Hello, World

Hey. Hello. Sorry. 

I haven’t posted for a long time, and today is the day that I tell myself to just write something, anything, to share it with the world and get back to the habit. 

I didn’t stop writing. I made progress on my novel The Promises of the Wilderness and I kept a journal about things that are the most important to me. I had something that I really care about and wanted to share, but I put too much pressure on myself and my anxiety started to act up and I ended up not being able to do it.

I have done a lot in the past month. I read lots of books, went to a fascinating field school, and started a new relationship. I slept in and watched Netflix in a bathtub (don’t worry, there wasn’t any water) and took care of myself. I went to the pride parade and grew more comfortable in my identity. I went to the mall and got ice cream with my roommate and walked barefoot in the grass to watch the sky. I took sunset photos every day because often times we forget how beautiful the earth is, from pink to orange to purple to blue. 

I write this blog post because it’s something I really like to do, and so many times I gave up (or worse, never started) things I love due to fear and anxiety, and this time I don’t want to.

It stormed several times the past week. Once when I was driving to a friend’s house, the rain was so heavy that I couldn’t see what was in front of me. I was frightened. Another afternoon, the thunder was roaring so angrily that even though I hid under the blankets in the bathtub, it haunted me until I was unable to breathe. Even narrow spaces were no longer safe enough. I’m writing this while listening to the fireworks that sound like bombs (I’m sorry but they do) and my anxiety is currently too much for me to watch fireworks.

I knew my fears are irrational. Anxiety is irrational. 

But I safely arrived at my friend’s house and we had fun hanging out. My significant other supported me through the rough times and I did not have an anxiety attack. (In fact, I haven’t had an anxiety attack since February. It almost got me a few times, but I learned more about how to manage my anxiety and things that trigger me. When I saw it coming, I turned up my music and told myself to breathe and reached out to someone, and I got over it.) My roommate just made me hot tea. I ate two cinnamon sticks. My version is not blurry anymore and I write this blog post, even though my body is still shivering.

It got better, and it will get better. Not immediately, because everything is a process. But it does get better, I promise. There are no happy endings, only happy middles. 

The sky was dyed from blue to pink from fireworks.

Happy Fourth of July!

I am grateful that I came to America. America isn’t perfect. I hesitate to say this, but it’s far from perfect. If you’re not white, male, straight, cisgender, Christian, upper-middle class, able-bodied, etc., life can be even more difficult. Terrible things are happening in detention camps (or concentration camps, as someone accurately describes). We’re allowed to be proud, but we’re also allowed to be angry. People told me that it’s not my country and thus not my place to judge. But my friends and my chosen family are here. I care deeply about this place, and I want to be a part of the change that makes it better.

Like many people in my generation, I want to change the world one day. Baby steps.

~ Ocean ~

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.)

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?

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!

Dear fourteen-year-old self

Dear fourteen-year-old self,

I get it. 

Trust me.

Please, listen.

In three years, you’ll be living in another country all the way across the world. You will go to a new school and start a new life. It won’t be easy at first, but you’ll make friends who not only accept your weirdness but embrace it. As Rebecca Stead said in one of the Nanowrimo prep talks, your weirdness is your strength. 

By the way, Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Yes, you write a novel in your second language in a month.

Being terrified of what others might do to you, you never had the courage to say your writer dream out loud. You were right, people who surround you now will probably belittle you. Don’t give up. I know you won’t. During the darkest days, you hold on to the pen, never let go. You write what you need to read. You treat it as a free therapy. You escape from reality to the imaginary world. It’s beautiful, you think, if I die, maybe I’ll be there forever.

You are depressed and suicidal without knowing it.

You look at the cuts on your roommate, whose birth parents abandoned her simply because of her sex. You look at the bullies who won’t leave you alone, calling you ugly and degenerate. You look at your loveless home and your parents who never seem to care or understand. You look at your best friend……who you seem to be in love with.

The feeling isn’t gone.

Three years later, there are still days when you come home from school and lock yourself in the room. Days that you can’t breathe, sob all day, and wish to be dead. But you’re too obstinate. You can’t die happy until you finish this novel. You can’t die happy if you are going to bring sadness and guilt to those who are alive. You can’t die happy without fighting for those who suffer the cruelty of the society. You can’t die happy without telling your story, telling those who struggle with what you have gone through: you are not alone.

You might think: who do I care? I just want to escape. It’s too much. It’s too hard. But the truth is you care. You survive out of love. The love for justice. The love for others. The love that raises above the hopelessness in your heart and overpowers the hate and indifference in the world. 

Seriously, it’s not a phrase. 

You are stubborn. You think “what if I don’t give up? what will happen?” and this is what happens. Three years later, you have family, friends, and a pen in your hand. You are loved.

I know you’re not okay, and it’s okay to not be okay. 

You didn’t do anything, and not doing anything is a huge victory.

You won the battle. You’re a true warrior.

Thank you.

I can’t imagine life without you. I can’t imagine not being able to see the beautiful things and beautiful people in the world.

You’re my hero.

Love,

Seventeen-year-old you