Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year...New You?

Happy New Years everyone. Welcome 2016! Whoop.

Every new year, people are jumping into resolutions, lifestyle changes, weight goals, and the list goes on. I used to do the same. After watching the ball drop on the TV, I would make a list of personal goals... they'd always be the same: feed my turtle regularly, run every day, sit straighter, be neater, stop procrastinating. Last year, I spiced it up with a "happy jar," which I maintained until beginning college. I hope to continue writing down positive memories in a mini-notebook, and I'd highly recommend it-- it's not only beneficial for optimistic thinking and memories keeping, but also motivates you to find memorable things to do. Though I think the new year can be a great time to start fresh and make positive changes, from past experience, the changes are often temporary; by the end of next year, I'd again be a hot mess with the same old list of goals.
However, I think I did pretty well this past 2015. I exercised consistently, ate much healthier, and created better study habits (the slouching is still a work in progress).  So I'd like to share some tips, and none have to do with "new years resolutions." 

Tip #1: Do not think a new year means you can shed your former self. The "man-made" year may have changed, but time is a continuum. You are a continuation, a mosaic of every decision, experience, and habit since your first breath. You may not be proud of every choice former you have made, but hopefully from the mistakes, you have learned something valuable. Therefore, change is also gradual. You cannot change into your ideal vision of yourself overnight. Change is possible, but it takes commitment. Be ready to commit.

Tip #2: Keep your expectations reasonable. It is good to have goals, but make sure they are realistic. Make sure you can keep the promises you make to yourself. Overly high expectations will cause unhappiness. Don't forget to be happy, even when there is little to be happy about. A change in expectations can make a world of a difference.

Tip #3: Make self improvement a way of living. If you really want to become a better version of yourself, make consistent improvements embedded into your life. Be open to new ideas and experiences, do not fear judgement or vulnerability or the unknown. The only way to improve is to embrace change...and sometimes that means stepping out of your comfort zone.

Tip #4: Enjoy the process. Trust me, the end result is not what makes your achievement worthwhile. It's the sweat and tears, the sacrifice and grit, that make you scream with joy when you realize how far you've come. So instead of dreaming about the future, live in the present, and appreciate where you are right now, because it is present you that has the power to create future you.

Hope these tips help you guys. Stay awesome, and have a fabulous, memorable, heart-throbbing 2016. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Long Gone (Short Story)- Part 2

As promised, here's part 2 of "Long Gone." If you haven't already, check out part 1 here:

Enjoy :)

“Oh my god, she’s dead.” Becky is screaming. Heat rushing, heart pounding, insanity. A paramedic pushes the stroller with Amelia’s body, lain peacefully like a fallen angel, still, limp, and lifeless. “Ma’am, please step aside.”
“Please, just let me see her, please.” Becky’s voice quivers in hysteria. A tall young paramedic moves toward her, “Hey Rebecca, right? Mind if we talk?” With guiding arms and outstretched hands, he motions for her to walk to follow him down the hall. “Steve?” A momentary visage of confusion fleets around her face, then vanishes. “Oh right, I forgot you volunteered as an emergency medical technician. Never seen you in action before…” Her voice trails off as she is reminded of the situation, so present and real that it feels imaginary, like a movie scene gone wrong. But there is no rewind, pause, or power off.
“Yeah, luckily the worst we usually get on campus are crazy drunks from frat parties.” He attempts a wry smile that manifests into a grimace, the knot between his thick brows seems permanently etched on his profile. “I just wanted to let you know that Amelia’s not dead. We’re not sure what’s wrong with her, her heartbeat’s normal, breathing unimpaired, great physical condition of course,” Steve pauses, and moves his feet to redistributes his body weight, and feels a rush of heat, “But, er, she’s unresponsive. Not making eye contact, no speech. We’ve never seen anything like it before.” Relieved, Becky runs her hands down her hair and lets out a sigh. “She’s alive. Okay. So she’ll be fine. She’s going to be fine, right?” Steve’s profile tenses as he decides on the most realistic, yet hopeful answer. “We will try our best.”

A week passes, and Becky visits Amelia every day, 7:30 a.m. before class and 7:00 p.m. after dinner. Most visits, Steve joins her, quietly entering the room, deep in thought, emanating a concerned, yet calm presence, which Becky comes to appreciate.    
“Hey, anything?” Steve’s voice is low, soothing, slightly scratchy, and ever-hopeful.
“No.” It is their usual exchange, as both students shift uncomfortably in their chairs and stare at the body of Amelia, sitting upright with smooth, pale skin, vacant light blue eyes, and straight light brown hair falling to a delicate collarbone, alive and present, yet so empty.
“Hey Amelia, remember this? My god we were such idiots as freshmen,” Becky lifts a photo to Amelia’s face. Every day she has attempted a different project in their mission to “bring back Amelia.” 

Monday was music: The Beetles, The Smiths, Kesha, The Wombats, Eminem, Carrie Underwood, flooded the hospital hall, stirring memories in every patient but the one for which it was intended. Tuesday was food: grapes and yogurt, soft pretzals, mint chocolate chip ice cream, which ended up chewed and swallowed by the unresponsive body, the rest of the ice cream shared amongst Becky and Steve.
“Yum, good ice cream,” Steve had said. Becky shrugged, feeling more defeated with every thick, decadent mouthful. But she did not give up; in fact, she tried even harder. Wednesday was clothing, Thursday was Amelia’s insane collection of mugs, Friday was ‘bring Amelia’s swim team’, Saturday was ‘bring every student Amelia knew’ (an exhausting endeavor), and today, Becky had a stack of photos on her lap, each intended to stimulate a specific memory.

“Oh I forgot about this one, you guys look so cute.” Becky showed Steve a photo of him and Amelia sharing a plate of pasta. “I didn’t know you kept that,” Steve said, turning his head away. “I didn’t, Amelia did,” Becky said, looking at Steve thoughtfully. “She took it pretty hard, you know.”
“Well I did too, but we just weren’t working out. It was a mutual thing though, no hard feelings.” Steve had taken the picture, and was twirling it in his hand, reminiscing about that night at the Italian restaurant when he and Amelia were still fresh under love’s strong grasp. It was her laugh, he concluded. Her laugh that did the trick. She had a tendency to snort when laughing; every snort made him crazier about her.
“Steve?” Becky touches his arm gently. “Hmm what’s up?” He suddenly awakens from his thoughts.
“What are we going to do? Her parents are coming up next weekend. The doctors don’t know what’s wrong, no physical problem, nothing. She’s not showing signs of a mental disorder per-say,” her voice gets higher and more strained with every word, “We have to do something, but the question is, what?”

Steve presses his hands against his forehead for a moment, and suddenly turns toward Becky with an intent, hardened gaze. “There has to be something that triggered this whole, er, episode. We have to find the trigger.”

With this idea in mind, their hearts welled with newfound hope.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Long Gone (Short Story) - Part 1

Note to readers: "Long Gone" is a new short story that I started today. I have a feeling that it'll be a lengthier one, so I've decided to divide it into parts and post each section as I write a live screening of the story's eventual creation. The second part will be up sometime this week, so stay tuned!
Part 2:

Amelia Richard Jameson was not a recluse. She was bright, energetic, compassionate, artful in conversation, skilled at reading faces. She could blend into a crowd, yet thrust energy into it, simultaneously. She could drone on about a subject with passion, or at times, listen thoughtfully, quietly, contently. She knew how to smile sweetly, laugh outrageously, frown understandingly. No one who ever met the 20-year-old college student disliked her. In fact, most would agree that she was the kindest, most generous acquaintance they knew. Everyone consented that Amelia Richard Jameson had a bright future ahead of her. And she deserved it.

So when her roommate Becky finds the bedroom door locked, she assumes Amelia had fallen asleep. Finally trying the “coffee nap”. When a friend invites Becky to dinner, she consents. Forgetting all about Amelia still asleep in the bedroom.

Around 11 pm, Becky returns home. Boy does she have a lot to tell Amelia. Jack Meyers, the cute guy from history, finally asked her on a date. She knows what Amelia will say, cross legged on the sofa, “It’s about time. You’ve been making the first moves all semester.” And then they’ll laugh, munch on popcorn, each melting in the sweet, warm, fuzzy beginnings of romance.

“Amelia, guess what?” Becky’s voice is sing-song, happy, infatuated with fresh memories of her night.
The door is still locked. “Amelia, I know you’re not still napping. Open up dear.”
No sound.
“Amelia?” A hint of concern creeps into Becky’s vibrant voice.
“Amelia, this isn’t funny. Stop joking around.”

Around 11:30, Rebecca (Becky) Marie Amerson phones the campus police. “My bedroom, it’s locked. Uh, my roommate, she’s locked inside.” Quivering voice, confusion, denial, typical symptoms of shock. Of a sudden shift in emotional state. Of an unbearable weight slowly descending upon her body. “Hold tight, sweetie. We’ll be there shortly.”
Phone call ends. Connection ceases. And Becky Marie Amerson is alone again, sitting cross-legged, back against the locked bedroom door, willing herself not to imagine what is on the other side.

But those who cling to ignorance, when it is long gone, turn themselves into monsters.

Friday, December 25, 2015

How to Accept Gifts

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The holiday season is a time of gift giving. Last minute shoppers flood the streets the week before Christmas and New Years, scouring stores for that perfect present. Behind gifts are kind intentions and love, and finding the perfect present to reflect our feelings is difficult. So naturally, the internet is flooded with youtube videos and articles on "Gift Ideas for Him/Her", "Perfect Presents for Dads", "What Guys Want for Christmas", etc. However, receiving a present can be just as difficult as giving one. And advice in this department is incredibly lacking.

I consider myself an amazing gift giver. I am good at dissecting past conversations, observing habits, and discovering passions, all of which help in finding a present that he/she will appreciate. The art of giving gifts lies in understanding another person. Though I have always considered material items shallow display of love, I thoroughly enjoy giving. Receiving gifts on the other hand, has always been more difficult....because not everyone has a knack for finding the right present.

Take for instance, my father's gift to me: a winter hat. Not just any winter hat, a plaid, gray trooper hat that I swear was intended for the male gender. Upon seeing it, I was not enthralled by the beauty...or lack thereof. I like fashion, winter accessories, all that jazz, and this hat was not something that I pictured in my wardrobe. My first thought after seeing it was I'll take it with me to college and just never wear it. On the outside, I accepted it gracefully, saying it looked very cool. All the while, my father went on about how useful it would be in cold, northern weather and that there were "normal", "boring" winter hats (aka ones that I would actually wear) but this one caught his eye because he'd never seen anything like it (I wonder why...). My mother, who took a more traditional route (bath & body works lotion, portable charger), openly stated that I could return the hat for another item. That's the point of gift receipts, she said, it's  what everyone does with presents. I refused. To me, returning the gift undermined my appreciation of it, devalued my father's taste. And though he'd never admit, I knew it would hurt his feelings.

But now, the more I look at this dull deranged thing, feel its soft interior, the more I love it. No I had not intended for a hat like this in my wardrobe, and I have no fricking clue how to dress it. But spontaneity is part of the fun of accessories and fashion, and I always advocate wearing clothing outside one's comfort zone. Even if the hat looks goofy regardless of my attempts, I will still wear it. I will wear it because it is a token of my dad's love, which surpasses vanity, societal norms, and outside judgements. Because I love my dad, I naturally come to appreciate his presents because behind them is his unconditional love for me.

To accept gifts with grace, you must first appreciate the intentions of the giver. Receiving presents with genuine gratifaction is as important as giving amazing gifts. Only when you truly love that less-than-ideal gift do you surpass the superficial realm of gift giving, and come to appreciate the person behind the present.

In this season of gift-giving, remember to look past the present itself, so that the next time a family member presents you with unfashionable clothing item, you can look them in the eyes and truly mean it when you say, "I love it! Thank you. "

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When It Breaks (Short Story)

“Where were you last night?”
“Nowhere Tom, I was nowhere,” she replies, twisting the string in her hands.

Tom frowned, reviewing events of the past day. 7:30 a.m., he woke up, and prepared breakfast. Eggs, toast, avocados, oatmeal and milk. Then he made lunch- stir fry today. Broccoli, chicken, brown rice and beans. Two apples. She woke up later than usual, around 8 a.m, and tended to the garden. She returned 40 minutes later with handfuls of mini tomatoes in her pockets, set the pride of her morning on the counter. She took a piece of toast, chewed slowly, and furrowed her brows. “It’s dry. You left it in the toaster too long.” Pause. He had learned long ago the power of silence.

They left for work at 9:19 a.m. At 5 p.m. he called her workplace, as usual. “You ready to head back home?” “Oh this is Beth, Anne left an hour ago, did she not tell you? She got a ride from George, I think they were going to stop by Costco on their way back.” “Okay, no problem, thanks for letting me know.” Tom forced a carefree voice. Everything was fine. Anne would be back home by 6. Even when the kids were still home, it was common for his absent-minded wife to leave work early and return home later than him.  

This time, she returned much later.

“It doesn’t take three hours to buy a pint of milk.” Tom said, tapping his foot against the chair leg.
“It’s none of your business where I was, okay?” Anne threw the piece of string to the ground.
“I’m your husband, of course it’s my business.”
“I told you already, I went to Costco after work with George,” Anne said, her voice an octave higher.
“But you couldn’t have been there for three hours.” Tom repeated, his voice quieter. The rhythm of his foot tapping quickened.

Tom was normally a loud, confident person. Around Anne, it was different. Everything was different with her. She was volatile, explosive. A wrong move, and his wife turned into a monster. So Tom tiptoed around the house, submitting to admonitions, bitterness, discontent, for a feigned truce.
But Anne never crossed this line. Until now.

“Nothing happened, okay?”
“We were just talking.” Anne said. She stared at her transformed husband in shock.
“Yes, just talking Tom.”
“I didn’t realize you even cared.” Habit made her tone snarky. Aggressive. Unsympathetic.


“Why would I not care?” Tom had sat down, hands over his head. 
"When have you shown me that you cared?” Anne stared out the window, refusing to look at him.
“WHY WOULD I NOT CARE? I prepare meals, I clean around the house, I do everything for this house.” Tom’s tapping had turned into stomps, emphasizing every phrase.

“When have you done anything for me, Tom, huh? Anything for me?

“And George does? George really cares?” He froze and took a deep breath, bracing himself for the answer.


“Yes. More than you.” Anne blinked rapidly. She continued looking intently at the fig tree outside.

Tom suddenly gets up, with a new spark in his eyes. He walks toward the door.

“Where are you going?”
“Out.” Tom turns the knob slowly.
Anne turns around, suddenly pale, and opens her mouth to say something.
“You have never cared,” He said, looks at her a final time, and slams the door.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

How to Party Sober

I have "partied" four times since being at college. And (discounting the sip of cider, naively assuming it was cider juice) have not drunk alcohol. There is a misconception that letting loose requires alcohol. Although I am in no way condemning drinkers, it is important to distinguish alcohol from "fun".  You do not need to be drunk to have fun. Even if everyone else is.

My first outings out were uncomfortable. I felt like the odd one out-- the goody two shoes who would not let loose. The jokes passed through me, transparent.  While others were relaxed, exuberant, and energized, I was uptight and stressed, afraid that a friend had too much to drink. I was disgusted by the sweaty obnoxious boys yelling nonsense. Embarrassed for the wild girls in skimpy outfits, falling over air. Booze breath sent me writhing in annoyance. Conversations with the intoxicated left me dumbfounded and... haughty (incredible the things drunks say).
I have since been less critical of the party scene. Life can be draining. From studying long hours for an organic chemistry exam to working part-time jobs, we could all use a night to relinquish all responsibility.
The night can be anything we want it to be. We have a new kind of freedom. A way to rebel against societal restrictions and stigmas. In a dimly lit room, hidden by the shadows, it is okay to jump half naked, scream obscenity, and kiss strangers. And somewhere between the blurred lines of sanity and crazy is alcohol. Once the drug seeps into your blood, reaching every vein in your body, you forsake responsibility for your actions and welcome your new ruler for the night.

So how do you party without the drug? Simple. You act drunk...sober. On the dance floor, I am perfectly aware of every body around me. My senses are fluid, my movements sharp. I release my inner crazy, and sway to the beat instinctively. I no longer calculate my moves; I let the crowd carry me to euphoria. The best part is that I will remember this beautiful night of colors, rhythm, beats, music. It will not evaporate into misty, blurred memories. I give all of me to the night and the whole of the night remains with me.
When orange hue breaks the anonymity of the night, I smile at the new day, ready to conquer and relinquish again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


I have never been part of drama. Never started a fight. Never been bullied. Never had to stand up for myself. As a child, I floated among my friends without stirring the waters. I was not hated nor abused, and liked just enough to get by. Sometimes, I became the wallflower, existing as a warm, bodily presence, but only barely. I would take a whole scene in-- the flirting, the banters, the laughter-- and feel like an omniscient being-- a third person narrator. That was how I remembered the people of my childhood. While others forgot the girl in their summer camp, or that kid who owned a reptile, I remembered. 

Rewinding my mental clock, I've noticed a pattern: 
I was so busy narrating everyone else's stories that I forgot to write my own. I have a general summary of my past stages. Give me a year, and I can list my teacher, closest friends, schedule, personality, hobbies. But rarely will I have story-- an event, to define it. At least not of my own doing. My stories are either meshed with my friends' drama, my parents' fights. Or, as I grew older, my musical accomplishments, dedication, ambition. Those crushes remained just that, those opportunities flew away due to fear, and I was left waiting. For something to snap. For my life to really begin.

 Now, at college, life has begun in so many ways. Yet, make me tell a story, and I do not have one. Does the one about a newly wed borrowing my bike count? Movie nights with the roomies? Hours studying for an exam that consumes my being? 

At this point, I do not know what counts as a noteworthy story. Something that serves as a defining point in my life? Maybe I am made of multiple, minute stories, entwined together. Maybe I am in a developing story with a mystery ending. Maybe the best stories have yet to be opened. 

We are all compilations of mismatched stories, mosaics of our lives. They define a part of us, but not all. We are also what could be. We are everything that we strive for, yearn for, and will be. It's okay to not know where to start. To wish you could delete that whole passage. Or add a couple of lines.
It's okay to feel like your story is not worth reading; to guard it from others lest they snatch it away; to tuck the story in your pocket, for now, fully aware of potential revisions. 
And, most importantly, it's great to retrieve a fresh, blank page and start another story. To create new characters as you go. 

Eventually, someone will want to swap with you. To read your words meticulously as you examine theirs. So don't be afraid of the plot twists, suspense, missed metaphors. Stories are never complete or perfect entities. 

Here are pieces of my stories. What are yours?