I’ve long hated how I look. Asians, as a whole, have features that don’t adhere to modern beauty standards, and my features, at times, feel more markedly different than normal. I have a list of complaints that I’ve long typed out but never had the energy or guts to genuinely write about: my eyelids aren’t creased, which makes makeup a chore. My eyelashes are practically invisible. My body structure is short and stocky. If you look at me from the side, you can see how flat my face is. My cheekbones are hidden under a layer of face fat that I cannot get rid of, and when I smile, they shift and make my eyes disappear. When I stand with my feet together, my thighs fight for room. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I think to myself, I’m freaking ugly. Most times, it feels like the truth.

The disparity between me and the conventional standard of “beauty” has bothered me for a long time, especially with the onset of Instagram culture. Every day, I scroll past pictures of people with long, straight hair and big eyes and slender bodies, and for the short moment that I absorb the picture, I am them, in their Vsco-edited worlds and trendy clothes and thrilling, exciting lives. It’s not even so much about the people themselves as it is what they exude: confidence, regality, well-being, wanderlust, independence, youth. It’s everything that everyone wishes he or she could have, and nobody has all of it, even if it seems like he/she does.

And I think that’s the key. We like the way attractive people look because, well, A) they look good, and B) we like the things they represent. If I only look like that, I’ll be more confident, we think, or, If I look like that, I could do anything. We have an “outside-in” mentality, one that states that our outward appearances dictate how we look.

But in truth, we should have an “inside-out” mentality. What’s inside of us should affect how we act and how we present ourselves. Confidence founded on one’s appearance is shallow and unfruitful; confidence founded on faith, on assurance of one’s standing with God and in the world, is fathoms deeper. Beauty fades, but character stays.

It’s only been more recently that I’ve begun to find contentment with how I look. I’m seventeen; I’m not going to look any better than this. My metabolism will only be this fast once in my life, and I can still eat pretty much anything and not suffer too significantly from it. I’m learning to treasure what I have and not focus on my own exterior too much, because I’d like to people to see me for who I am, not for what I look like.

But here’s what I do like about myself, physically: My bones don’t ache when I walk and run. I’ve never suffered severe injury. My taste buds love fruits and vegetables. I love to exercise. I like the fact that my voice isn’t too high. And I do like my smile, and my laugh.

But more than that, I’m thankful for all the people I know, all of whom are some kind of beautiful, and for the gifts they’ve given me: of friendship and grace, forgiveness and understanding. That is beautiful, the kind of beauty that will only deepen as it ages.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

SOME KIND OF BEAUTIFUL


We had prom on a Saturday in late April, during a temperature spike that seemed specifically designed to make us all uncomfortable. Despite the heat, it was the kind of day that, to me, seemed glossy and golden and almost surreal. It was PROM. I had a dress and nice heels and I was going to get my makeup done and even though AP tests loomed in the distance, I was determined to have a nice day.


I woke up at eight. Ate a little. Read a little. Then zoomed off to a makeup appointment at a nearby hair and makeup place, where the lady applied more makeup than I’d ever worn in my entire life. But it looked natural and I felt pretty, probably prettier than I’d ever felt before. Back at home, my mom did my hair and we put flowers in it and I packed an extra change of clothes and even though my friends weren’t coming for an hour, I wanted to put on my dress. So I did.




It was ninety degrees and sweltering hot in the late afternoon; we trooped to a bridge at a nearby park and took pictures, trying to get the best possible angles because the trees made it difficult to get appropriate light. Then we went to someone’s house, where we ate Chipotle and danced to the High School Musical 3 soundtrack and then, finally, when it was time, drove to prom.

It was good.


Okay, the DJ sucked. He played these annoying airhorns during transitions in the songs, and he kind of ruined the songs he was playing, and sometimes it was just pretty bad, but there’s a point where you can decide to let a bad DJ ruin your senior prom, or you can just bust a move to trashy techno music and have fun. So I busted a move to the trashy techno music, and guess what? I had fun. Even though my makeup was coming off and my hair was falling down, I honestly didn’t care.


Afterward, we went to someone’s house, and then I drove to my other friend’s house to talk to her about it, and ended up at home at one-fifteen, which isn’t super late, but I had church the next day. I was exhausted for the two days after that, and not just physically.


I think that senior prom marks the beginning of the denouement not only of the school year, but of high school itself. Exposition was freshman year, when we became acquainted with high school life and responsibility. Climax was junior year, when everyone threw obstacles at us and we had to catch, dodge, or evade them, depending on what kind of obstacles they were. High school’s end is obviously graduation, but prom starts the whole chain of events that leads to that point. It’s such an iconic dance in American culture that it can’t be anything but significant for everyone in some form, whether we know it or not.

I think for me, prom was a time where I fully got what I wanted out of something. And for some
miraculous,
God-given,
blessed
reason,
it was exactly what I wanted--and needed--it to be.

For once, the stars in my eyes actually reflected what I saw.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

I WENT TO PROM


I...feel like I don’t talk about writing as much as I could. It’s a major part of my life, and I think part of the reason why I’m hesitant to talk about my projects is because I’m a pretty fickle person and my projects tend to fizzle out quickly. I always vaguely mention my books and things but never in specific detail plot- and character-wise, and that’s not going to change.


At the same time, however, I want to share what I’ve been working on, particularly because I feel like I just need to track my progress. And I’m excited, because I feel like I’m at the point where I can finally figure out if something’s a good idea and whether or not to stick to it. I’ve stuck to these things for a few months now, so I think I’m in the safe zone???/ Ish???//


UNNAMED MIDDLE GRADE PROJECT ABOUT, OF ALL THINGS, FISHING.
The thing is, I think I’ve pinpointed what my writing style is, at least a little bit. I used to try to have funny narrators in my books, but I’m not really a naturally funny person, so while I would start out writing in some quirky humor, I couldn’t keep it up. So I’ve figured out that I want to write semi-serious books with some kind of emotional depth. And I’ve also figured out that while I’m good at coming up with ideas and concepts (I actually really enjoy writing loglines and blurbs, funnily enough), I’m not so great at coming up with characters. This is probably because I’m not great with people.


Anyway, my latest middle grade work-in-progress is about a girl who likes fishing. Its genre is magical realism. Things happen. She learns things. The people around her learn things.


I wrote about fourteen thousand words of a first draft until I figured out that I didn’t want to write in third person past tense. I think it’s my natural tendency to do so, but I was starting to disconnect with my protagonist. So now I’m at eight thousand with in first person present, and I really, really enjoy it--I’m getting more into her headspace now, which is fantastic. Honestly, I almost feel like she’s a real person.


Another thing I also figured out about my writing style: I like writing somewhat polished first drafts. Even though I’ve tried to write sloppy and messy first drafts, like everyone always advises me to, it just doesn’t work for me--I end up getting discouraged by how awful the first draft is and just ditch it. I like going over the words over and over again, even if I know I might have to change everything later. (I read an interview with the author Laini Taylor, and she said she’s that way too, which made me feel better about myself and not so much a crazy weird beginner person.) Checking things for continuity and stuff is also going to be helpful in the long run. If there’s something I want to fix, I’m going to fix it now.


Anyway, that’s one project.


BRAINSTORMING ANOTHER MIDDLE GRADE PROJECT.
At this point in time, what with school and all that, I can only really focus on one thing, but I’ve got another idea on the backburner. This one I’ve had roll around in my head for a couple years now, so I know it’s, at the very least, a halfway decent idea. Currently, I’m toying with the concept of two different perspectives, and I have a killer first line (at least, I hope it’s killer). Once I’m completely and utterly finished with the first book, I’ll probably try to start on this one.


MUSIC.
It’s only been pretty recently that I’ve been writing songs, but I really, really love it. I’ve written two complete songs (one of them, “Little Pink Dress,” is up on my YouTube channel; I wrote it for my little sister’s birthday) that I actually like and have a couple of partial ones that I’m slowly working on. Inspiration and time both come and go, and at this point, it’s more of a creative release than anything. I honestly just like jamming on my keyboard and getting all my teenage angst out, even if I’m the only one listening to myself sing. (Actually, the best thing ever is when you’ve got the entire house to yourself, so you play on the piano LOUD and sing LOUD and everything’s just LOUD and it’s fantaStic.)


I’m planning on filming a music video to the second song I officially wrote (co-wrote, actually, with Ella), so when that happens, I’ll definitely post it. Super stoked for after AP tests, because that means FREEDOM! and SUMMER BEFORE COLLEGE! and WOOOOO!


But first I have to get through APs.


THINGS I’VE BEEN READING
I read a lot, just so you know. The library is my favorite place to drive, and lately, I’ve been reading a lot more. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve gone through recently!


First & Then, by Emma Mills (YA)
oK oK I really, really, really liked this book. Like, really liked it. I don’t remember liking a young adult book this much, but I’m pretty sure I reread it like 3-4 times. The characters are incredibly well-developed, and Devon’s voice is so keen and funny and the dialogue is a lot smarter than regular dialogue is but the kind that everyone likes to imagine he/she can participate in and it’s witty and honestly not that cliche and I liked it. There’s some language, but it’s pretty clean and honestly, Devon’s voice ties the whole thing together. So funny. (Also, the romance is cute.)


And honestly, reading the Goodreads reviews made me sad. It taught me to never read Goodreads reviews. They’re pretty negative.


The Last Boy and Girl in the World, by Siobhan Vivian (YA)
I read this when I should have been studying, but I don’t really regret it. The concept is unique (a sinking town?) and the characters seemed like real people. There’s, on the whole, just a ton of character development and growth, and I did like the protagonist, Keeley, even though she’s literally the polar opposite of who I am and, if I’m honest, made some pretty bad decisions. Some language, but like First & Then, it’s pretty clean and interesting and complex. It’s thick, but I got through it in two hours. I’m probably going to reread parts of it.


Hundred Percent, by Karen Romano Young (MG)
The VOICE! (I die over great characters because I’m pretty awful at creating ones in my own stories.) The author has a really different, kind of nuanced writing style, and while my brain sometimes hurt from trying to understand all the inferences and implications of everything, I liked it. A lot. When someone writes something that’s different from what I’ve read before, I usually read the entire thing. This was the case. And honestly, I could relate to Tink a TON.


Evil Genius, by Catherine Jinks (MG)
This is a slowly building book that draws you in. If I’m honest, Act One and first half of Act Two are kind of slow, and I wasn’t hooked on it, but I liked it enough to finish it (which is something, because if my attention isn’t completely captured, I DNF. Life is too short to waste time on bad books). I don’t think I’m going to finish out the series--parts of the storyworld didn’t seem fleshed out to me, and I was neutral on a lot of the characters--but I liked Cadel and admired his guts. He’s a smart kid. I wish I was that smart.


Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis (LITERALLY FOR EVERYONE)
I haven’t read C.S. Lewis in years, so Prince Caspian was a lovely homecoming for me. I’m pretty sure the last time I read the books was in seventh or eighth grade, so it’s been a while. And I’m definitely going to be rereading all of them. C.S. Lewis is pure GOLD.


Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post!

Do you have any book recommendations? Post requests? Writing tips?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

THINGS I'VE BEEN WRITING AND READING


I think I've tweeted about this before, but I honestly love vegetables. I've compiled a list of my top faves.

1) ONIONS. These are deLICIOUS. Most recently, I have been loving them grilled on my In-n-out burgers, but for many, MANY years, I always got them raw (I stopped doing that because I could taste In-n-out on my breath for the rest of the day). They're just freaking delicious--all spicy and hot in a way that clears your sinuses and generally just tasty in an all-American kind of way. You know that part in the book Holes where Stanley Yelnats and Zero eat raw onions? I think that was my favorite part in the entire book. (It's one of the only parts I actually remember.)

2) CARROTS. Carrots are really good. I've been eating them since I hated vegetables, so they've stuck with me for a while. They never disappoint--they're great when they're dipped raw in Ranch dressing, or if you need to chop them up for a nice salad or stir-fry, or if you want a mushier version and cook them in butter and maple syrup. They're chock-full of Vitamin A, too, which apparently improves your eyesight, but I think that's a myth, because I've eaten approximately a thousand pounds of them in my lifetime and my vision is still like -10. Oh well.

3) TOMATOES. Once upon a time, I LOATHED tomatoes with all my heart. My mom used to force me to eat them--I think my most traumatic food memory came from when she forced me to eat a cherry tomato at a friend's house and I gagged and spit it up in a napkin. (I still don't eat cherry tomatoes, lol.) But a few years ago I started realizing that tomatoes are actually really good. And now I adore them, especially when they're in bruschetta or a mozarella-basil-tomato salad, or if they're sliced and fried with garlic and onion powder. I think literature largely influenced my decision to begin eating them--in the very beginning of Little Town on the Prairie, Pa eats them with cream in a little saucer (which sounds REALLY GOOD), and in Matilda, Mr. Wormwood eats fried green tomatoes. I've always wanted to try fried green tomatoes. I make do with pan-fried sliced red tomatoes.

4) LETTUCE. Lettuce is so slept on. It is literally THE STUFF that salads are made of. At the moment, my favorite kind of lettuce is butter lettuce, but I love spinach and romaine. Honestly, any salad is good. My love for it has gotten to the point where I use barely any salad dressing when I eat it--it just makes the lettuce soggy and gross and not like lettuce at all. You have to have that fresh, fluffy lettuce in your salad. If you've got too much dressing, your salad is really Ranch soup with some green things in it. DON'T SETTLE FOR RANCH SOUP!

5) CUCUMBERS. I have a confession. I can't eat cucumbers by themselves, but when they're in a salad, or in water? YUM. They're super crisp and refreshing and transport you to this kind of Zen-like state whenever you eat them. Also, when they're soaked in that Greek yogurt sauce thing? The BOMB.

6) CABBAGE. I used to hate cabbage because Asians cook it (partly why I despise Yoshinoya) and cooked cabbage is gross and slimy, but cabbage salad is so good. I recently had it with chipotle sauce over a fish taco, and DANG. It was ZESTY.

These are my top six favorite vegetables. I relish these ones. There are others that I can eat but don't really enjoy (kale, bell peppers, peas, Brussels sprouts) and a few that I am close to despising (broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower), but for the most part, I really just love vegetables.

However, if you have been rolling your eyes at this post because, unlike me, you despise vegetables, never fear!! I have some tips for you!

-When you cook vegetables, use spices and sauces that you actually like. For the longest time, I hated vegetable stir-fry because it was mostly shiitaki mushrooms soaked in soy sauce. I despise shiitaki mushrooms, and I don't like soy sauce. However, when I started realizing that I could experiment in the kitchen, I started making stuff that I knew I'd actually like. Instead of soy sauce, I usually pan-fry sliced tomatoes, carrots, onions, corn, and spinach/lettuce in a little vegetable oil and liberally shake pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder over all of it. Sometimes, if I need something more like an entree than a snack, I add egg or a little meat. Then I heap it all steaming onto a plate and squirt some Sriracha next to it, or I dip it in leftover Chick-fil-a sauce. Be creative. Experiment.

-Salads are super easy to make, and very easy to improvise. If you don't have "legit" salad dressing, use vinegar (red/white wine, balsamic) and oil as a makeshift dressing. I actually prefer it over Ranch, Caesar, and Italian now. If you don't like croutons, Trader Joe's has this great fried onion bits thing that you can put over your salad. It's not super healthy, but it tastes good and you don't need a lot because it's super flavorful. Also, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and slices of mozzarella doused in balsamic vinegar and oil are awesome. 


Comment if you want me to do a post about fruit because if there is something I love more than vegetables, it's fruit.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

I LOVE VEGETABLES


I feel like March has lasted like a million years but also one second.


→ DID ←

WORKED ON MY NOVEL. A week or two ago, I decided to change the narration/tense from third-person past to first-person present, and I’m really enjoying the rewriting process. I wrote almost every single day last week, and even though I’m busier this week, I’m still hoping to make time for it and work at it some more.

EDITED (ANOTHER) MUSIC VIDEO. This one is the official version! Check it out in this blog post :)

WROTE MORE SONGS. They’re all pretty bad, though, but it’s a learning curve.

COLLEGE. This has been a BIG one. The decisions have been rolling out in waves, and all of us seniors are just kind of standing there and being hit by them because we can’t do anything else. I got into UC San Diego, UC Davis, UC Irvine (which I mentioned in my last post), and UC Santa Barbara. I was waitlisted at UCLA. UC Berkeley, Stanford, and Harvard should all be coming out this week, though, so I don’t know. Judging from right now, though, I’m probably going to end up at UCSD.

PLANNED/ORGANIZED/RAN NATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY INDUCTION. One of the biggest projects that the National Honor Society board undertakes is inducting the new members into NHS. It was honestly kind of fun for me--I love doing administrative work, and so organizing it and making sure it all ran smoothly was fun (but stressful) for me. It was kind of cool to see it all come full-circle; just two years ago, I was in their shoes, walking down the aisle with candles. This year, I inducted my brother and all the other sophomores/juniors who got in. It’s actually kind of insane.

WENT TO A WOMEN’S CONFERENCE! Some of the women from my church (including my mom and I) signed up for a women’s conference at a church nearby! We listened to Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson talk about relationships with our church family, our actual family, and our friends. It was my first women’s conference, and I enjoyed it.

PRETENDED TO BE MY MOM FOR A DAY. My mom went away this past weekend, and my dad had to work, so I was the Substitute Mom for the day. I drove my little sister to her soccer game, then all my siblings to lunch, then both of my brothers to their activities as well. I was so exhausted that when I got home, I immediately took a two-hour nap. I honestly didn’t know driving was that tiring, but now I’m much more appreciative of my mom, haha.

READ A LOT. I went on a reading streak last week because I didn’t really have anything else to do. Honestly, I don’t really remember what I read, but I remember that I read some really good books. I’ve found that reading is kind of my “fuel” for writing--if I don’t read, I don’t remember to write, but if I do read, I get inspired to work some more on my book.

HAD MY SECOND JOB INTERVIEW. LOLZ. I had a job interview at an ice cream place that occurred at 10:15pm at night, which would’ve been kind of shady had three other people not been waiting after me. It went pretty well, but I think my erratic summer schedule is a deterrent for a lot of employers. I’m actually debating just not getting one.

CONTINUED TUTORING. I’ve got a fairly steady $30-a-week job tutoring someone, which I think is going fairly well. I actually enjoy tutoring, so I’m glad that I have at least a little bit of money to spend.

QUIT THE DRUMS. I’ve been trying to keep it up for a few months, but ultimately I decided it wasn’t worth the financial investment. It’s hard to practice, man. (But my brother is going to stick with it, and he’s probably going to try out for the high school drumline next year, so I’m excited for him!)

→ DOING ←

EXERCISING. Kind of? On average, I’ve been going to the gym about twice a week. Which really isn’t that good. I’m trying to up that to three times a week, with running three miles a day in between, so we’ll see how that goes.

EATING. I’m really, really working to control my eating. Honestly, I just like sugar too much, and since my family likes both healthy and unhealthy foods, it’s been kind of an up-down curve with it. Prayers that I’ll be more self-controlled.

TRYING TO STUDY?? AP tests are coming up and I have no motivation.

WRITING. I’m writing more than ever, mostly because I have a lot of time, which I hope will be fruitful in the long run.

→ NEED TO DO ←

FIGURE OUT WHICH COLLEGE I’M GOING TO ATTEND. UCLA waitlist decisions don’t come out until after May first, so until then, I’ll probably just be waiting. For now, though, I’ll most likely be attending UCSD. Everything is still up in the air, though.

literally just everything.

How are you doing? What have you been up to?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

SENIOR YEAR UPDATES VII


I was walking through icy streams that
Took my breath away
Moving slowly through westward water
Over glacial plains
And I walked off you
And I walked off an old me
Oh me oh my I thought it was a dream
So it seems…


You and I, there’s air in between
- maggie rogers, “alaska”


I’ve been listening to Maggie Rogers’ song “Alaska” on repeat all day long. It’s one of those songs that stuns you with the sheer beauty of its lyrics and production. Please take the time to listen to at least the first minute of it before continuing with this post.




Isn’t it gorgeous? The steady beats, crisp vocals, imagery that conveys exactly what it means in the simplest of terms--all of it made me feel like I was wandering through a forest, dipping my toes in cold creeks and walking barefoot through piles of multicolored leaves. Something about the song hitches in my chest and makes me want to listen to it over and over again, and then create something just like it--before I realize I can’t.


Pharrell sums it up nicely in the video below. He was one of the first ones to hear the song when Maggie first produced it, during a master class at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, and his reaction while listening to it is something akin to what I feel like when I listen to “Alaska.”




“Wow,” he says, after the song is finished. “I have zero, zero, zero notes for that. And I’ll tell you why. It is because you’re doing your own thing. It’s singular. It’s like when the Wu Tang Clan came out, like no one could really judge it. You either liked it or you didn’t, but you couldn’t compare it to anything else. And that is such a special quality, and all of us possess that ability, but you have to be willing to seek, and you have to be willing to be real frank in your music, and frank in your choices...and sometimes, most of the time people will say, ‘Okay, I’m going to make this kind of song,’ and so it ends up sounding like something we’ve heard before, or felt before, and I felt like what...your whole story, I can hear it in your music. I can hear the journey of you having that kind of background, and I love your singer-songwriter verses.”


At the beginning of the video, Maggie states that she grew up in a rural area, and she initially attended NYU to make banjo music. Later, however, she discovered that she had an affinity for electronic music, and had trouble reconciling the two styles until she finally came up with something that meshed both the folksy and electronic together.


And the thing is, you can hear all of that in “Alaska.” I can hear everything she says in the video through “Alaska,” and I can’t explain it, but I hear it. And there is no way I can replicate music like that, because it’s hers and I can’t make something that’s not mine.


This isn’t just for music, either. It’s for writing, or for painting, or for creating things in general. At some point, you stop making things that reflect others and start injecting your own experiences into them, and they become yours. Sometimes it happens unconsciously, sometimes subconsciously. I don’t believe anyone can consciously force style to emerge--it’s something that has to incubate for a while and hatch when it’s ready, which for different people is at different times. When it does come, though, there’s a kind of God-given blissful rightness that comes with making something that you know is one hundred percent your own.


I don’t know if I’ve quite found my own style yet, but I know it’s definitely emerging, piece by piece. Whenever I sit down to write something, whether it be for the blog or for a book or just for myself, I feel a tangible level of excitement that wasn’t there a year or two ago. I’m not quite sure what the source of this excitement is--fulfillment, confidence, comfort, freedom, maybe some of them, maybe all of them, maybe none of them. It could be just plain old pride. But what I do know is that I love to write, that I believe I was made to do it, and I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t anymore. Style will come to me, just like it did for Maggie, just like it did for the thousands and thousands of painters and musicians and writers and filmmakers before her.

It’s a waiting game, where the ones who win are the ones who are willing to wait.

Friday, March 24, 2017

MAGGIE ROGERS, ALASKA, + THE EMERGENCE OF STYLE

Latest Instagrams

© SILVER MESS. Design by Fearne.