperfection is one of those things that make life so beautiful. Allow yourself to the taste of pride after finishing the schoolwork, to tap the keyboard like it’s once and only a lifetime. My favorite YouTuber, Shaelinwrites, talked about treating writing as a reward for studying, and I personally find extremely helpful and stress-reliving.

6. Stop hurrying

I have dreams. Big dreams. I wanted to publish a book before I turn eighteen. I wanted to build a platform before my twenties. Sixteen-year-old me got way ahead of herself. Sit down, take a deep breath, and think. Girl, you’re still in high school. Your friends just start thinking about the colleges they want to go and the careers they want to pursue. There is no hurry. Think about the beginning of everything: why do you want to write a book? I want to tell stories. Beautiful stories. I want to make others feel less alone. I want to make people laugh and cry and think hard. I believe in the beauty and power of words. Years ago, when the lonely little girl didn’t have any friend, her characters came into life and embraced her with a warm hug. She cried. I don’t want to be the person who forgets herself in the competition of others. So I wrote this down to remind myself of my purpose. Creativity is a lifelong journey and I want to take as long as I need.

Thank you guys so much for reading and I hope you to have a healthy and balanced life! Happy writing!