vomit of words?

I have had my fair share of lonesome summers, but it never really bothered me till now. In the last year, I have found myself craving the company of my friends more often, perhaps the result of experiencing a bout of intense anxiety and only finding real happiness at the other end of the metaphorical tunnel when sharing my time with people. Since then, I have made a conscious effort to stay in touch with friends, plan time together, only to find myself continually let down by people who can’t reciprocate with the same energy that I invest into the relationship. Over the last two weeks, there have been numerous occasions where I have taken the initiative to organize plans with friends only for each and every one of the plans to be bailed on at the very last minute, often times with the shittiest renderings of an excuse. I can’t help but feel foolish every time the inevitable message comes through on my screen, ending on a pitiful sorry emoji, the insincerity in the words tearing into my mind. I took the time to clear out the day in my schedule, only to have noncommittal people dismiss my efforts without a second thought. I started to think that maybe I’m nothing more than an annoying blister to them. A blister they attempt to satiate with a mindless “maybe next time” and “sorry I couldn’t make it”.

I had somehow become so dependent on external sources for my own happiness. How did I end up here? I can’t help but feel frustrated that I have such a hard time dancing between one end of being a hyper-isolated person, and the polar opposite of wanting company frequently. I can’t seem to reach a healthy medium. I spend a lot of time alone in the library studying, alone in my dorm, alone on transit, and ultimately disappointed by the people around me, bringing the abrasive noise of constant solitude into a rising symphonic blast. That is all this is. The repetitive rhythm of my daily routine is no more than an unforgiving white noise. I long for endless conversation, spontaneity, and romance of every form with the world, but something is always falling short. Even my own writing, the one true escape, has become stale. The former boundless flow of ideas seems to be blocked by a dam of reservations. I can’t tell you how many times I have opened up my word document on my computer, only to stare at the blinking cursor for a few seconds and let my mind wander off to other meaningless distractions like social media. That has been my daily ritual as I grapple with my own words, only to fail miserably at the task of constructing sentences with coherent meaning.

They say misery loves company. Yet I have never felt so alone.

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first year in the books.

I have completed my first year of university and there have been so many words brewing inside me that I am now compelled to dispel onto the page.

Between the exams, rainy weather, long studying hours underscored by constant sleep deprivation, I seemed to have arrived at the other end of the tunnel intact. In retrospect, I am so thankful for all the challenges I had in the last semester of high school that prepared me for the inevitable stress that would arise in my studies. There has been one or two incidents at my school where I have heard about people who unfortunately were not able to cope with the pressures and resorted to more permanent cessations of their problems. It was something I was always wary of, the subconscious and irreversible consumption of my life by school. When you are surrounded everyday by a certain singularity in social culture shaped by competition, anxiety, fear of failure, and the list goes on and on, it is easy to succumb to a defeated and lost mentality. This was why, in spite of the inconvenience at times, I made an effort to make the two hour commute every weekend to go home, see my family, and maintain my part time job. At one point, my mom told me that my first priority should be school and that if work was going to get in the way, I should just quit my job. What she didn’t know was that, my first priority was my own mental and physical wellbeing, and that quite counterintuitively meant attempting to balance facets of my life beyond academics. I did not want to feel so absorbed into something that I would lose sight of the existence of life beyond the edges of campus. It is only when tragedies like the one that occurred during finals week where several police and the ambulance were called to the student residence that most people seem to wake up from their daze. What a shame it is that it takes the sudden loss of life for us to recognize it for its value, and to see how trivial the rest of our issues become. What a shame it is that our only experience of the day is through ephemeral, caffeine induced bursts of attention before we return to incessant noises in our own heads.

Now that I am finally pausing to take a break from school, I wanted to bookend this school year with a meditation on the last 8 months. I won’t lie and tell you I haven’t had my fair share of  pitiful moments, crying on the floor of my dorm, wishing I could do better, then being overcome with the dread of perhaps, god forbid, having peaked in high school. But the defining difference was that after every single one of these occurrences, I would feel as if I didn’t have anything left to lose, it was a sense of resignation. The resignation was not one of apathy necessarily, but rather “I don’t have time to dwell on this any longer”. I let things breathe, and carry less weight. I have learned that sometimes our greatest efforts are not enough, but rather than be discouraged, I can welcome the detour. Take the scenic route, even when it feels less than picturesque. For the longest time, my greatest fear was failure, or rather anything short of perfection. I have had to confront that repeatedly this year and have found that handling every circumstance in good humour helps lighten the load. Moving forward, I know that I must continue to endure whatever post secondary education decides to throw at me, but one thing I know to be true is that as long as I maintain a healthy perspective of it all, I will always end up becoming a more resilient, better person at the end.

the good and the bad make something great

What a year it has been. As anticipated, 2017 has been a year of tremendous change, and therefore growth is inherent.

It has by far been one of the toughest years, unsurprisingly. I dealt with mental health issues regarding my anxiety in school. From that experience birthed a newfound resilience, creative voice, and gratitude. Although I have not been as active in writing on this blog, I have continued to write in my privacy, attempting to string words into poems, one of my newest passions. In a way, this year was my version of a coming of age narrative. The relationships within my life underwent a maturation. I noticed a different feeling at home, the dynamics within my family have changed, and I think it has been for the better. I am no longer as resentful, I have learned to be more forgiving of not only myself, but of others. There is something so liberating about this whole process. I had come to the conclusion that I was my own worse enemy, and that the only way which I could defeat this opponent was to show myself kindness, yield to and accept my imperfections as they are, and focus on progress instead.

This year, I had some of the most memorable nights filled with euphoria and music, which are two entities I consider quite interchangeable in my life. I witnessed live performances from the xx, the 1975, Khalid, Odesza, and Lany, fulfilling promises that I had once made to my younger self. I hope I never forget to keep making little Selina proud in every way possible.

Despite the many challenges, or rather, because of all the challenges of 2017, I have become a better version of myself. I have learned to do things that scare me more often. I have learned to appreciate every moment I share with my friends and family. I have learned that I am okay with the unpredictability of life, and that I should welcome it. I have learned to find balance. I rediscovered my love for reading, running ( a brief summer stint I hope to dive into again when the weather warms up), and photography. I travelled to new places this year, while revisiting some old favorites such as the Oregon coast.

In 2018, I hope to continue following my passions, celebrating the mundane, and spending time with friends and family.

Here’s to the new year.

Oct. 12

Why do I let such little things hurt me?

My words falter, lips stutter

Stunned, stung

Torn between anger and sadness

A dose of sheepishness for good measure

My body collapses into itself

To shrink ever more in this too large world

Why am I so foolish?

To think you’d treat me to empathy

Is unfortunately as futile as expecting

The revolution of the sun upon my axis.

It’s hopeless.

Because by standards deemed within society,

Humans are a reflection of empty credentials

With little humanity to fill bones.

You don’t lose sleep over this 

While it devours my mind with such fervor

I have lost all capacity to rationalize

if we were having tea: summer edition

It has been a while since my last installment of this series. Over the course of the last month, I have began to feel a change within my life, a creeping anticipation for what’s to come in the fall.

One thing that I have noticed is about how I feel a tendency to write and articulate when I am only upset, angry, or disappointed. It’s strange for me to find myself in front of my computer typing away with the same vigour and passion when it’s about something positive. I wanted to change that. I want to learn to write when I am happy, to capture my ‘highs’ with the same authenticity as my worst days. I wanted to have something pleasant to reminisce in on this blog, a form of therapy from my past self.

So, here we are having tea, iced of course, in this suffocating summer heat at dusk. The sky has melted into a puddle of deep oranges, with indigo beginning to spill in from the eastern edges. The sounds of cars no longer call for the same attention, nor do the happenings from earlier in the day. The sharp flavors of the chilled tea tickle the words from my throat and I begin to speak.

I tell you about how my grandfather passed away two weeks ago. I was never super close with him growing up, physically mainly, which often means emotionally as well when you are too young to grasp the concept of ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’. It wasn’t a sudden passing as he has been ill in the hospital for over a year. But that’s the thing, he was a tough guy, a few years short of a century old, having lived through war, cultural revolutions, and financial hardships while raising a family of five children, the idea of this history written in his wrinkles and calloused skin being erased completely after having lived on for so long seemed impossible. I had kind of convinced myself there was always at least one more day left in him, each day, just one more entry in his tens of thousands page story, there ought to be room.

It was the greatest shock to my mother. Of the five siblings, she is the only one who lives out of China, and aside from her annual visits back home, she becomes sort of blind to the realness of my grandfather’s deteriorating health, the fragility of life captured in his thin body. In a matter of minutes of receiving the news, I helped her book her flight back to China for the next day. We didn’t speak of the details of the circumstances, she still hadn’t processed the gravity of it all at that point. The next morning, I drove to the airport and dropped her off. It has been two weeks since his passing and my mom has returned home. She showed my sister and I old black and white pictures of my grandfather and told me stories about his life. He was born in Vietnam, educated in Hong Kong during the British Crown rule which is why he learned English, and grew up without a strong father figure. At around 14, he was taken into a rich family to be a peer to their son and accompany him to his different lessons. In fact, that was how my grandfather ended up learning to play the violin. During the Japanese invasion, he was a translator because he could speak both Chinese and English so while the other men received one bag of rice at the end of each day’s labour, he would  receive two bags which he would bring home to his family. He has endured the strenuous trek from Hong Kong to Guangzhou on foot, losing his brother in the process. By the time he was in his thirties, he had enough life experience that would age him significantly compared to people of the same age in our generation. He was a strict father, often disciplining my mother and her siblings. He instilled in them a value for education from a young age which is why almost all of his children have had a career in teaching at one point or another. My one aunt is the only one who went straight into nursing instead.

She was there 15 minutes after his heart stopped that day, calling his name. In that moment, her instincts to save a fading life had to fight with her own feelings as a daughter who had seen her father suffer for so long, was she going to cause more pain for a potential of a few more minutes of his time? Ultimately, she let nature run its course and like that, my grandfather moved on.

I now realize that I had mentioned earlier about how I wanted to write about happy things and yet our conversation has led me to this story about death. But there is a positive sentiment in this, I promise.

The day my mother returned, she recounted all these stories above to me and in that moment, I recognized her love for her father, and her loss she had felt. She told me how in the Chinese culture, when one reaches over 95 years old, their funerals shouldn’t be sad, it isn’t meant for tears. When one has lived a long life, they are revered in the community. It is considered an honour. She told me about how beautiful the roses looked surrounding his casket. She recalled the remarks my cousin made about the place they passed on the way to the funeral, it being where my grandfather use to take him as a kid for meals. Every little detail was imbedded in the story. I could see the legacy that my grandfather had left behind in his children and grandchildren, each and every one of them with personal anecdotes of their time with him. I think that’s when you know you have lived a meaningful life, it’s when people are able to recall specific, seemingly trivial memories they have shared with you, with fondness.

I have learned a lot about love this summer, not in the romantic sense. Love, I think in its unadulterated form is about gratitude. That’s where it begins. In my culture, where words of affection are hard to coax from our mouths, we resort to acts of service, a sign of appreciation for people. Self sacrifice is the language of our communication. Time and energy being the currency of our system. And I don’t know why it has taken me this long to realize this but, boy am I in debt.

I received a letter from the premier’s office last week notifying me that I had received a scholarship for an essay I had written about my mother’s government operated company and its impact on the lives of people in the province. I told the story of how my mother had spent over a decade working to support her two children alone, when all the odds were stacked against her, and managed to get us from our low income government housing to our modest home that she was finally able to purchase 6 years ago. She sacrificed her thirties working in a male dominated field driving forklifts and lifting boxes, trying to prove herself in the workplace. She wasn’t dealt fair cards, but she didn’t quit and continued working with this optimism that better days were to come. Though I was the one who received the scholarship, in many ways I don’t feel like I deserve it, all I had to do was write about the incredible things that my mother has done. I told her the news while she was still in China and she congratulated me, but in that moment, I felt as though I should have told her how proud I was of the things that she had accomplished, told her about my gratitude for her. I wanted to show her that just as she recognizes the sacrifices my grandfather had made for her upbringing, I also acknowledge her forfeits in mine.

So there you go, see, I told you there was something nice to come of this story. Go out there and tell someone you appreciate them today, that you love them, or better yet, show them.