the understudy

The past seven days have been torture.

I have always known I have a tendency to overthink and become extremely anxious in mundane situations. But never to this extent. It was as though my body was being commanded by a force that didn’t belong to me. My pulse would race continuously, showing no signs of relenting. This was all while my body was sat perfectly still in a seat. My body was betraying me as I would find nausea engulfing me, clouding my thought. My sweat glands were on overdrive, and a skim of my finger across a sheet of paper would render it damp. Water was pouring out of my system like a cell in a hypertonic solution, my muscles tensing without my notice.

It was a battle in waves. The opponent would fire volleys of flames into my belly at random intervals, pause to let me barely extinguish them before attacking once more. The scariest thing? I was the enemy. Anxiety has been eating away at me the last couple of days and it all reached a boiling point today at school.  It had initially begun during last week’s Calculus test when my teacher’s well meaning advice of “relaxing and breathing” because she saw the nerves in student’s eyes when she handed out the test, ended up triggering something that had remained buried in my subconscious. It brought the fear into the forefront, and it was like the understudy to a performance; the moment you let it have the spotlight, is the moment it begins to develop a strong greed for attention. Gradually, it started to demand for more screen time, creeping into my biology class, then my exercise science, then into my naps in the car, and into my studying at the library in the morning. Even when there was no test, the anxiety remained, its presence bleeding into every part of my daily life.

I started crying. It was the only catharsis I could find. The issue with that is when it starts, there is no way of stopping. It was like opening up a dam and pouring all the water into a barren desert. The desert would soak up the water and demand more to replenish itself. It was greedy just like the understudy to the play. But not as sadistic.

I wounded up telling my teachers about my anxiety and luckily they were all very understanding. I first approached my biology teacher to warn her that I may not do so well on the test because I was dealing with the physiological disturbances and she called my counsellor and set up a meeting for me with her. I had been reluctant to tell anyone about when it first started happening because I didn’t want to feel like a disappointment, I didn’t want to seem weak. But the thing is, I realize that there is a certain strength in vulnerability and being able to admit it when you are having a problem so that you can begin to heal.

So off I went to see the counsellor at her office where I had another good sob just to release the tensions. She walked me through different strategies to deal with my anxiety and I have to start practicing some meditation on my own time so that when the understudy insists on performing once again, I can tell her to fuck off.

My counsellor tried to put everything in perspective in that I had been carrying a little too much in my metaphorical ‘backpack’ and everyday, I should try to empty it out before tackling a new day. She reassured me that like anything in life, anxiety too, will pass. She asked me if I had spoken to anyone in my family about it, and I had only told my sister. She encouraged me to speak to my mom about it, so I unwillingly brought it up today. It wasn’t poorly received necessarily, but unsurprisingly, my mom was surprised. She thought it was out character to hear me struggle with nervousness because I have always had the reputation of being the calm one in the family. This was one of my concerns that I brought up with my counsellor and she told me that just because I get anxious doesn’t mean I can’t be a calm person in general. Everyone is prone to becoming victims of their mentality and I learned a valuable lesson this week on how our mental state plays a tremendous role in the manifestation of reality around us, how we function, and how we feel.

Most importantly, I learned that it’s important to ask for help when you need it and that it takes a hell lot of courage to speak up sometimes. I have developed a lot more compassion for others battling seemingly invisible forces of their own. Staying connected to people means staying healthy and this is coming as an epiphany for someone like myself who always thought being independent was the biggest priority. It’s ok to seek the comfort of others at times, it’s ok to be vulnerable, it’s ok to feel like you need someone for help. It made me realize that in a world where we constantly confuse trivial things like grades, social status, or wealth for being indicators of happiness, the truest measure is in the relationships you build with those around you.

If any of you are reading this who may be struggling against an understudy of your own, or maybe even future Selina who has encountered another hiccup along the road, behold the view of the people around you, the people that care, never lose sight of the things that truly matter. Simplify things, will this matter in ten years? Then you can begin to marvel at the lightness you will feel in your core, how effortlessly oxygen seems to stream into your body, nourishing every cell within you, every little part of you that keeps you ALIVE.

In the mean time, I will keep you posted on how this meditation thing goes.

Until next time.

 

a post about nothing and everything

There are certain encounters that last with us a lot longer than we would have thought in the moment it happens. I was on break at work a few months ago, had ten measly minutes to spare to munch on an apple before returning to the chaos of retail business during the holiday season when the lady next to me casually comments on how hectic the mall is, echoing my mental sentiment. I turn to face a blonde woman in her late forties who was gathering her winter coat with shopping bags in hand.

I nodded in agreement. I still don’t know what seemed so inviting about my nod, but the woman ended up telling me her entire life story in the next five minutes. She was a dual citizen who had recently moved to Canada because of the American election and her husband was in the military on deployment. She told me how she suspected he was going to come home and surprise her because her grandmother was celebrating a major birthday milestone and he loved her very much. She then told me how she was a pediatrician, a Duke med school grad and had returned to do a Canadian residency. She had worked as a nurse for over ten years before deciding she wanted to pursue more and attend medical school. It was a fascinating story and she gave me some meaningful advice about how I should keep an open mind going into university and beyond.

It was a brief encounter but something really refreshing to here from a stranger’s first hand experience. I still marvel at the odds that I happened to stumble across someone like her, as if it was fate. Now as I’m more than one month into 2017 as I am now trying to decide where to attend university, I wish I could have another conversation with her, I wish I had asked to keep in touch.

Just like that, she wished me happy holidays and disappeared into the crowds. I don’t think I would ever be able to find her again to thank her for providing that tiny sliver of inspiration in a critical moment. I’m not a religious person, but that encounter made me believe that some divine force drove us together.

I received an offer of admission to the university she did her undergraduate degree at a few days ago and right away, it reminded me of her and for some reason, I just really wished I could call her up and share the news with her. It was a bittersweet kind of moment.

Life has funny ways of working and I thought I would share that for today.

farewell to 2016

Dear 2016,

What a year it has been.

I don’t know where to begin, and the past couple months, I have struggled to find words to put on paper, having abandoned writing outside of school to cope with the busy schedule of being a senior in high school. I use to find writing therapeutic, a release of pent up frustrations, and I still do, but I seemed to have forgotten how it feels, trading it with crying instead. I’m okay now.

The truth is, I think I have strayed away from writing as I have been trying to juggle the idea of an unpredictable next 12 months of my life. Every year prior to 2016, I have had expectations on what’s next, leveling up in grades each year without a second thought, but this year is different. I’m graduating high school in a few months and as happy as I am to have received by first university offer of admission last week, I still feel unsure about this whole venture into adulthood.

I think that the best I can do is to simply reflect on all the moments in the last 365 days and appreciate what it has offered me. I have done some travelling this year, to new and old places. Kicking it off in spring break, I visited my cultural origin, China. My grandfather has been sick in the hospital for months and is spending his new year’s in a hospital bed. I remember the last day I saw him before I left to fly back and the gut wrenching feeling, the poignant sting of tears as I took my last glance as his small, frail frame in the bed. I visited my mom’s childhood home in the rural farmland outside metropolitan Guangzhou. I commuted on the packed subways, enjoyed humble home cooked meals, and spent time with family. My sister and I then took a three day adventure with my dad in Hong Kong, which I captured extensively in photos that wounded up in the July issue of Local Wolves magazine. It was my first full feature, and definitely one of the biggest accomplishments this year.

I celebrated my 17th birthday in April with floor tickets to the 1975 concert where I danced my heart out, alone in a crowded auditorium as my sister bailed last minute, and my friend got engulfed by strangers early on. This is what I imagine infinity to feel like. In June, I got my driver’s license which I have been putting to use this past volleyball season. It was a rough summer, adjusting to living arrangement changes as my cousin moved in with us, not particularly eventful. In October, I travelled to Hawaii with my volleyball team and enjoyed a week in paradise. Despite the initial cancelled flight, the trip turned out really well. It was the first time I truly bonded with these people that I had been playing the sport with since grade 8 and I’m glad that in spite of the adversities I faced last season, I stuck it out to see the court this year.

Now it’s December, it’s cold outside and I’m alone here typing away with hours to spare till 2017 rushes to meet me. 2017 is going to be a year of change, more adjustments, and immense growth. Given that I have learned so much about myself this year, I can’t imagine what 2017 could possibly yield.

Thank you 2016. You have been tough on me, when it was necessary, and you have brought me so much joy simultaneously. I suppose it’s time I archive this year, and say farewell.

Goodbye.

Selina

PS. here is a playlist of all my favorite music this year.

the summer edition playlist

It’s been a long time since I last posted about music on this blog and being unemployed in the summer time has culminated in me spending lots of time on the internet, browsing new artists and wishing they would come play a show in my city. Here is a playlist I created on my soundcloud that I have been using to soundtrack my summer recently.

If you are one for beat driven pieces, the opening song “Ongoing Thing” by French rapper and producer 20syl or Ta-ku’s new collaboration with Wafia “Meet in the Middle” may become your holy grail picks.

Matt DiMona’s new Up All Night ep has proven to be an instant favorite in my book with the laid back track “Malibuu” (there are two ‘u’s) being my top recommendation. In fact, I made a short video about my sister’s shoes backed by the tune.

If you are on the lookout for a refreshing new take on the cult favorite “Hotline Bling”, the Amsterdam based musician SRNO delivers with this sparkling rendition. “Disappointed” by Julius leaves listeners everything but disappointed with his song through the swinging rhythms and sweet vocals. Speaking of angelic vocals, I’ve been really digging “Hideaway” by Kultur as well.

Scattered amongst this playlist are a couple of solid remixes from the likes of Kaytranada, Shadow Child, and Cabu. To end off this round of music curation, I closed with the fun, instrumental-based piece “By My Side”, sure to leave you in good spirits as the playlist draws to a close.

Happy Listening!

volunteerism feat. a slight diatribe

My cousin is making many changes to adapt to our western education system as she embarks on her first year this fall as an international student and my mother said something that triggered me to write the following. She told me to channel my previous volunteer experience to help my cousin out and be her mentor in this process. It doesn’t seem like much on the surface but let me explain.

My mom has called me selfish and talked down on the fact that I do volunteer work because she thinks that I am insincere in my actions and that all the work I try to do within the community will not change the fact that I am a shitty, self centered person. She says that if I forget to wash the pots and pans, and only did the dishes. And yet she has the audacity to then turn around and boast about how her daughter loves to volunteer in her spare time to all her friends because it makes her look good. She tells the facts however it is convenient.

I’m here to set the record straight and explain exactly why I volunteer (though I admit I have been slacking lately).

I volunteer because I have received more kindness from strangers with no familial obligations to me, than I have from my own mother. I have been shown more dignity and respect from these people than I have been shown from my own mother. I never asked to walk away from these experiences with anything more than an internal sense of satisfaction, but instead, I have always been treated to so much more than I could have asked for.

I do not volunteer to be praised, nor to have what I do be waved around by other people as a source of vicarious pride. I do not volunteer in search for any kind of external compensation, but the occasional free meal has always made me very happy. I do not volunteer to make myself look good, because as I have learned from experience, you seem to think I do it with fake intentions anyway.

The things I learn from volunteering are about handling pressure, adapting to environments, and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone to connect with strangers. The whole kindness and treating all people with poise and warmth shouldn’t be anything new, though I will say it was something I was deprived of during my childhood from my mom. Kindness, empathy, and a capacity for service should have always been something intrinsic to all humans. It is one’s upbringing and influences that cause one to start judging people by ethnicity, measuring people’s use to you, gauging how to take advantage of others, and developing automatic skepticism for those without blood relations. Truth be told, blood means nothing to me nowadays, because I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all. This is what creates this disconnect humans have with each other in society, the reluctance to help others who may not be able to offer you much more than a thank you because of this ‘all man for himself’ attitude. But by volunteering, I get this chance to break these barriers, these conditioned superstitions. Weren’t we all strangers at one point until someone decided to show some compassion?

If we would stop asking what other people could do for you and instead question ourselves and ask what we can do for others, this world would see a lot more gratitude. This is why I volunteer.

So to bring me back to the original situation, I would gladly help my cousin out in her studies if she has questions, but my mom trying to manipulate me by using the words ‘channeling volunteer experience’ when it is actually irrelevant to the case in attempt to pique my interest in helping her out has the opposite of her desired effect. I just don’t understand how this kind of narrow mindedness can still exist in the 21st century. It’s now one in the morning and I reckon I should get some sleep. I’ll catch you on the flip side.