to think about…

On overcoming existential loneliness with the realization of existential freedom (how to get to this point? I still don’t know): 

Does this new fulfillment empower us to love in a new way? Instead of trying to use others to fill our aching existential Void, do we now appreciate them for the persons they really are? Has our former need to cling to others disappeared because their absence does not throw us back into loneliness of spirit? If we discover how to live beyond existential loneliness, are we empowered to love from fullness rather than emptiness and need?

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a shrinking city

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photo highlights:

  • rachel’s ~*wall*~*
  • strawberry matcha latte + boba from boba guys
  • sunset at the highline, objectively the best park in the world
  • several street view photos for which I stopped directly in the middle of the walkway and valiantly risked my life for the sake of PHOTOGRAPHY

In the spirit of college student spontaneity (or would it just be called procrastination?) and a caprice centered on sheer infatuation with New York City, I hopped on a Bolt Bus into the city with a few friends.

I went into the city with new friends but also met up with an old friend and fellow salami lover, Rachel. She lives in East Village, a quaint and thriving place with small eateries crowding every street and young people out late into the nights. I’m thankful for the slowing down of life over fall break and getting to hang out with my high school friend, no impending obligations or deadlines to worry about. We always eat until we fall into a vegetative food comatose, which I’m sure helps with the carefree attitude too. This time around, I explored and roamed the city with new friends. Sitting on a bench at Union Square Park to people-watch and digest the exorbitant amounts of food we ate, peering down the aisles and shelves of books at The Strand, and walking along the Highline during golden hour–the meaning these places and experiences is imbued with isn’t exclusive to the locations themselves. Even though I’ve been to New York more times than I can count, the city feels like a new place each time I spectate with different people.

Gazing out a floor-to-ceiling window and looking down on the miniature, toy-like streets, I felt a weird sense of reticence. If I lived here and could see the entire expanse of the city every day from my couch or from the bathroom sink while I brush my teeth, would I feel the same pang of affection each and every time I glanced out the window? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s best if I don’t wind up living in this city–I’d never want to get used to this place and have it lose the sparkling feeling of excitement and newfangledness. It’s human to take what’s there for granted and to yearn for the things out of reach.

The summer after my junior year of high school, I attended a pre-college program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. I grew enamored with the buzz buzz of NYC, the clanking and clattering of the subway, and the vitality/vibrancy of all the streets, with its swarms of people, all with places to go and things to do. The breadth of the city astonished me…hey, look at me: a small girl inside an entire city, a needle in a haystack. But the city seems to shrink each time I come back. I’ve grown more familiar with the subway routes (although I am still perfectly capable of hopping on the completely wrong subway). I expect the drifting smells of food vendors and car exhaust and am no longer disarmed by the density of skyscrapers. My sense of complete anonymity, immersion, and smallness has faded a bit over all my visits, leaving behind weird traces of nostalgia and a reluctance to grow up.

Here is the theme of the movie of my life: the vie to reconcile with this concept of “growing up,” a Holden Caulfield-esque rejection of adulthood. Maybe I’ll be ruminating over this until I’m 90 years old…

timestamp: 3:36am. I need to sleep earlier.

and we live to see another day

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Every Thursday morning, when I witness the sunrise through my window on the 17th floor of Harrison and after I lethargically click the “submit” button for my comp sci homework assignment, I tell myself incredulously, “It’s Thursday…I live to see another day.” Wednesday’s constitute the weekly apex of assignment deadlines, stress, sleep-deprivation, and all the classic college student tropes that are pitiful but altogether relatable. I’ve fallen into quite a consistent routine: I submit the first assignment around 10pm (for which the deadline is 11pm). Then I proceed to start Latex’ing my next homework problem set. Every Wednesday there’s a creeping feeling that I won’t make it, or that tomorrow is some insidious doomsday. But every Thursday morning, no matter how sleep-deprived I am, I feel relieved–relieved to see the sun, relieved to have survived another long Wednesday night, relieved that I get a new day to breathe and reset.

That’s the weird thing about life. You think you won’t make it. There’s no way. There’s so much. All at once. It’s too much.

But somehow you muddle through all of the shit. Who cares if you fell 1000 times on your way? You’ve lived to see another day.

A few months ago, I wished for nonexistence…emptiness…reprieve from the senselessness and absurdity of being alive; why was the pace of life so consistent, relentless and unforgiving? Couldn’t the clock slow down a little? Give me a chance to catch my breath and figure out all these pesky things clouding my mind?

But I lived to see another day and another… and another. Isn’t it ironic and unfortunate (and maybe stupid) how the worst experiences help you grow the most? I guess Nietzsche was right.

I’ve lived to see another day, and seeing the light has never felt so sweet. I feel so FREE right now. I had two midterms today, both of which I’m upset about because I know I could have performed better if I had had better foresight, been more disciplined, and worked harder. But I’m trying to…let go. I’m still working on keeping my head above water, meaning not sweating all the small things like my midterms or my homework grades. Fall break is in 2 days, and I plan to aggressively chill.

feeling small

drawings_michel

Among thousands of students, the large majority of which are geniuses in some form, I struggle to reconcile with my feelings of inadequacy–especially since I’ve transferred into the School of Engineering this year. By some odd stroke of good fortune and I guess hard work, I wound up receiving a teaching assistant position for the discrete mathematics course that all comp sci majors/minors have to take (CIS 160).

I applied for the position because I wanted to keep learning and to join a community of people in which I could grow. I acknowledge that I worked my ass off last semester and sold my soul to office hours and problem sets, so receiving this job feels like a validation of my plight. But working hard doesn’t necessarily equate to intelligence or deep understanding or teaching ability. When I tell friends and colleagues that I’m a 160 TA, they widen their glimmering eyes in what I perceive to be respect. This reaction makes me feel bashful and sheepish and confused and turbulent all at once. I want to exclaim, “Don’t you understand! I’m not even smart or qualified. I’m not a math whiz! LISTEN TO ME WOMAN. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING OR EVEN WHO I AM.”

I held office hours today and walked out feeling like a desolate puddle of melted human. Understanding material sufficiently to execute a homework problem and mastering concepts so that you can dynamically bend and morph them into clear explanations are two completely different beasts. I have no confidence in myself, and that self-deprecation projects itself into my answers. I can’t stop thinking that if my previous self had me, Annie Su, as a TA, I would hate me. Why do I feel so drastically under-qualified for this job?

The TA’s for 160 are all quirky, intelligent, and nice people, and I’m grateful to have been extended a hand into this community. But being around these people throws me into a limbo of anxiety and self-doubtThis dude popped out of the womb doing math competitions. And that girl over there interned at Facebook, Apple, and SpaceEx. What am I but a small, random outlier? All I have going is hard work. Slow learning. Inquiry. I know that dwelling on what I’m not doing right is wasting what little time I do have to improve and learn…but I can’t help it.

I’m starting to learn more and more that I am not these people and never will be. I’m not an AMC champion or a genius software developer at the ripe age of 17. I don’t have any of those things going for me, but that’s ok. My own set of skills (not really sure what they are though) are different. And different != bad. What I like to talk about and ruminate over, what I read voraciously until 3am, what I’m curious about, what I think about in fleeting while on the elevator–these constitute who I am and what kind of person I want to be. Why do I fret over not being like the others? The world needs more kooks, right?

(in theory)

Then the disconnect  between sound logic and visceral feeling sets in. I feel inadequate anyways. I feel small anyways.

lately

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alive and breathing!

pictures:

  1. president amy gutmann, our fearless leader–she reminds me of a nicer version of Anna Wintour
  2. scoop of honeycomb ice cream from franklin fountain in old city
  3. peaches at the farmer’s market
  4. self-timed shenanigans
  5. afternoon flowers + klimt

School has been picking up pace this past week, but I still haven’t managed to hone in and focus on schoolwork or anything education-related lately. My brain is still drifting lackadaisically in summer meadows and fluffy thoughts…but alas, the soul-draining, spirit-crushing homework awaits in the real world…

This semester, I hope to find quiet, tranquil moments to myself amidst the pandemonium of Penn and the club representatives emphatically waving flyers on Locust, the perpetual homework sets, the vortex of office hours in the cold, austere engineering building, and the frantic anxiety that accompanies all this mess. I want to be deliberate with how I pass my time here. I’ve always gotten caught off-guard by the quagmire of school responsibilities which seems to always take precedence over all else. School is SUPREME. But I don’t want to always have my nose buried in the books or my existence eternally stationed in the library basement–I want to do things that genuinely inspire and excite me and befriend people with good hearts and open minds who can teach me how to be a better person and friend.

Ok, I say all this, but then school is going to rev up another notch, and all musings of a cooler, better lifestyle jump the cliff and go poof.

here comes a thought

*  words for personal, future reference

ok. I have come to so many points this past year where I’ve felt anxious, restless, lost, boxed in, confused, etc. And in these moments, I truly feel like I can’t get out. My thoughts manifest themselves and swarm into some insidious monster that is out of my control. Central to this year has been the question, “How do I grow? In the way I want to? How will I face these thoughts? And how do I stand stronger?”

  • I need to inculcate that thoughts are just thoughts. They’re fabricated based on my perceived reality, but a reality often times skewed and distorted in ways that undermine its integrity. I’m human. It’s in my nature to make mistakes in my judgments and interpretations. Thoughts != reality. Immanuel Kant, my home slice, asserts reality and things-in-themselves are unknowable. All that humans have are their post-digested morsels of what they perceive and interpret around them–which isn’t equivalent to the things-in-themselves. Everything is a working of the inner mind, which is so fickle and prone to fallacy to begin with.
  • dance class helps me recenter my focus. I can’t think of anything besides how sore my muscles are from these damn fouettes….begone irrelevant, unwanted thoughts.
  • I have my own growth cycle. From bean sprout to full human bean, who knows how long each portion of the life cycle is? There’s no timeline. I don’t need to be x, y, z by age 30 or have a, b, c by age 25.
  • every time I watch this video clip from Steven Universe, I experience this strange heart twang. It helps brings me back to earth. Earth to annie…
  • ask for help! reach out! I am so afraid of passing my burden onto others’ shoulders. This needs work. I’ve been zapped by past experiences…but they don’t speak for all future experiences.
  • love thyself………and all that “self-love” endorsement rubbish. How do I fill myself up all on my own without being dependent on the love and affirmation of others? I still feel a strange sense of loneliness after being around others for a while. Accepting loneliness as a staple of life! Self-compassion! Patience with myself!
  • music as a shield against the outer world. With my earbuds, I am (somewhat) ready to take on the world.
  • breathing.
  • LIFE IS EVERYTHING. ACCEPT IT. AMOR FATI. How can you ever know what is good without having the bad for perspective? “If you could fly then you’d feel south.” (ya that’s a Gambino quote b/c I’m ~mainstream hip~)

*on relationships

I usually don’t talk about my romantic life. And I don’t like to stew over it too deeply either. Feelings are weird, you know. Being okay and almost functional after my (romantic) relationship was so incredibly difficult. I felt like I finally let myself be vulnerable with another human being, and that was all for shit. I felt so profoundly alone. And I felt so excruciatingly confused and in pain. How could two people’s feelings diverge so greatly? What kind of insensible working of the world creates this kind of disconnect? Little human, you can love someone with all your heart, and that could never make someone feel what you would hope they feel. Was this it then?All these years I had this idealistic notion of a True Kindred Spirit. I realize that this was the genuine connection I had been looking for all along, but poof…so how was I, the most withdrawn turtle, ever going to find this again?

I still don’t know the answer to that question, but the unsolved problem doesn’t bother me as much anymore because in the grand scheme, it shouldn’t matter. I’m not living for anyone else! I’m not living to fulfill a checkbox where I “find true love”! I’m not living for the sole purpose of finding someone to share my life with! I’m not living frenziedly trying to meet strange societal deadlines!

I am making this promise to myself: I will not seek other people to fill my void. I have to fill myself first, and only with a full heart can I truly love another person (romantically, platonically). “You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”

Nine months after, I’m still talking about this breakup. I’m sure there’s some pathetic irony or overthinking in all this. Who holds onto things for this long? Scratch that question. That doesn’t matter. If nobody is crazy or nostalgic enough to hold onto the past for this long, I’ll eagerly step forward and be the first.

I would never wish the pain of a breakup even on my mortal enemy. Well, I’m not too sure. The growth that accompanies hardship is an ineffable kind of blossoming. I’ve deepened my self-awareness and given myself space to breathe and exist alright. I enjoy spending time alone and in fact, need it, to function adequately.

With all this, I want to leave this for my future self: I hope that you experience heartbreak, hardship, trials, failures, all the worst that life can throw at you. In earnest, I hope you don’t take it all too close to heart and that you stand up every goddamn time and that you really blossom into the kind of human you want to be (sounding an awful lot like Nietzsche – “To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not—that one endures.”)

a birth day

I interrupt the onslaught of travel posts to present you with a wall of incoherent text. Ok, go.

August 17 was my birthday; I turned 19. I’ve always had an odd relationship with the concept of a birthday. There’s this weird self-consciousness and hyper-self-awareness that has always dictated my life. On one hand, receiving attention and facebook paragraphs that stand in as birthday wishes make my head bubble and fizzle like a glass of champagne. But I hate acknowledging that birthdays seem inherently important to me because I shouldn’t need this pampering attention or bask in it either. Why do I keenly yearn for an instant-gratification-esque form of human attention?

But I digress.

It is 3:36am. I need to count my blessings!

This year, my dad wrote me a card/letter for my birthday. This is special because I’ve never received a card from my parents before for any sort of occasion. I just want to………….my heart is just………I am just incredibly thankful for my parents. I am learning every day what unconditional love means and what kindness and patience look like. In 2017, we love unapologetically and convey how much we appreciate others’ love loudly and clearly.

But I don’t want to grow up.

When did I transition from a bouncy, annoying pre-tween who practically prayed to blossom into adulthood into a jaded, old, misanthropic grandma? I like being young. I like reminiscing about my childhood. I like the past. 

Change sucks.

I have been rifling through old letters and cards and mementos that I stuffed in a paper bag throughout high school. Isn’t it weird how these little pieces of paper carry so much personal significance? This tiny college-ruled paper changed my life and viewpoint. And this wrinkled card earthquaked my heart and pulled me back to earth. These snapshots of time are so valuable to me…they preserve all the scenarios and circumstances surrounding each letter, and I hardly recognize myself anymore in those times. The shitty thing is that it all seems so sweet and fragile and perfect, these perfect amber casts of the past. Why did I (time?) have to go and ruin things? I never even asked to grow up.

So tonight, I feel strange. I feel lonely, melancholic, nostalgic, and indignant. Indignant of change and dynamism and letting go of the past. And I’m 19. I’m (practically) an adult, so I will be as childish and ridiculous as I so please today (and maybe tomorrow).

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