Monthly Archives: June 2013

The People of Late and Onus

For as long as I can remember my family has always had a problem with being on time. I don’t know why or how it started but we are most consistently late. Even if we account for the chronic lateness by arranging to meet earlier, leave earlier, be ready sooner, we somehow always end up late. It’s really goddamn frustrating.

One would perhaps think that with today’s latest communication technology there would be no time wasted. Not only can you immediately communicate your whereabouts and ETA to the required parties but you can also amuse yourself while waiting. Or if you really like (like me) to be productive, you can use said technology to update yourself on the news, read or check your email. Or perhaps conversely that those who did not grow up with said technology as I have would be doubly prompt, seeing as in their pasts such frequent and accurate updates were impossible. None of these considerations apply to my family.

Everything is planned out the night before, while everybody is present after dinner before the lack of energy sets in. What are we going to do tomorrow? What time are we leaving? When will we be back? Where should we be at blank-blank time? Almost as if we’re a team planning a heist like in the movies, our outings have events with time, date and locations. But unlike the movies, we are never successful.

Someone has slept in. Someone took too long of a shower. Someone took too long deciding what to wear. Someone didn’t tell the other they were out of the shower and ‘yes, you can use it now’. Someone on time, notices the lateness of everyone else and begins to watch TV or read or go back online. Everyone gets distracted. It’s thirty minutes past departure. We’re late.

The lateness then turns to frustration and annoyance which eventually leads to arguing and raised voices but if it’s really bad it’ll just be silent. The heavy quiet that settles over occupants of a car, each childishly facing pointedly away from the other, fuming, mulling and wallowing in their stubbornness, simultaneously enhances and suppresses strong emotions. Silence is the worst, the ultimate time and energy waster.

At the crux of it though is most likely guilt. Nobody and everybody here is at fault. Everybody could have done something better and this tidbit of knowledge keeps us in a battle between blaming ourselves and blaming others, trapped in silence. Waiting for someone else to break the silence first because I don’t have the guts or the humility to admit mistakes, I sit and the guilt eats at me, commanding me to be better than this, to be above this while the pride sews shut my lips and keeps my eyes glaring at nothing in particular. And as I wait, time continues to pass….

I hate waiting. I hate waiting, especially on people, because it means I’m most likely being unproductive. Mostly I hate waiting on myself. Why can’t the period of time between emotional highs and calmer, more sober and reasonable lows pass as quickly as it took for me to reach the aforementioned high? If I can jump to unpleasant conclusions so fast, doesn’t it logically follow that falling from them should be even faster?

But it’s not falling, anything but. More like struggling to walking down a curved staircase in ridiculous high heels and a tight dress while trying not to look at your feet and pretty all at once–think any cheesy chick flick with that stair case scene and the guy looks up and says something like “you’re beautiful”—except slower and without any of the pleasant anticipation during or compliment at the end. In the ideal world where this crazy analogy makes sense, to the man waiting at the bottom, the dress, the make-up, the heels were not unappreciated but essentially unnecessary for the compliment. Meaning, it was a little bit of a waste. Coming down that figurative emotional staircase, caught tight in an emotionally high strung dress, made up with pride tinted make up, walking shakily on guilty heels, is me wasting time. I hate wasting time.

Hi! So this is creative non-fiction, a genre I used to have a lot of trouble with but have now discovered that I write a lot of it, embellishing and taking liberties with the events of my life, what can I say? I’m a little bit of a drama queen at times. Pretty sure it runs in the family, that and lateness. Thus leading to the above-written-about situation. Hope you enjoyed!

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In writing

It’s a shock to me every time I think about it that I am where I am today. Today I am a student at one of the nation’s top universities and an aspiring writer but most surprising above all is that I’m someone who likes to read. As a kid if you had told me this is what I would look like in the future I would’ve have given you a moody look, maybe given you what I thought was a snarky comment or two and stubbornly turn back to whatever screen was most convenient. Point: I used to watch a crap ton of television.

From anime to Asian dramas, to random ass TV shows that came on after the ones I actually wanted to watch, my eyes would stayed glued to the screen for hours. My mom used to complain that I was wasting away, why couldn’t I find a more constructive way to destroy my eyesight like my sister and read? Or better yet learn to play the piano!

But I’m slowly realizing now how useful television is, aside from just pure entertainment, even the worst of it has its own purposes. At the very crux of it, television is the same as reading a book, seeing a play or what have you. It’s a story, started in the mind as an idea, born onto the page through the written word and now playing out for audiences in Technicolor or HD or LCD or whatever it is with the latest TV sets.

Everything is grounded in the written word.

It’s a story created by people and therefore saying something about the nature of those people, or of the people who watch it. Scripts and screenplays, novels and comics, everything shares the same roots and that’s why even the telly is important.

My ten year old self is pleased with me. Despite that I still want to tell her to go pick up a book for once.

 

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“Never is an awfully long time,” J.M. Barrie; An Analysis of Timelessness

There have been numerous occasions where I’ve discussed with various people the question of eternal life and whether I would want it. The answer has remained consistent. No I do not want to live forever. Living forever, or as I see it never dying, would be awfully tiring. Even with all the knowledge one could gain, all the experiences one could have, and (perhaps most importantly) all the new foods one could try, there’s a point where it stops being interesting and starts being tedious.

The question of eternal life itself, when posed, comes from a place of morality. We want what we can’t have. The desire to never die comes from the acute awareness of death, of the impermanence of existence.

Why do people want eternal life? If it were me, it’d be to gain knowledge. Why do I have such a respect for knowledge? Difficult to answer as it is most likely due to a number of reasons but one I believe to be foremost is its limitlessness. One could spend a lifetime going through the details of history or the thinkings of Socrates and still not know everything there is to know about that topic. When I pursue knowledge, to some extent I just want the tangible facts but to a deeper extent I believe I’m pursuing that limitlessness. It’s not the retention of knowledge but the flow of it in and out of my thoughts. Swimming in the sea of knowledge and diving for treasure, I wouldn’t care if death is the consequence. If I could live forever, that limitlessness would be gone. It’d be like swimming and finding every treasure but not finding land.

Or, maybe I just fear the weight of the words never and forever. They are not only synonymous but carry with it lifetimes of burdens and responsibilities, devotions, everything. Not only that but there’s so much certainty behind those words, certainty that I don’t yet know exists outside of glittery vampires and shirtless werewolves.

“Always” is another one of those. Because these words carry with them so much meaning, they lead me only to doubt.  Doubt that anybody saying any of these words would truly mean them. As if one person could carry a “never,” “forever” or “always.”

Things change, regardless of if we want them to, putting a ‘never’ ‘forever’ or ‘always’ virtually out of the question. Yet these words have entered into our thoughts and into our lexicon, we have somehow perceived and locked on to the secret of timelessness in our heads without the realization of it in our worlds.

Perhaps this is evidence of our ‘immortal souls’ or some weird quantum mechanical or relativistic physics phenomenon, I have no idea. Time already baffles me; timelessness is completely beyond me. What I can put my faith in is that time is the only thing that is without itself, that is truly, without fail, timeless. 

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Something You Didn’t Know About Creativity

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20 Books That Will Change Your Life

summer reading! more like reading for life 🙂

Thought Catalog

1. Paint It Black by Janet Fitch

This was one of those books I read as I entered my 20’s and have the tendency to re-read at least once a year. It follows a young woman whose boyfriend commits suicide and the weird path she goes down trying to piece it all together. Fitch is a fantastic writer who likes to use California as a backdrop to women figuring themselves out.

2. The Best of Roald Dahl by Roald Dahl

It wasn’t until I was 21 that I realized my favorite author as a child also wrote fiction for adults. And as I’ve discovered, most people don’t . This is a collection of his more popular short stories, many of which inspired by his time spent in the British military and truly a testament to what an amazing writer he was. It’s a little something to grow with you from…

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Chasing Culture

As an American citizen that’s lived abroad for basically all her life I often get asked the question whether coming back to America has left me with any culture shock. Short answer is no. Long answer is that I went to a rich American school in a city that liberates the young, so yes coming to a catholic university and meeting people from, like, Nebraska who’s graduating class had 50 students was a little bit of a shock. Honest answer is that I don’t think it’s possible for me to get culture shock if I had no culture to begin with.

Culture, as Google so cleverly defines, are,”the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” My problem, is that I don’t belong to a collective.

Through my very green twenty years of life, I have defined myself as Singaporean, American, Taiwanese, Texan, anime enthusiast, manga reader, watcher of too much TV, dancer etc. But I’ve never felt like I’ve really belonged to any one of them. What is belonging anyhow? On one hand I want to say belonging is something determined by oneself; if you say that’s what you are then who’s to tell you you’re not? But on the other, if people can’t tell that you belong, if there’s no evidence of your membership, then how can you call yourself a part of that group?

Two things have inspired these ponderings on culture. Firstly, my time at National Taiwan Normal University has put me into contact with people from all over the world and I make a little game out of walking the school’s hallways. Can I spot who’s from where by how they dress? Funnily enough I can. Hats with sports team emblems, t-shirt logos, styles, type of shoe…I may be taking stereotype to the extreme (or just extremely bored) but I’m oftentimes right (today I guessed a guy was Korean, and five steps later he answers his phone, speaking in rapid Korean).

Secondly, my mother asked why my sister wanted to ‘all of a sudden’ come back and spend a year in Taiwan. I said that a) it was not all of a sudden because b) we’ve (my sisters and I—though I can really only speak for myself here) always had an interest in Taiwan. From final papers to research projects, the three of us have all done at least one college assignment on Taiwan and I would bet an assignment on third culture kids. This interest in Taiwan I think comes from a need to know where we came from, our roots. Our western influences are very clear coming from an American educational background but there are these seeds of the east in our heads, sprouting values that we perhaps didn’t know we had, blooming flowers of ideals that surprise us.

The latter started me thinking generally about culture while the former focused my thinkings onto myself. What sort of nationality did my clothing reflect? Did I look American?

In my life, I have never felt that I looked anything because there was always a “but” at the end of that sentence. In Singapore I could look local but because I spoke American English I wasn’t. In Taiwan, though I’m Asian and speak Mandarin, I don’t dress or sound Taiwanese. And America, well, that’s just something else entirely, but not really. In America, because of the country’s immense diversity I could fit right in. Yet because of its diversity there are even more groups that can be distinguished, groups to which I do not belong.

I used to think, back when I first realized I wasn’t American, Singaporean or Taiwanese, that I was a product of my expatriate high school but (more buts! Toot toot!) but going back for the first time this summer to visit and meeting people from high school tells me different. That was the last answer I had to the question of why I am the way I am, why I don’t really belong in any one category. It seemed reasonable to believe, my school was multicultural and well traveled so I was multicultural and well traveled. Now that this response has been shot down I’ve been left rootless.

Sure, there are aspects of my life that have culture; it’d be impossible for them not to exist. But I have no idea how or why they’re there. Why? Why? Why? I’m asking too many why’s and coming up with no answers. To me, culture means you know the how, when, why and what of traditions and customs, of the stereotypes and jokes, of the songs and stories. Me, I’ve been celebrating Chinese New Year almost every year of my life and I still don’t really know when it is (sometime in spring?), what sorts of food is associated with it (besides fish…), and have never done any house cleaning (despite that being what you’re supposed to do…aside from eat lots).

Maybe I’m being too idealistic. I think culture and I think the American south. The history! The traditions! The stereotypes! Deep fried food, all that butter and southern hospitality! I’ve yet to encounter a culture more rich than that of the American south, and I want it. Not even that, I have friends who are able to tell me what their grandparents and even great grand parents did for livings, what aunts, uncles and cousins are doing. And here I can’t even name my aunts, uncles and cousins; I don’t even know how many cousins I have.

It’s like I have no foundation for who I am, like a badly written character with no backstory (god I love backstory). A bit like superman (though I’ve never watched smallville or read the comics so really this simile has no authority; I have no idea why I’m making it…subconscious desire to go see the new superman?), I imagine and now I sort of get why so many fictional characters became so obsessive over knowing where they came from. True, I’m not tragic like Harry Potter or entirely alien like Clark Kent, but could knowing so little about one’s background be worse than not knowing at all?

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34 Reasons I Need To Stop Liking You

mostly (unfortunately) true…but I’d like to think no longer relevant

Thought Catalog

1. You make me feel like shit more than you make me feel good.

2. I get insecure when I think of you with another girl. We’re not even dating. We’re not even hooking up on a regular basis anymore. We’re “just friends”.

3. You leave me in tears as often as you leave me in laughter.

4. I started liking my best friend less because I was hanging out with you more.

5. You never pick up your crumbs off the couch.

6. Even though I gained so much self-confidence, I lost most of it to you.

7. You give me reasons to want to be better, but I need to be better for me.

8. Sweatpants.

9. My day often revolves around you, when it should revolve around painting and reading and writing and things that I know I truly love.

10. When I said I squatted 200…

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