nothing in life
is really real
nothing in life
is really real
Thanksgiving break is officially over which means we are back to the hell that is college. Campus is beautiful and all, but I don’t think it quite makes up for the soul-crushing, spirit-deadening workload. But I’m trying to figure out how to make the most of the slice of fall semester that’s left…still a work in progress…
These sketches are pretty dated, going as far back as April of this year. I haven’t been able to post anything from this sketchbook because I had left it at home (Georgia) and forgot to bring it to college with me. But now it’s Thanksgiving, and I’m situated snugly inside my flower-patterned comforter that smells like familiar laundry sheets and reminds me of cold winters from my childhood. In other words, I’m home!
Some context for these drawings: this summer, I tried to draw a lot more because I missed that part of my life dearly. So on a Wednesday evening after work, I walked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art with nothing but sketchbook, pencil, and determination in tow. At the statue gallery, I bumped into these two other people sketching a bust. They curiously peered over my shoulder, introduced themselves as two members of an art guild based in Philly, and asked me if I wanted to join them and their friends in sharing museum sketches. This was a fortuitous encounter…I met so many talented humans who actually work as freelance artists! From there, I attended a few other museum sketching events and figure drawing sessions. Although everyone was solidly at least 5 years older than me, I felt comfortable and open with these people. Must be something about the mutual love for art!
Also I just found my tablet in my drawer at home….collecting dust….sitting in neglect…….I will bring this back to school with me and treat it with the love + respect it deserves.
I just wanted to write a bit.
I’m glad that I started this blog a few months ago. I like being able to read old posts and rifle through pictures and memories which I hope doesn’t come off narcissistic. It’s just that I’m still working on knowing myself and conveying the mess of thoughts in my head and being the kind of human I’d like to be.
Sometimes, I worry I sound too dramatic or teenage-angsty or strange. Or maybe I’m oversharing and some things are better left to myself. The internet is so strangely archival. Sometimes, I don’t really want reminders of the past. And if I embarrass myself or bare too much of my heart, I can’t quite take it back. But I’ve decided I’d rather overshare, be unapologetic about the weird creature I am, and deal with the consequences as I go than be so reserved and closed all the time. What do you care what other people think? Damn this is so hard to internalize.
Thanksgiving break is so close I can almost smell the stuffing……….this past month has been so hectic. I’m thankful for the opportunity to catch a break and be with my family.
Today, Anna Akana came to my school and gave a talk about Asian Americans in media. Last year, I watched her videos on depression, and she helped me realize that…feelings are valid–or that you can’t help much the way you feel–and so why be so self-conscious and apologetic about it all the time………..I had this paralyzing fear that I was overreacting, being a drama queen, griping at every minor hardship in life. I was so terrified of recognizing my own feelings–a recognition that felt voyeuristic, maybe narcissistic, and perhaps contrived to even think that I had depression. After all, so many people have it so much worse. I hadn’t become entirely dysfunctional to the extent that I couldn’t at least get out of bed for a meal, and I hadn’t truly, seriously attempted to take my own life. Who was I to suspect that I was clinically depressed then? How could this be valid amongst the backdrop of all the people who are suffering so acutely?
This has really stuck with me: nobody is out there playing depression police. If you tell someone you’re depressed, nobody’s going to fire back “You fraud! You’re not depressed! I know the precise chemical balance of your brain, and there’s no way you have depression, you liar.” When put like that, it all becomes so simple and obvious. I was spending so much time worrying about how my feelings might be perceived by others that I couldn’t recognize how irrational my fears were.
I felt such a strange, self-conscious sense of revolt at my narcissism, a reluctance to recognize my own feelings, and frustrating inability to convey in earnest my tangled mess of thoughts. How do you explain you don’t want to exist anymore or begin to describe your sense of depersonalization, disconnect, and self-apathy? These nebulous feelings seem so uncomfortable, ineffable, and out-of-place.
My heart is so full. Anna Akana is just as endearing, insightful, and cheekily honest as she is in her Youtube videos. She’s made me think more critically of media representation of Asian Americans and how this shit actually matters. We consume these TV shows, movies, films, and episodes on a day-to-day basis. The tropes and motifs shape our own perception of ourselves and how we fit into the world. People shouldn’t walk away from superhero movies with the impression that some white man is always the guy to save the day. Rather, movie-goers should feel kick-ass and empowered themselves, a feeling that has to stem first and foremost from a place of connection. I don’t know about you, but as a 5 foot 2 Asian girl, I don’t particularly identify with a middle-aged white man.
During the follow-up Q&A, a lot of questions came up about mental health. Hearing Anna talk about her sister’s suicide and the time a girl walked up to her at the DMV and started crying while explaining how Anna’s video made her reconsider committing suicide brought me back to that strange period in freshman year when things seemed hopeless and eternally dark. I think that I’m growing healthily these days, and I’m grateful that time kept inching forward back then and that I was able to stumble upon Anna’s videos.
What are we but bifurcated flesh vessels of sentiment and overthinking neuroticism? My first year in college has sent me plummeting down a strange road of nostalgia. In all the pandemonium that comes with change and growing up, I always look back to my past with wistfulness — one that makes me wish I had cherished my childhood more fully and lovingly. I’m so terrified and indignant of my future that I’ve created a comfortable cocoon of reminiscence as a form of escape. I’m stuck in the past, and it precludes my moving into the future. I should grow up, but I can’t extricate myself from this tangled web of nostalgia.
I’m seven years old. Houses blur together as the bus rumbles forward, dropping off each student back into their pockets of homes. How weird and magical — we all fit so neatly back into our little drawers, tucked away in brick-laden homes at the end of small suburban cul-de-sac’s. The pattern of blurred houses has long been imprinted in my head. I count off the landmarks as they pass: white stucco house, red window-panes, oddly-misshapen shrub. Sometimes, I play a game where I close my eyes and visualize the sequence of roofs and concrete driveways, timed with the methodical lurching forward of the bus. Finally, the bus turns into my neighborhood. I get off, pause under the giant oak tree, and start walking home with Nathan, the boy who lives across from me. I’m grateful to have a companion. Who else would fend off the bumblebees when they come buzzing by? I eat dinner routinely at 5pm everyday and then rush outside to meet my neighborhood friends, so we can play Ground or explore the unconquered corners of the subdivision. We are curious, raucous, and tireless children, golden-skinned from flouncing around under the sun, tinging the outdoor air with the ring of our exclamations and laughter.
Seasons pass. Walking home from the bus stop, I carry my violin home through the sticky humidity of summer, the pollen dust of spring, the drifting colors of leaves in the fall, and the crunching of fallen branches in the winter.
By the time I’m in seventh grade, my older sister has left for college. The house feels strangely, eerily vacant. Reluctant as I am to admit it, I miss the liveliness of the house when we were both in it. I even miss the derisive, older-sister comments she made that I certainly did not care for in the moment (was I really that annoying?). By this time, I have discovered the magic music box that is the Ipod Nano. I don’t heed the passing of houses on my bus rides so much anymore. Instead, I transport myself to some other realm: a cloud of moodiness and childish angst that enshrouds my soul when I feel like a dramatic 11-year-old listening to Avril Lavigne, or a chipper fairyland when I listen to IU. I look forward to the days when the cafeteria serves pasta alfredo, I sit in orchestra class and annotate my repertoire music, and I start a fashion blog with my friend, Rachel, in a spur of ambitious, teenage excitement. We play the violin together in our first pit orchestra experience. “It’s a fine life!” Nancy really did hit the nail on the head with that line. Now, my 18-year-old self wonders how I did it. Was I oblivious to the concept of loneliness entirely? How did I not see how blissfully simple my life was? When did it all get so hard?
Year 15, and I’m in my first relationship. I first knew there was a meaningful connection when our conversation gave way to talking openly about our fears of death. I am brazen and vocal with my impressionable, literature-derived opinions. It all happens so fast. I don’t think I can ever watch “The Wind Rises” without feeling a strange heart pang. I don’t think I can ever disassociate all the smells, sounds, and places I’ve come to tag with this singular person. Weird how this is the time I’m happiest and saddest. In the summer after tenth grade, we visit a Barnes & Noble, so I can “study” for my SAT subject test. I tell him my favorite reading spot is the corner behind the wooden pillar in the children’s section. I can sit there for hours, engrossed in whatever young adult romance or manga issue I’ve picked up until my butt is sore. He carves AS + MW into the column with his car key that day. We vacillate between strangers and intertwined souls for the next three years. This past spring break, I wandered into that Barnes & Noble and curiously ventured towards the kid’s section. But our etched names had long disappeared, probably sanded over by some exasperated janitor or worn out by the passage of time. Strangers again now.
Flashes now. A sleepover at Rachel’s house during which I stuff my stomach with her homemade pizza. A slow walk down the path to Roger’s Bridge under the light of the moon. A catastrophic orchestra audition in which I botch the Bartok excerpt I had practiced for months. A night when I stay up until 3am to finish Flowers for Algernon; I’m breathless and jarred. That time I laughed so hard I swear I formed abs in my mere 5 minutes of hysterical laughter. A meaningful text conversation that goes from 11 to 4am and by the time I put down my phone, my retinas are burning, and I can still make out the white static of the phone screen in the darkness as I blink. All these memories comprise fragile slivers of time. If I blink, they’ll disappear.
Voices in my head. All my dozens of past selves are talking simultaneously. It’s times like these when I wonder if nostalgia can kill. All it takes is a worn-out song from my Ipod Nano days playing in an H&M or a blur of a face I think I recognize from my past to hurtle me back into the past. What am I? Slave to nostalgia? I know I can never viscerally feel the same as I did when I was 7. The imprint of the memory lingers and taunts me, but the feeling itself has long been gone. So here I am: 18 years old, but still 5, 8, 15, and 17 at heart — torn between growing up and remaining young at heart. When did the two become mutually exclusive?
currently thankful for natural sunlight and walks that take me outside my campus bubble. Look at the tiny moon on the left!