Sunday, March 11, 2018

Random Thoughts About Race

This is a post about race that relates some thoughts and memories that I have been having recently. It doesn't really go anywhere. I mean, none of my posts go anywhere in particular, but since this is about a heavier topic I figured I'd leave a little disclaimer.

I can't remember why, but I was recently thinking about the "I Had a Dream" episode of The Proud Family. For those who don't know, The Proud Family is an old Disney Channel cartoon following an Afro-Latino girl named Penny Proud as she lives a life surrounded by friends and family. Given the episode name, you probably won't be surprised when I tell you that the episode involves Penny working on an assignment for Black History Month and being swept about fifty years in the past to a segregated society. My primary memory of this episode is this scene (see above photo) in which Penny realizes that she and Zoey are no longer friends because Zoey is white and Penny is colored.

This was one of the first times that I understood race as a barrier. Of course I always recognized that the people around me weren't necessarily the same race as me. As the only Chinese kid in my class, it was hard not to notice. But like most kids, I didn't think that race divided me from other people. As far as I was concerned, the only difference between me and a Hispanic kid was what we ate for dinner and what language we spoke with our parents.

The existence of these differences really hit me when I started learning about segregation in history class. Teachers told us (extremely watered down) accounts of discrimination against black people. You know, the typical photos of bathrooms and water fountains labeled "white" and "colored". Of course there was absolutely no mention of lynching or beating or the absolute disrespect with which black people were treated, but even without the harsher details, I remember thinking that segregation was cruel and unusual. I remember being relieved that it was in the past. I remember feeling lucky that people of my race weren't targets of hatred.

Then I thought about this episode of The Proud Family. I imagined what my life would be like if I had been born fifty years earlier. At first I figured I'd be fine because I wasn't black. Immediately after that thought was the realization that I wasn't white either, which meant I didn't get to use the fancy bathrooms. I wasn't really sure where Asians would've fallen on the spectrum of discrimination, but at the time I pictured myself mopping a floor. Now that I'm older and (kind of) wiser, I assume I would've been washing dishes in my parents' restaurant or ironing shirts in the backroom of a laundromat.

It's just weird to think that fifty years isn't too far in the past. In school, they tend to teach history with this implication that racism is over, that all of those horrible things are in the past. Luckily, a lot of those things are in the past. But at the same time, too many forms of racism and segregation are still present in our society. It's an unsettling reminder that complacency is not an option because there is still work to be done.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

How are you okay with that?

I don't understand why you're not interested in being strong and independent. How can you go about your day knowing that you intend to rely on someone else for the rest of your life? Don't you have the desire to do things on your own? To prove that you can take care of yourself? That you can stand on your own two feet? Don't you want to make a difference in the world? It baffles me that you actively choose not to contribute to a generation of women who are setting a precedent. Modern women are creating a world where young girls can be their own person and pay no regard to restrictive gender expectations. They lead their lives in a manner that demonstrates that girls are strong, self-sufficient, and forward-thinking. They're proving that girls don't have to change their appearances or behavior to please boys--or anyone for that matter. Girls of the future aren't going to be defined by how shiny their hair is or how seductively than can bat their lashes. They're going to be valued for their thoughts and the way they express those thoughts. Their characters will be defined by how they treat themselves and the people around them. But before that, women of the present need to take the initiative to create that world. Don't you want to be a part of that?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Written on New Year's Eve

The best way to describe it is as too much. Too much thinking. Have I done anything worthwhile in the past year? Because it certainly doesn't seem like I'm moving towards anything. Too much feeling. Guilt overwhelms me with the sense that I'm wasting resources--the primary resource being time. Too much nothing. Because it's all in my head. No one is around. Every three hundred and sixty-five days I find myself alone in this room having too many thoughts and assigning too much significance to a fleeting moment.

It's just that I've been taught to believe that I'm supposed to acknowledge the changing of the years as something special. Maybe that's something people made up to give themselves hope that their lives won't always be the same. They need the calendar to move them from one phase of their lives to the next. They want to abandon the stagnancy and pain and regret that define their current lives, and they need someone to tell them when to do it.

Don't they know that they don't need a new year to become the person they want to be? Every month is an opportunity to look at the past with forgiveness and acceptance. Every week offers the potential for a fresh start; every day, the chance to improve.

All of this optimism and sage advice doesn't diminish the fact that I'm still here, sitting alone. I can deny it all I want, but this isn't what I want. Is it?


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Addicted to Sticky Notes

The notion is extremely conceited. I recognize that. And I hope that my recognition serves to diminish some of the arrogance that I will inevitably pin to myself when I say that I have more thoughts than other people. There. It's out. I've done the damage, now please let me scramble to explain myself and attempt to cling on to whatever shreds of respect you might have for me.

It is all too supercilious of me to believe that other people are less complicated than me. When I fail to understand that every single person on this planet has just as many, if not more, complexities and nuances as myself, I fail to truly recognize the people around me as actual people, as humans with hearts that beat and palms that sweat. I don't want to be that person. But let me describe my alternative.

Have you ever been to the dollar section at Target? I spent a significant chunk of time and money there as a kid, and the result was an impressive collection of notepads. Let me tell you that those notepads did not go to waste. Around the age of ten, I started writing to-do lists and hour-by-hour schedules defining how I would spend my weekends and school vacations. My concern was that if I didn't have my plans in writing, then I would throw away all of my time watching television. I didn't trust myself to remember to do everything that I wanted to do.

Years ago, I mentioned that I have kept some form of journal since around the second grade. Records of conversations I had with friends, summaries of how I'd spent recent weeks, confessions of my endless insecurities, thoughts that keep passing through my brain--I have them all somewhere in some form of writing. Somehow, I had developed this fear that if I didn't write something down, I would forget it. I would lose it forever. So I felt this urgent need too write down everything happening to me, with me, or around me. Because I was desperately afraid of forgetting myself, of losing myself.

And it always feels like I'm on the brink of doing just that. I overthink who I am and why I act the way I do. What motivates me? Am I being myself or am I trying too hard to be this ideal person? But isn't trying to be the person that I want to be the same thing as being myself? Nothing I do feels natural. It all feels forced, like I'm constantly trying to execute some plan rather than just living my life.

The simple act of having thoughts like these makes my brain feel like it's running with no sign of stopping. It hurts. It gives me constant headaches and makes my heart beat faster. My fingers are always itching to do something because of it. Just to clarify, I mean all of this literally. This isn't a poetic description. My hands actually go kind of nuts. That's why I draw and write and play piano--to put my hands at ease.

The best thing I can do is write down as much as I can, because when I write down my thoughts it feels like I'm dumping them out of my head. Then for a little while, my head is empty enough to think about things like turbulent flow through a rough tube or high-pass circuit impulse responses to pulse inputs. I mean, these things also give me headaches, but at least they're more productive.

But I digress. Let's get back to discussing that thing I said that makes me sound like an asshole. I kind of know that I don't think more than most people. But maybe I'd rather sound like an asshole than address the fact that other people have the brain capacity to deal with an endless stream of thoughts, and I just don't. I don't possess the mental strength to not be overwhelmed by my own thoughts.

Alternatively, everyone struggles the way I do, but we all just hide it from each other. Perhaps I am neither special nor stupid. But I don't like that. I've always aspired to be this great protagonist, which means I can't be normal. I have to stand out in some way, you know? I've either got to face this great disadvantage that I will eventually overcome in order to prove myself a hero, or I've got to possess this incredible trait that gives me a mark of superiority. I can't just be normal. I can't be satisfied with normal. Why else would I put so much effort into each of my outfits?


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Something that Doesn't Exist

A glowing laptop rests on a small table in front of me. My legs are propped up onto the chair next to me as I sift through the expanse of notes that surround me. White pages, blue lines, black scribbles--everything blurs together. I notice an ache in my upper back, a dull soreness in the back of my head, a slight burning sensation in my eyes. Sometimes there's music. Soothing classical. Energetic rock. Motivational pop. Sometimes there's silence--interrupted occasionally by the squeak of a chair, the whir of an overhead plane, an excited shout from outside.

This is how I spend most of my time. I spend it alone. I spend it staring at a screen. I spend it working. Does it sound boring? Because it is. That's why whenever I get the chance, I open a book and run to Pemberley or Gilead or Wonderland. Sometimes I watch Rory jump off of a three story ledge in a baby blue ball gown as she starts to fall in love with Logan. Or I'll put on a Ghibli film and follow Chihiro through the bathhouse or tag along with Sophie as she navigates the Wastes. Any time I get a chance, I attempt to make an escape, to abandon the neutral tones of my reality for a technicolor fantasy.

Occasionally, I'll contemplate how most of my "worldly knowledge" was obtained from fiction. Everything I know about falling in love is fiction-based. As is everything I know about great tragedies and overcoming adversity and soul searching. My perception of the world has been carefully written and edited--manufactured, if you will. It leads me to wonder if the things that I'm looking for actually exist. Because for my entire life, I've been searching for something. Something that makes an uptight person like me lose control. Something that forces me to stop thinking and just feel. What if this thing that I seek is fictional as well? Maybe I'll be trapped in my own head and under my own control for the rest of my life. Maybe there's no way out.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Terminal 17

There's a relentless buzz pulsing through the air, as if the sound waves are oceanic rather than conical. I turn my head towards the sound, and my eyes fall up on shelves of rainbow colored plastic. Bottles, bags, and cans bursting with salt and sugar and chemicals whose names threaten to tie my tongue. I imagine that me pronouncing those names would sound something like the clashing of Terminal 16 and Terminal 18's overlapping announcements: a myriad of syllables that sound like a language I know but that don't really mean anything at all. Especially when blended with the rhythmic click of rolling wheels over tile, the slap of a flip flop against a woman's heel, the fascinated "wow"-ing of a toddler in a stroller, the announcements are hard to follow.

It's hard to focus on any voice or person for that matter. An endless stream of people walk past. I'm surprised the airport isn't filling up like a glass under a running faucet. Though I suppose it's true that people are leaving. People tend to do that at airports. I wonder where they're all going. Are they going on a trip? Perhaps it's baby's first vacation. Or maybe it's a big job interview. It could be a trip that's been done a thousand times before, like visiting Grandma for a few days or checking in with the clients up north. What if they're headed home? I'll bet they're tired, looking forward to sleeping in their own bed again. I hope they've got clean sheets and something edible in the fridge. Do they have family waiting at home? A roommate? A fish? Maybe they just have a piano that their fingers are itching to play. I should hope that something good awaits everyone when those planes land.

I just think it's nice to be surrounded by people who are all going somewhere. Stagnancy is kind of terrifying, isn't it?


Sunday, January 28, 2018

I'm Yours, When It Rains It Pours

"Oh my god, you are soaked!" She says with a laugh. "Why aren't you carrying an umbrella?"

"You ask as if I own an umbrella."

"What? Why--"

"Who needs an umbrella in California?"

She glances around pointedly at the rain falling heavily from the sky, the floor shiny with fresh raindrops, and the throngs of people around them equipped with colorful umbrellas. "You're right. I don't know why I would ask such a ridiculous question."

"Besides, I enjoy the rain. Why would you hide away? It's just water."

"Oh is it?"

"Yes, yes it is."

With a mischievous smile, she tilts her umbrella towards him and gives it a quick shake--showering him with his own personal downpour. He looks at her, vengeance in his eyes and laughter on his lips, before screaming, "You're gonna pay for that!" and making a lunge for her umbrella. Mere seconds in the rain and she's absolutely drenched.

"Ah, no!" she exclaims with a laugh as she begins running towards the nearest building.

"Oh no you don't!" He quickly catches up to her, grabbing her waist and pulling her into a tight hug.

"No, no! You're soaking wet!" she yells as she tries to free herself from his hold. After a second of squirming, she tosses him a defeated smile. "Okay, okay, okay, you win!"

He tilts his head down so that their noses touch. "Say it."

Glancing down with mock shame and a small pout she mutters, "I'm sorry."

Bringing the umbrella over both of their damp heads, he replies with a smile, "Good."

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