Friday, January 29, 2010

A Soundless Sleep

A story for you


Words dropped out of your mouth like copper pennies that you threw on granite floors for the street urchins to scramble over,
Disguised as liquid velvet that dripped slowly out of my shower head.

You pried my bony ribcage open with a knife to fill it with sandbags of lust and gritty intrigue,
just as you had done to the others, and glued a magnet there to pulse with the beats
Of an organ I didn't know was there.

The pull of that metallic attraction drew me, and I donned my armored weaponry to stumble onto dry, staticky grasses of the battlefield. I violently fought the battles you threw in my lap
and quietly tucked my own away in a drawer.

The wind swept you from your sunken bed on that sultry night in the form of new bones, new flesh,
new blood.
A fresh body on which to practice your cruel and shameless art.

You left me on that electric operating table, white and slashed,
To pick up those small, steel needles to pin back together my shredded skin slowly,

So I'll take those tears like crystal drops that shatter in perfect spherical shards, reflecting the darkness like mirrored prisms
Night after night.
And I'll put them in my pocket.

And tomorrow, I’ll take them back out. I'll string them together like a rope of salty pearls
From which I'll hang you by your pretty neck.

Darling, you’ll never break another heart.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Yesterday's News

I'll start with a confession: I've always been a selfish person who has wanted the world all to herself.
Every square inch of glimmering excitement around me, every ounce of energy and attention from people around me, every shining spotlight in my 100 mile radius...... I've wanted it all.

But our fleeting lives are like play productions on Broadway. Sometimes we're onstage; sometimes we're off. Sometimes our show is a great success. Sometimes it's a long, drawn-out, money- and time-sucking flop. And whether the season is a thrilling success or bombastic disaster, there's one thing we can all be certain of: Broadway has to go on.

Like I've said in a previous post, there's a time for everything. Events in our lives all must run their courses. Often, when they do or don't isn't something that we decide.

We all take turns on that stage.

I'm sitting in the audience right now. I'm sitting in the very back of theater with the darkened shadows and the dusty drapes, and I'm watching you standing there. Standing in the bright glow of the spotlight, standing where the world can see you.
I can feel your racing excitement. I can feel how you feel, with the blood pulsing through your veins, ignited by the candleflames in your heart that only swell to raging forest fires as those clotted paths of your life begin to unfurl slowly, leaving all the world in your arms
this time around.

I can feel it all the way from the back of the audience. The lights, the glitter, the fame, the glory. I can touch it, taste it, and smell it, as if it were an object more tangible than the mildewing chair on which I reside. And more than anything else, I wish I was where you are...

..... where the world is full, where the moon is bright, where the diamonds fall into your lap like raindrops on a summer night
....... where the fragments of life's mysteries are slowly piecing together perfectly into a completed picture
..........where there's excitement, where there's giddy apprehension, where there's innocent love

Jealousy is a powerful, gnawing force.
But I'm not jealous, though I feel like I should be.
No. I've far surpassed jealousy, lodged tightly into the realm of consistent indifference, with emotions as obscure as the polluted streets of London in a morning fog.

My turn onstage has been over for a while. From the dusty back row, I am just another spectator. I am just another faded star fallen from her prime. I am an ordinary person, washed-out like yesterday's laundry on the banks of the Louvre- colorless, unrecognizable.
I am an outdated front cover story, blown-over and exhausted.

I am back in the drab grey of monotony, holding a paper cup of coffee on my seven o'clock train to work.

And I am far, far too young to feel this wasted.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dr. Seuss's Wise Words of Wisdom

Keep these in mind when you're down. It's an excerpt from "Oh, The Places You'll Go!", which is actually an amazingly inspirational book.


"Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don't
Because, sometimes they won't.

I'm afraid that sometimes
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stuff of the World.

Here are some miscellaneous interesting pictures from my travels. I have thousands and thousands of beautiful, scenic ones, but there are so many that just the thought of sharing them on my blog is mildly depressing to me.

They were so beautiful. It's a wonder I even got such a decent shot of them.

This is spaghetti-eis. Looks like spaghetti, right? Well, it's ice cream. Yep, that's right, ICE CREAM. Vanilla with strawberry syrup.

We were taking a jaunt through the Black Forest of Germany and stumbled upon a ramp. In the middle of a field. I wish I knew to what purpose it sat there for, but I never figured it out. A ramp for an epic skateboarder? An illegal rocket launch pad?

The station I stood at every morning, waiting for the 8:15 train to the city

We were dining at a restaurant one evening, and when I went to use the lavatories, this is what I saw. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive about sitting down. But yes, I did actually utilize this particular toilet. It's terrible, but I just picture something like this being in a Nazi concentration camp....

So this past summer, I went to Germany. Not to travel or take a vacation, but to do scientific research (yes, I am a nerd- fight me if you have a problem with it). I was selected to go and my trip was paid for in full by Roche pharmaceuticals.

I had the time of my life. Granted, my research mentor Nadine was a female middle-eastern version of a Nazi, but I ultimately learned a lot, including the three phrases: "Ich spreche kein deutsch," "Ich weiss nicht," and "schisse!" the last one being the most popular. I've got to admit, though, re-learning the periodic table of elements in a different language is a bit challenging at first.

I actually picked up a fair amount of German. It's surprisingly similar to English, and it is now one of the languages I am determined to be able to speak fluently in five years.
When I wasn't in the lab on the weekends, I was doing all sorts of crazy stuff. I went to a German fair, biked 40 km through the steep mountains of the German countryside (in the rain, too, mind you!), and traveled EVERYWHERE.

I backpacked through Paris one weekend, I went to Basel, Switzerland another weekend, and I visited lots of cities and LOTS of castles on the other weekends (I managed to hit Heidelberg, Mannheim, Strasbourg, Neuschwanstein, and many more).
When I got out of the lab early most days, I would take the Karlsruhe train and ride by myself all over the city and even between cities. My favorite thing to do was stare out of the windows of the trains, watching people and soaking in the atmosphere of everything around me.

I saw so many new things. I thought so many new thoughts.

Never in my life had I ever felt so free. I was under no constraints. Hell, I was in Europe! We're talking land-of-the-liberals here, as opposed to those conservative American constraints I've been so well-accustomed to. My host parents didn't give a bloody flip where I was, as long as I didn't get lost and eventually found my way back home every night. I lived carefree, stress-free days. I wandered and explored to my heart's content.
My host sister's boyfriend would spend the night and sleep in her bed without much of a word from her parents, something I could never imagine happening in my family.

I had a lot of beer. Sterotypical, I know. It was good beer, though, and it was offered to me almost everywhere I went. On my first day of work, my lab decided to have a "barbecue" (those were REALLY popular in Germany... I must have been to six in my first week there), and my lab mentor just chucked me a beer like it was the completely normal thing to do to welcome a new intern scientist. A little alcohol will help those petri dishes progress more quickly, right?
I had wine at another lab party, more beer at the beach, and even more beer at the numerous parties I went to (Germans really like those as well).

Alcohol was the bonding point of the German people.
For us, it ended up being an intended cure to a bad week that led to thieving paper cups from an Aldi, asking for a corkscrew for a screw-lid bottle, late trains home, and new things learned about ourselves...

Another story for another time.

There is one thing I never want to see again that I saw at a German beach: naked, old men. This is yet another reason I will never get married. When I saw that Speedo come off, I was very, very glad I lived in America.

I have hundreds of stories that I could tell from the seven weeks I was across the Atlantic. I could talk about the fancy dining experiences I had, the slugs that covered the ground when it rained, the secret cafe on the second story, the ridiculous amounts of ice cream I consumed, what the Eiffel tower looked like at midnight through the rain, the racist souvenir vendors in Paris, eating doners/kebaps under plastic umbrellas in the pouring rain...... but there's too much to tell. Maybe I'll slowly tell it all someday through this blog.

In Europe, I had no worries. My life in America didn't matter for those seven weeks. There was a vast Atlantic Ocean separating me from my life of troubled relationships and tumultuous family life and academic woes. In Europe, I found a peace that I may not be able to find again for a very long time.

Nostalgia is hitting me hard. Oh, what I wouldn't do to just go back there for a couple days instead of sitting on this unkempt bed of mine, worrying and fretting about everything there is to worry and fret about. But I am grateful for those seven weeks. They were the best weeks of my life thus far.

Someday, I'll go back. I'll go by myself with a backpack on my back and a heart full of wanderlust, and I'll roam the corners of the earth until the sun and the ocean and the sky blend into a liquid radiance satisfying my thirsty veins.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Who Am I?

I've revealed nearly nothing about my external self on this blog. I've put up no pictures, no name, no information about my geographic location. I've only put up my thoughts, which can tell you a lot, I suppose. But if you are a stranger reading this right now, this is for you:

-I'm in school, preparing myself for more school. I won't tell you what kind of school, but I have a lot of school ahead of me.

-I don't live at home, technically. I probably will not live at home for a long time. If all goes as planned, I won't ever have to live at home again.

-My parents emigrated from China.

-My ideal jobs are either being a photographer for the National Geographic or being an editor for a very important newspaper. Interestingly enough, what I am studying/what I am planning to study has nothing to do with either of these.

-I am 175 cm tall and I weigh about 56.25 kg.

-I look awful with hats on, so I never wear them. I am in constant search of a hat that I can pull off. The day I find one will be a happy day indeed.

-I don't get along very well with authority. I don't like being told what to do. I don't like lack of autonomy.

-I have a younger sister who I love dearly, and also a much, much younger brother, who stole my birthday.

-I have two best friends, J., my soulmate for life, and K., my surrogate sister. They are living and breathing parts of myself.

-I despise the color orange and all modern-day punk rock boy bands.

-I've played the piano since age 5, I've danced for 5 years. I love classical music, especially by Russian composers, ballet, and Salvador Dali.

-I read a lot and I read all the time. Don't give me a trashy flick or anything not worthy of being dubbed quality literature. I will light it on fire and throw it back at you.

-I am foul-mouthed and dirty-minded, a reckless street urchin. I can also be a classy lady from a snapshot of a Victorian film. I know when to be which.

-I am honest. Sometimes cruelly so, but I've always preferred brutal honesty to sugar-coated niceties. I don't say things to appease people.

My fingers are too cold to keep typing. Besides, F. Scott Fitzgerald is calling to me.

A Warranted Apology

You were the breath of fresh air that I so desperately needed after being underwater for so long.
So I took it with no reserve.
I took it for myself.

You weren't like him. You weren't well-versed in great poets. You didn't have a head filled with philosophical epiphanies. You didn't have branched thoughts or twisted furls of the brain.
I had to do nothing to keep up with you.
I wasn't mentally intimidated by you or intellectually in awe of you.
It was a pleasant change, for once.

I'm not sure what exactly I wanted. Maybe it was some semblance of stability that I craved, something I had been lacking in for over two years.
Maybe I was tired of having my heartstrings being knitted into sweaters by someone else, tired of being so emotionally involved with someone else, tired of caring, tired of loving.
Maybe I wanted a break, wanted to be cared about instead.
Maybe I wanted to tie-up someone else's heart like he did mine.

I chose you, the oblivious subject, the person whose life had nothing to do with mine.
Maybe I thought that you could drag me away from the things of my past into your land of simplicity.

Any smart person would know that it's not possible to live a life devoid of your past. Any smart person would know that trying to do so would be like trying to create an alter-ego. Any smart person would know that she could probably succeed until time caught up with her. I wasn't that smart person.
People who don't think will eventually fall to fate.

I am meant to be alone, if not forever, just for now at least. And I realized it a little too late.
I also realized that the only relationships that will have a profound effect on me are those with people who do have something to intimidate me with. I crave excitement. I crave new things, I crave knowledge, I crave rebellion, I crave spontaneity. I crave everything that you just couldn't offer me.
And it's not your problem.
I guess I just enjoy challenges far too much. And being with you was never a challenge.

I hope that you will be with someone who will be able to make you happy, someone who has a whole heart to give you. I'm just not that person. I should have known from the beginning that there was nothing going for us.
You can't build sandcastles with dry sand.

It's time for me to move forward.
I've used up your time and my time trying to forge something that I couldn't handle.

And I apologize with every remaining piece of my heart. I know you understand.

I'm Too Old For My Age

I shouldn't feel like this.
Exhausted or tired aren't words that can describe it. I'm weary. Weary down to my bones, weary down to the deepest core of my being.

I am trapped in the body of a wizened old woman, of someone who has seen and been through enough to give them more perspective than they ever wanted to have. Of someone who has fought battles, scaled mountains, and is now tired in every essence of the word.

There is something to be said about innocence. There's a kind of blameless bliss in naivete, an almost-admirable beauty of the shielded life and the cocooned heart. There's something exciting about an un-morphed butterfly; there's something heartwarming about a little girl who still believes in fairies and being pursued by princes.
Whenever I meet a small child like that, I enjoy feeding their imaginative and idealistic minds. I sigh, smile, assure them that they'll live in castles someday, and secretly yearn to travel back in time ten years where my world was also full of buttery sunshine and good magic.

But reality is a harsh foe. Most people meet her in their lives; some never do. Some become well-acquainted with her; others are slightly more fortunate. And some learn to get along with her.

Reality is rainfall on your picnic. Reality a never-ending storm, heartbreak, disappointment, disease, poverty, death. Reality is pain without immediate solace; it is a bitter medicine that gnaws slowly at your stomach.
Reality is a holocaust of all that beautiful innocence and faith we were born with.
Reality is what makes a person very weary.

My mother accuses me of "thinking that I know everything," which is probably the accusation that has always bothered me the most. I have never, and will never, think I know everything. Nobody thinks they know everything. That's completely absurd. But I've seen a lot, and I understand a lot. I also know that I have plenty more to learn; after all, I have about 80% more of my life to live.

Now I just wish that I had the energy left to do it.
Sometimes, reality, just like anything else, is only good in moderation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eternal Sunshine?

I'm sure most of us have seen that movie. If you haven’t, I recommend it. If you haven't, this is the general movie concept: Girl and guy live in this world where you can erase your memory of segments of your life. Girl and guy date, girl and guy break up, girl is upset and schedules a memory erasing of her and guy's mind. Girl and guy meet again, coincidentally, and date again. Guy's memory is triggered and he suddenly begins to remember everything……

I think about it all the time, what it would be like if our world was like that.
...What I would be like if our world was like that.
.…What I would be like if I erased you from my mind.

-I would not be writing this blog, obviously

-I would be very bad at making eye contact
-I would have wasted about 300 more hours of my life sleeping
-My parents would like me a little more
-I would like Plato a little less

Why didn’t you wait for me?

-I wouldn’t have known what being in the back of a cop car feels like
-I wouldn't eat ketchup with cheese
-I wouldn't have embraced nerdiness
-I wouldn’t know what summer nights smelled like

What does she have that ripped you away so suddenly?

-I wouldn't have learned how to appear stoic and steel-hearted outwardly
-I would have more faith in the world
-I wouldn't have learned how to open up to people or myself quite as well
-I wouldn't have learned how to shut people out quite as well

Are you going to marry her?

-I wouldn't be so miserable
-I wouldn’t know anything about love

Ultimately, do the cons cancel out the pros? Was the good worth the bad? Did I spend all this time to end back up at ground zero? Is my instability now equivalent to my instability before?

How did you manage to shred this full, glowing, beating thing under my sternum into the tattered bits of a used, incomplete 500-piece puzzle?

I’m not being pretentious when I say that I enjoy feeling strong emotions. I like the occasional gripping feeling of fear, the fluttering distraction of apprehension, the sure and solid blow of grief. It reminds me that I’m still alive, that I’m still human, that I have not yet been consumed by the apathy of society or engulfed into a meaningless existence without passion or elevated sentiment. But when will this end? Will it ever end?

Will you please at least protect those missing pieces that you still have?

Oh, eternal sunshine, give me a spotless mind.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Favorite Place

There's something about an airport that gives me an incomparable feeling of comfort.
It may very well be due to the fact that I've spent a large portion of my life in airports. I've been in airports in Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Charleston, St. Louis, Bangkok, Beijing, Tokyo, Stuttgart, and many other small cities that I've probably forgotten, and I've flown at least 11 times in my life. And if there's one thing in my life that I am grateful for, it's the fact that I've had the chance to become well-acquainted with the airport.

I love airports. They are the main reason why I love flying. Airports are metropolises of mysteries, constantly alive with the hustle and bustle of thousands of people going to hundreds and hundreds of destinations to do things. You can see anybody in an airport: men on Blackberries carrying laptop bags and wearing tailored suits, teenage males with glasses and a backpack holding large art portfolios, mothers ushering crowds of noisy children frazzledly towards the gate, middle-eastern men with long robes and beards and a large cross dangling from their necks, camo-clad soldiers walking straight-backed down the long stretches of conveyor belt moving across the ground. An airport is heaven for people-watchers like myself.

Where are you going, stranger, and what is your life like? Are you going on a business trip or a vacation? Are you going back home to your family after being at war? Are you off to explore the length of the Nile, or to peruse the depths of the Amazon? Did you leave your wife and children to start a new life far away on the other side of the earth? Are you flying to escape just like I am?
What's your story?

An airport is an imagination-port.

Of the few times that I've traveled alone, I've had the pleasure of sitting by a couple very interesting people. I sat by a Greek business man on one trip, and we discussed globalization and languages and marketing the entire short flight up. On another flight, I sat by a lady going to a yoga convention. She was reading a book called "100 Ways to Get His Attention", and she was 38. She thought I was in my mid-twenties, and upon finding out my real age, told me to go model in New York.

I think the ultimate reason why I am so drawn to an airport is because there is hardly another place on earth where every single person in the place has a sure and concrete sense of direction in his or her life, even if it's just for a few short hours.

So whenever I feel slightly lost or unsure of where I'm going in my life, I take a trip to the airport and sit down for a little while. I soak up the busy atmosphere of certainty laced with mystery. I soak up the excitement, the low drones of quiet chatter around me, the smell of coffee.

And from the wall-sized windowpanes, I watch the planes race down the runway, hoping that whatever ambiguity that is present in my life will take off on the next flight.

Have you ever felt that way?

You're standing at the base of the Empire State Building looking up and watching thousands and thousands of meters of building structure come crashing down on your head in very, very slow motion. You want to run, but there's really nowhere to go. You want to cry, but it won't do anything. All you can do it wait for it to be over.

You've all of a sudden been told that one of your legs has to be removed. There's nothing wrong with it, but you just can't have it anymore. You are being drafted to war in two months anyways.

You've been writing a book for ten years. In those ten years, you've been unemployed, starving, and living in rock-bottom poverty. You know that you will make a lot of money from this book, and the only thing keeping you alive is the prospect of a better life once you've finished the book. The day before you plan to turn the book in for publication, a fire destroys your only manuscript.

You have been running for ten days and nights straight. You desperately need one short rest, but you can't stop because if you do, you'll fall instantly into the hands of what you're running from and you'll be destroyed. But if you keep running without resting, you might die. So you keep running, not knowing whether you'll be alive or not in the end.

Now put them all together so that they are happening simultaneously.

The world is a bleak, dark place.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

There Is Beauty In the Breakdown.

It’s not a cliché; rather, it’s a concept that I find so few people capable of truly understanding.

Don’t you realize that it’s the imperfection that makes our world such a beautiful place? It's the imperfection that causes us to realize why we fight to survive. It's grief and pain that create some of the most affecting art. It’s hardship and adversity of our flawed world that instills within us the indestructible, violent passions that we have.

What kind of life would a perfect life be? It would be one devoid of depth, of excitement, of novelty and discovery and ingenuity and direction and everything that humans were put on this sad planet to experience.

I think everyone, at some point in their life, needs to read Brave New World, by Aldous Huxeley. The following passage depicts my sentiments perfectly:

“ ‘But I like the inconveniences.’
‘We don’t,’ said the Controller. ‘We prefer to do things comfortably.’
‘But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.’
‘In fact,’ said Mustapha Mond, ‘You’re claiming the right to be unhappy.’
‘All right then,’ said the Savage defiantly, ‘I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.’
‘Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what ay happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.’ There was a long silence.
‘I claim them all,’ said the Savage at last.”

And Huxeley is absolutely right.
Isn’t there something beautiful about fighting a tough battle against misfortune? Isn’t the struggle often worth more than the end result? Does sitting in a constant, stagnant state of complacency even compare to the beauty of a life filled with dynamic emotions?

So don’t deny your hardships, no matter how painful or angering or frustrating they may be. Don’t ignore them, don’t fear them, and don’t shirk from them, but embrace them instead. Embrace them with full force and remember that what you’re feeling is just another reason why the world is as beautiful as it is, even in its darkest moments.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Don't Scorn Your Tribulations.

It is so easy to be caught up working or yearning desperately for the "happy life".
You know the one I'm talking about, if you live in the real world at all. The perfect, ideal, Hallmark-card-cereal-box-Wal-Mart-billboard-Elizabeth-Bennett type of life. The silver-platter-filled life in which there are either no difficult obstacles or one in which all difficult obstacles lead to one, ultimate ending of utter perfection.

Life is an ongoing series of peaks and valleys, that is, periods of exhilarating times and periods of time where we sit in a seemingly endless pit of despair.
When we rest on peaks, we feel the need to broadcast it to everyone around us who cares enough to listen. And when we trudge through the valleys, we wallow helplessly until some force, either internal or external, comes along and drags us back uphill. There is so such thing as being sedentary in one position or the other. You will not, no matter how miserable you are, be miserable for eternity. Nor will you, no matter how jubilant you are, be happy all the time.

You feel how you feel because you know how it feels to not feel that way.

Most common ideas in life have some sort of opposite: love vs. hate, turbulence vs. calmness, joy vs. grief, etc. When we feel happy, we savor the feeling because we understand how it feels to be unhappy and how the two states compare. And when we feel unhappy, we envy the happy because their state of existence seems to be a few notches above our own.

With that being said, without hatred, there is no love. Without ambiguity, there is no clarity. Without the foolish, there is no wisdom. And so on and so forth. You simply wouldn't know what one was without the other.

Do not despair in your unhappiness; take solace in the fact that you're going to - for certain- be happy again. It may be sooner, it may be later, but seasons change, tides turn, and the earth keeps revolving. It's the difficulty and pain of tribulation that causes us to appreciate those rare moments of peaceful bliss. Do not resent life's downsides or obstacles because they are necessary if you want to experience life's upsides as fully as they can be experienced. Take things as they come, because mostly everything that happens in your fickle existence is ephemeral. We live highly unpredictable lives.