half n half (the coffee of university)

note: slightly anachronistic. text was written a month ago, and I hadn’t gotten around to editing and completing until now

Will the human heart ever find satisfaction in its current situation? Just a month ago, in the whirlwind of final projects, exams, and meaningless assignments, all I wanted was some respite from endless deadlines. Now, I’m back at home. I miss some extent of the structure of that life and satisfying sense of victory upon completion of a (meaningless) assignment.

As I’m sitting in my stuffy, under-air-conditioned room that reminds me of high school nights and a younger, more naive version of myself, I just wanted to write a bit before I lose this fleeting sense of nostalgia and introspection.

This past year of college was exhausting but soul-lifting. I feel weird and self-aggrandizing saying this, but I’ve come so far from where I was last year. It’s hard to internalize just how much I’ve grown as a human being. Most importantly, I’m more sure of who I am these days than I ever was in the past. I’m still trying to establish my own metric for meaningfully judging what it means to be a ‘good human.’ How do you measure kindness, love, self-growth, worth as a human being?

In June of 2017, I was living and working in Philly. I was sleeping sporadically, living each day passively. That summer, I learned how to slow down and make time for myself. I visited art museums and sat in the corner stealthily sketching stony-faced busts (literally carved from stone) in my 8 by 11 sketchbook, walked with no aim around the city at night, grew an affinity for gazing at sunsets from obscure rooftops, and made plans for myself by myself.

How to practice self compassion? And compassion for every being? How to live? To live without gripping fears of whether I’d amount to anything meaningful on this earth, whether I’d add value to someone’s life? To live without self-doubt impressing every step I took? To live without neurotic lapses of thought into the future, a place so foreign and abstract that there was no feeling outside of fear? Becoming ok again was a matter of just living. Just going through each day and getting out of bed. Some days were shit, and some days were ok. But as I went through the motions, I was able to collect big and little beams of light. Maybe on a magical Thursday, I was overwhelmed with how beautifully and radiantly the evening light bounced off the city’s skyline. The next day would be a thunderstorm in the brain, but then Saturday would bring a kind smile from an acquaintance. An intro to Buddhism class I took this past semester helped me learn to be ok with this arbitrary ebb and flow. Although every aspect of life is ungrounded and wildly random, I keep my footing by keeping my caprices in check and shifting my viewpoint, from a victim of the world to a simple actor in this play.

An amnesiac of time. With minutes, hours, days, and months, the little good things would stack up. As I added all these experiences in my backpack of life, they were like little papers of light–they stacked up on top of the raw, visceral loneliness, pain, whatever lay at the core. And in moments of darkness, I referenced my records of light and remembered the inconsequential, yet beautiful things that made me glad to be alive.

So often, when I reach small milestones, I’ll look back and wince at my regret. Why couldn’t I let myself live? Why was I so unhappy for such a disproportionate portion of this time? Why did I become mired in the small upsets of daily life, in the bits that ended up not mattering? How could I become so caught up in my own web of discontent? Why did I never feel full? And how do I become whole from here?

One of the most important things I’ve learned is to be explicit with gratitude. Nobody owes you anything. Really. Any kindness that’s ever shown towards you is something that another human has taken time and thought out of their day for to help you and boost you up in some way. To me, that’s the closest thing to magic that we have in our small, humble, human lives.

“we all go through the same things, no one cares. life is full of shit, so go do whatever you believe is best.”

All in all, this past year was good. I wanted to share this vlog I made (can you believe I actually followed through on this?! :D) which isn’t entirely representative of my life as a student…but such is the awesomeness of youth. Every day is wildly different!

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slow saturday hanging out with laundry hamper

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Trying to live slowly because time is passing by too quickly. It is 2pm and brightly disorienting. The sun makes me sleepy. I just had brunch with my friend at White Dog Cafe, and the food was delicious, but it was a mistake to eat solely waffles as a meal. My laundry is done, and my folded clothes are sitting on my bed, dissipating heat and waiting to be neatly tucked back into their respective locales inside my closet.

… fast forward …

It is 12:35am, and I am listlessly sitting in front of my computer screen, indecisive about which homework assignment to work on tonight…wasting time…I have receded from weekend fun these past few weeks to catch up on schoolwork. I feel like I barely get by, living by the seat of my pants, deadline to deadline. Yesterday was the first computer science diversity summit at Penn. With the rest of staff (I’m a teaching assistant for a CS course), I attended this event, unsure of what to expect. I walked out with a heavy, hopeful heart. Heavy because fellow peers’ accounts of sexual assault, microaggressions in the work setting, and TA misconduct at office hours made me so deeply upset. Hopeful because there are people who genuinely care, and that’s why this summit is happening in the first place. The base level of decency as a human being should be simple acceptance and inclusion of others. That’s why I’m always so disconcerted when people go out of their way to antagonize and alienate other people.

The summit left me with a lot of think about in terms of how I can be more encouraging and engaging with my students in my recitation, practice inclusivity, and be mindful of the unique experiences of underrepresented groups, experiences that I’ll never fully know or understand the pain of.

On a slightly related note, I usually stray away from being political or involved on the activist front. Navigating these spaces of complexity and deeply rooted pain is daunting to me. I feared I’d say the wrong words, that my speech wasn’t “PC” enough, and I doubted my singular actions as one tiny Asian girl human could make a tangible difference. But I want to change that static mindset. So what if I slip up and don’t sound very PC? Or don’t serve as the perfect model in the activist sphere? Any speech, any attempt at advocacy for others is worth more than doing nothing. I feel quite lucky to have been incubated from many of the experiences I heard during the summit on Friday. The least I can do is lend an ear, a thoughtful head, and a voice to those who might need it.

parking garage sunset

Photo Feb 19, 11 03 26 AMphoto-feb-19-11-01-40-am.pngPhoto Feb 19, 3 14 51 AMPhoto Feb 19, 3 13 12 AM

Good night! It is currently 12:31am, and I’m writing from a tranquil, well-lit study space far from home [present]. There’s a strange feeling of satisfaction and secrecy in writing a blog post in such a serious, formal setting, like my own small secret. Only 4 more days until spring break–I’ll be traveling to Norway and Sweden with some friends from college [future]

These past few weeks have been filled with procrastinating late into the night, stealing bits of time to read whenever I can, and lying in bed when I feel like I don’t want to actively participate in the real world. I’ve discovered the magic of carrying books on me wherever I go. Surprisingly, I have many pockets of time each day that I would normally squander. I’ve been trying fill that liminal time with books–interesting passages and enticing stories [past].

I don’t have the mental/artistic/creative capacity currently to weave in gracefully all the corners of experiences that I’ve really cherished these past few weeks into a Cool Story or Beautiful Paragraph, so I will just dump the jumbled noodles of thoughts I’ve collected these past few weeks:

  • REMOVE THE ARROW if you are shot—not just wonder why you were shot. -RELS 173
  • “You find certain writers who when they write, it makes your own brain voice like a tuning fork, and you just resonate with them. And when that happens, reading those writers … becomes a source of unbelievable joy. It’s like eating candy for the soul.” -DFW
  • I realize everything Naval Ravikant said that resonated with me was tied to Buddhist doctrines.
  • “The coded structure of push notifications makes it harder to prioritize a value of personal focus; the coded structure of likes makes it harder to prioritize not relying on others’ opinions; and similar structures interfere with other values, like being honest or kind to people, being thoughtful, etc.” (from a medium article for which I cannot find the link) // thinking lately about the way I use my phone and how I can derive meaningful ‘time well spent’ as opposed to letting my phone become a vaPid vOrteX
  • recent read, rated 5/5: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
  • “People who are not well-differentiated tend to be quick to react, becoming so flooded with emotion they have to run away from a situation or suppress important parts of themselves in order to keep the peace.” -from a NYT article, “How to Stop Rushing Into Love” // I don’t think I’m well-differentiated
  • “In an essential caveat that teases out the nuance of her point, Riding notes that rather than selfishness or narcissism, such thinking about oneself is the only way to conceive of one’s place within a larger world and therefore to think of the world itself. ” –Brainpickings on Laura Rider‘s letters to a young girl on being herself // I think this bridges the gap between the polarizing selflessness spelled out in Buddhist doctrines and the need for some sense of self to exist in the physical world
  • the sudden realization that I’ve forgotten how to simply walk. I’m perpetually rushing to a class that I’m late for, or seized by a sense of time running out.

an update, I guess

I’m still trying to uphold my statement that I’d try to post here once a week. But lately, I don’t have much to write about.

I’m not thinking too deeply about many things. I’m not actively living. I’m not seeking out new experiences or trying to fill my time in a meaningful way. I’m just living, passively.

When I started this blog, I was excited at the prospect of putting teenage-angsty, profound-sounding thoughts out on the Interwebs and talking about strange, abstract thoughts and observations I make as I go through my day-to-day existence. But I have this fear (and have thought this before in high school as well) that my mind is blank. It’s vanilla. I don’t really think much or deeply or actively at all. And I don’t have any opinions, strong convictions, genuine passions, or those human markers that we use to differentiate ourselves from others. Thinking back to interviews when I was asked “So tell me about yourself…” I always froze at that question, no matter how many times I had vied with this already. I don’t know myself; my mind is a blank slate. If I feel so depersonalized, how do I go about describing who I am? My own sense of identity is so foggy and unclear to me.

I’ve been having more spells of anxiety. Sometimes I feel so worried about x, y, z that I feel like I mentally can’t breathe. In some moments, I felt so low as a human being. I felt like shit and deemed myself worthless. I regretted my actions. I hated my stupidity. I hated school. I hated my apathy towards everything that I do. I hated my inability to feel, to connect. Why is it all coming back??? I hope I’m strong enough to not lose myself again.

I started feeling this way again today, and I immediately thought,”nope nope nope,” and forced myself to go outside and walk into the city. It’s raining outside, and I remember a friend saying,”Rain makes everything better–it’s like all the raindrops are clapping and rooting for you.”

So I guess this is why I haven’t felt like writing much. I just want to lie in bed and be unconscious of the world and my own existence.

Oh also, happy Valentine’s Day! [post restored February 27, 2018 : originally trashed because the author was afraid of seeming too forward, dramatic, and neurotic to her internet readers]

thinking a lot @ 4:26am

I shut myself in the fine arts hall for 10 hours today to render a turn table for my 3d models (by the way, I fucked up on my renders, and I have to start over). By the time I realized I had worked through dinner, I left the building and found myself in some psycho dystopia where people scream down the streets, blare their horns relentlessly, and do stupid things like throw traffic cylinders at passing cars. In other words, the Eagles won the Super Bowl…cue mass migration of sports fanatics into Center City and ensuing chaos. To be honest, I was really freaked out and felt like a character in some Mr. Robot episode where all the anarchists wore scary masks and rioted down the streets of New York…sort of dramatic of me, I know. I don’t understand why people flip cars over in the face of victory. I feel like if I had such an investment in some team that won, I’d be so happy that I’d saunter down the streets and bless all the vehicles stationed at the curbs.

Anyways, I want to talk about self-consciousness.

The reason I don’t tell people that I have a blog is because I write embarrassing, strange things on here and take self-indulgent pictures of myself. But most importantly, if I were aware that I had a large, familiar readership, I’d surely self-consciously (or subconsciously) express myself in a different way. This breath down my back would ruin the honesty and clearheadedness with which I try to write–at least in the way I talk about my feelings and thoughts. This isn’t to say I don’t appreciate the people who stop by and take the time to read through my ramblings and scroll past oversized iPhone images.

This has been a motif throughout my life. I can’t exist with this feeling of ‘suffocation.’ I need 1000 miles of distance between myself and the real world to feel fully free and functional. This is probably bad. I go to a college for extroverts and am surrounded by young, energetic students every waking second. I will eventually go on to work in a company where I have to make small talk with co-workers on a daily basis. I am a part of a society that values extroversion and communication. That also makes logical sense. How’s anybody supposed to understand you or your messages/intents if you can’t speak about them effectively? How are you supposed to meet kindred spirits if you don’t at least participate in the game of life a little bit?

This is part of why I quit social media last year. I had this superfluous fear of being too “weird” in my thoughts of photo albums or square-cropped Instagram photos. I felt self-conscious and out of place. In my darkest times, being on social media only exacerbated my feelings of otherness. I hated seeing people smile and enjoying life. Wow that sounds incredibly petty and childish…to rephrase, the pictures of people with genuine smiles and happy moments felt like shards to my heart. I felt so distant from those sentiments and experiences…seeing these things only made me feel more disoriented, disconnected, and discontent. This isn’t the fault of others of social media (at least not entirely). It was more a function of where I, Annie Su, personally was, mentally, as a human being. But now, I am more ambivalent. I like to look back on the digital archives of my life, but I don’t like the idea of being encapsulated by maybe 500 images. I’d hope there’s more to me than that…

These paragraphs don’t logically connect all too much. My TA for my religious studies class would give me a B on this blog post…

Before this blog, I cycled through 4 tumblr’s. I was rereading all the weird posts I wrote…nothing was held back because I never advertised my URL. Just a thought.

Not that I want to be a god or a hero. Just to change into a tree, grow for ages, not hurt anyone.”Czesław Miłosz, from “Notes”

^ that was my favorite quote for so long.

oh man, ok I really have to sleep. Fuck, it’s so late.

is overintrospection selfish?

Hello we are 3 weeks into the school semester, and I already feel burnt out like a charred piece of salmon left for too long on the grill! Great! I can’t wait to get to the point when I’m old enough to look back on my anxious little worrying self and wax words of wisdom when asked the question,”What advice would you give to your younger self?” I’d respond,”I wish that I didn’t stress so much about the future and the myriad of uncertainties that cloud life. In the end, everything turns out ok.” I am 99% sure this is what future me would say to current me (yes I’m clairvoyant). And even in anticipation of this insight, I can’t not be worried. How can I not be worried? Nothing is certain! Nothing is constant! Stress is built into my personality. I operate day-to-day with high cortisol levels and a paralyzing fear of the future. These have become constants in my life. My name might as well be Annie Worried Su.

I’m afraid to say “I can’t wait for this semester to be over” because I know it will be filled with meaningful moments, but honestly, right now, I can’t wait for this semester to be over.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my sense of self and how often I reflect on things solely inside my realm of existence. I read a podcast transcript yesterday of an interview with Naval Ravikant, the CEO of Angel List (a recommendation from a friend). He talks about his “monkey mind” of desires that “at some point gets out of control and then we are constantly talking to ourselves in our head. We’re playing little movies in our heads, walking down the street, but no one’s actually there.” It’s the brain working on overdrive, fantasizing about what the world might be like and how reality might ideally be. The guy says the best way to keep in touch with reality is “by not having a strong sense of self or judgments or mind presence. The monkey mind will always respond with this regurgitated emotional response to what it thinks the world should be. That will cloud your reality.” I agree with this to some extent. I don’t want to be a slave to my thoughts and inflated sense of self, but what’s an existence without a clear idea of who I am? Isn’t this the whole point of life–to figure out who I am and what kind of human I’d like to be? Or is that selfish? Am I selfish for thinking so often about my own existence? I look inward for such a large portion of my time that I forget to set aside time for others and think about where they’re coming from and how I might be making them feel in certain social situations. I just think about myself myself myself. Is it because I have too strong a sense of self? Is this selfish? I know in words, it sounds a bit silly. “No, Annie! It’s ok to think of yourself. You come into this world alone. You die alone. You journey through life alone. How could you not be thinking of the main player in your game of life?” But at the same time, I want to help others in some meaningful way. I probably won’t cure cancer or come up with life-improving innovations. I don’t believe in myself enough to think that I’d have an impact in that way. But that just means I have to make up for that in other ways. I can be kind to others and show empathy. I can be a supportive friend, daughter, sister, roommate, etc. I don’t want to just live a solitary life of self-engrossment. Self-improvement and growth is great and all, but if my time on this planet is only for myself, I can’t help but think that’s a little too selfish.

Am I overthinking this? Probably.

I want to lie in bed for a long time and not move, not think, not be worried, not exist actively.

(anxious) homeostasis

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fuzzy plant at 6am
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home; reading Ready Player One with a snack of clementines
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first sunset back on college campus. a little bittersweet.
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part of my trek home from class
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view from my 17th floor room; dust and window smudges
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campus–unnaturally quiet at night

Time stamp: Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. 12:16am.

Instead of completing my two daunting school assignments due tomorrow, I’m going to prolong my night and write a blog post. Today marks the end of the 3rd week of school and the slow beginning of the influx of deadlines, lectures, quiet nights, and Spotify study playlists.

I hope to make the most of this semester. I’m not even sure what that really entails, and I know I say the same shit every year, but at least the optimism lingers. That’s better than despair and a broken spirit (slightly). This past week has been so emotionally, mentally, and physically draining. I can’t keep living deadline to deadline. Last semester, I had no regard for whatever basis of “physical/mental wellbeing” was and let my stress and the fluctuations of daily minutiae dictate my psyche.

I found this old iPhone note I wrote this past summer:

11:52pm
I feel like my life is in flux. I know this is temporary, but when all the embellishments and distractions peter out, I’m left with my own shell of purposelessness. Usually there is enough buzzing about to distract me. I don’t know what possessed me today, but I felt so lost all of the sudden. Is life always going to be glimpses and reminders of this excruciating loneliness and meaninglessness? I finally meet people I like. People with big hearts and thoughtful actions. But they operate on a completely different belief system? How strange. I was hanging out with some friends today and felt a growing abyss between us. If our most fundamental belief systems, our building blocks for who we are as humans, differ so starkly, how can we ever connect in a non superficial way? We can never fully understand each other.
God. Is it always going to be like this? I feel such a gaping void inside of me. And maybe it’d be nice to fill it with thoughts of “god” and his unconditional love. But those are beliefs I could never fully subscribe to myself. To me, that’s a cop-out answer. I need to figure out how to ascribe meaning to my own life and actions; it just hasn’t happened yet. Maybe I tried to fill that void with ______ too. Maybe I tried to fill it with ________. Maybe I tried to fill it with some outlandish ideal of a kindred spirit. But these things were tenuous.
How do I go forth from here?

There is no metric for progress as a human being. I have no way to measure if I’m growing soundly and steadily. I still identify with this summer rumination and the strange feeling creeps in sometimes late at night when I’m left with my own thoughts for too long, but I have a deeper understanding of myself and my perception of the world. There’s nothing really to be said or done in response to the “meaningless” of life. You accept. And you make sure to not fly too close to the sun or sink too far down the pool where dark thoughts fester. That’s it.

Being around the friends I’ve met in college is a humbling and earnest fill of time. Despite everything, good things happened today. I need to remember to express gratitude and recognize the love and goodness in life…if I could really project out to the world my wishlist for the rest of eternity, it would consist of handwritten notes and letters. My friend wrote me a thoughtful note. For some reason, the kindness in this gesture made my heart break in that same way it does when I feel so thankful and undeserving for such gestures that I don’t know what to do but cry. Maybe a simpler way to put it is that the note really moved me. Today, in preparation for Felicia and Aliya’s birthday, some friends cooked a dinner of bibimbap, homemade pizza, meat buns, and cake. I felt at home…in college, a place that for so long seemed cold and hostile. There was also Cookie Night a few hours ago, which is a weekly gathering of friends in Katey’s room, where she serves freshly-baked cookies and sometimes hot apple cider. The room is shoved to the brim with more people than I could have even imagined in a tiny college dorm, and the atmosphere is warm, both because the body count almost poses a fire hazard and because everyone is kind, friendly, open.

God I feel, like, a thousand emotions all at once right now.

Sometimes I still worry that I — nevermind. No time to worry!

Ok, I have to do homework now. I’m really excited for my Intro to Buddhism class–I can tell it’s a good class because I walk out of the lecture hall feeling light and introspective. There are a thousand things I want to pore over and think about. This semester, I’ll do my best! Ganbarimsasu~ がんばります

(Also, I’m in the process of making a vlog for this past week)

(Also I hope whoever might be reading this has a genuinely seriously honestly good day and that the little things maybe touch you or make you feel at least a little bit glad to be alive)

(Addendum: when I turn 20, I will be entering my 3rd decade of existence. THIRD. This whole time, I kept thinking “ok this will be decade 2.” But 3 is a much larger number than 2…I can barely keep my life together. I starve sometimes because I forget to feed myself and my cacti are dying and I didn’t even know that was possible. ?!)