It’s the middle of the coldest month of the year, and I’m indoors, wearing three layers of clothing (including a down jacket). For two weeks, Vera, my beloved laptop, has been in a coma. The one time I use my laptop as a tray. But today I learned that her brain is still working, I just need to hook her up to a different screen in the meanwhile.

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A few days ago, I found myself hoarding as much of New York as I could. After the finality of moving, I went back to my places, to remember the things that happened between the grime of its grids, trying touch every crevice again. But why hoard something you can’t really take away with you, especially when it’s something that will also pass. Hoarding isn’t a show of trust either. So I’m embracing it, and letting the nostalgia run it’s course.

The places I’ve called home are easily erased of my being there. Like the crumbs of a Levain chocolate chip cookie, only a sprinkle remain; in a whiff, it’s gone. It’s so easy, removing evidences of myself, that it’s infuriating. The hardest part is for the emotions to catch up with the mind. My room in Astoria, bathed in the soft light of muslin curtains painstakingly hung, will belong to someone else once I’m out the door. When my friend walks her dog past 2717, I won’t be there. After my name is peeled from the mailbox, it’s like I was never here.

I think I’ll always feel embarrassed about how I feel about New York, because, in as cliched I-heart-NY-shirts get, I love New York. It’s not the perfect city, or the best place in the world. But it’s the first place I grew up beyond my parents’ roof, a city I was tossed into, unexpectedly, and saw me come into my own person. It became home to me. Even if it meant packing up and leaving things behind, thrice, the canvas of the city has been space enough to breathe, sweat, and grow. I made friends, and friends became family. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been wonderful. But the less stuff there’s been in my room (living in an empty room kind of takes it’s toll on you), the more I’ve had to give away due to the impracticality of taking them with me, the more see you laters have been spoken, the more I feel like I’m disappearing, because these are the things that mean that I’m here, that I’m home. And now, “home” is stripped off or given away, contained in a handful of boxes and bags, some possibly lost in transit, and there are the fare wells. I’m filled with an indescribable yearning for what looked like inhabited by me and where I have been, even while I’m still here, for a few more hours. I feel like a kite, with strings about to be cut.

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The one thing I have learned is that you can’t think your way through life. The only way to figure out what to do is to do –– something.

 

Currently reading her book The Defining Decade, which is almost like having a session with a life coach (assuming it’s the kind of conversation you’d have with one.) It’s a challenge to live a healthy proportion of work and exploration, since too much work and no exploration is rigid, conventional, and exciting as floss. Too much exploration without work (that counts) risks making a person irrelevant, and trapped in a deepening state of (to quote Erik Erikson as quoted by Meg) “disengaged confusion.” Thus, I’m trying to wrap my head around how I’ve lived so far; it’s been an exploration of work, but more floss than expeditions. I taken risks, but why the nagging feeling that I’ve played it safe?

If you’re going through a similar crisis, perhaps her TED talk on Why Thirty Is Not The New Twenty can shed some light.

A couple of weekends ago, a few friends and I scaled Breakneck Ridge in Upstate New York for an autumn hike. We hiked from 8:30am to 3pm, and made it in good time to catch other sights along the way down the mountain. This is going to be a photo-heavy post, although nothing captures the experience itself.

It all started at 7:30am at the Grand Central Terminal station, where we caught the Metro North train. A round trip ticket costs $26. While waiting for the group, I doused myself in insect repellant and smelled strongly of Off within a 3 meter radius. Aside from a bottle of that in my backpack, we were each told to bring the following: 1 litre of water, snacks (Kind bars, or the like), ziplock bags (to store the phone, in case it rained), extra socks, shades, a hat or cap, a jacket good for rain, and sunblock.

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If rooms reflect our inner state, my mind is a dump. Pre-adventurer self would wrinkle her nose at the sight of this messy (teenage American) room with piles of clothes everywhere, plus ziplock bags with garbage (because grocery bags haven’t brought about a need for one) and empty cookie boxes. Piles of unposted posts in this blog, from August until today. I’ve climbed a mountain, gone apple picking, hosted friends and family, escaped from a room (Mission Escape!), and gone through more bags of chocolate, cookies and cheese than is respectable for a single person. Among other things.

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Dear Barby at twenty,

Hello, from twenty-six year old you.

We’re in a sunlit living room, sipping tea, a breeze flowing through your balcony on a lazy Saturday afternoon. This isn’t your parents’ home. There’s a man reading on the couch, and the sound of kids playing in the background. You’re married, with one mini me! :D AND YOU’RE PREGNANT WITH THE SECOND. Congratulations, momma!

This is you, by the way. We still look the same, except for the hair. Yay?

JUST KIDDING.

Before your imagination goes crazier, you can sigh with relief that you’re as single as the day you were born, except for some dates you’ve gone on (and had a good time). Kids are like short aliens, and you don’t have any of them. That nightmare with the royal blue wedding dress and Asian Keanu Reeves never happened, but you will meet some pretty fantastic people. Two of your mother’s side cousins have boyfriends btw! Anyway.

This is the first of three letters to us at different points in life. I chose to write you, because this is one of our darkest years. You’re anxious about the future, going crazy at home, trying to study abroad because you feel like it’s the perfect solution, angry, and self-destructive. You believe that studying elsewhere will guarantee you a path to creative success, maturity, and happiness. But you feel hopeless, ugly, and trapped, because of paperwork, insecurities, and the general unlikelihood of it all. You compare yourself to the people you read about in all your design research, and even to your close friends. You feel like you’ll always be at a disadvantage because everyone is moving ahead, whether getting a more well-rounded education abroad, or establishing connections online, while you’re stuck. There are days you feel like a waste of air, and might as well be swallowed up by the earth. You feel like once people know you, they’ll go away, because you secretly fear that you’re broken, unlovable, and unfixable.

I remember.

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