A MIDNIGHT VOICE MEMO

Saturday, August 19, 2017

I haven’t been able to sleep lately.

IS COLLEGE GOING TO SOLVE ALL MY PROBLEMS?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Answer: No.

THE BACK-TO-SCHOOL GIVEAWAY OF THE YEAR

Thursday, August 10, 2017



Wooahhh! It’s that time of the year again!

WHAT I BEEN LEARNIN ABOUT WRITING (and life)

Sunday, August 6, 2017


This summer was significant in its emptiness.

FIVE STAR/MEAD PRODUCT REVIEW (giveaway coming soon)

Friday, August 4, 2017

I don’t know if you remember, but last year, I had the awesome opportunity to review Five Star + Mead back-to-school products (which included a stellar photoshoot with my friend Rachael). This year, I’m pleased to announce that I was able to review products again for Five Star + Mead! (I received the products for free in exchange for my honest opinion.)

'THE BLOOD RACE' BLOG TOUR + GIVEAWAY

Sunday, July 30, 2017



Here’s the deal:


My friend K.A. Emmons is releasing a book on August 1st! It’s called The Blood Race, and it’s about people with special abilities who are training to save the world.


Read the official excerpt below:

SUMMER HAZE PLAYLIST

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


FOR THE DAYS WHEN YOU SIT ON THE PORCH SWING WITH A FROSTY GLASS OF LEMONADE, LOST IN A GOOD BOOK.

SUMMER HAZE, SUMMER DAZE

BIRD’S EYE VIEW // WILLOW STEPHENS
PUMPING UP CLOUDS // URBAN CONE
WATCH // BILLIE EILISH
HATE THAT YOU KNOW ME // BLEACHERS
THE LOUVRE // LORDE
WANT YOU BACK // HAIM
BROAD SHOULDERS // TAYLOR BENNETT


MEET JORDAN.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


she favors white dresses and cardigans, sugar in her coffee and Jamba Juice smoothies. when i ask if i can film her, she laughs a little and says, “i don’t know how to do this!”

but she quickly adapts to the role of interviewee and film subject, gamely marching up a dusty hill in the aforementioned white dress and cardigan. along the way, she tells me stories that i don’t manage to capture on camera: once she traveled to colorado alone on the cheapest flight possible to meet a friend from the Internet and was accosted en route by an obese two-year-old girl who screamed, “i am not your neighbor! i am not your neighbor!” in her face. she paints the people she’s met in broad strokes but adds minute details that bring them to life--rich accents, extreme introversion, blatant curiosity. it’s enough for me to get the sense that she’s keenly observant of herself and those around her, to the point where she’s able to form a perspective that allows her to find the ironic humor in her life. this she uses to spin stories, to evoke laughter, and, in the end, to connect with everyone she meets.

the first time we met, she was quiet and unobtrusive. the second time, faithful and sweet. the third time proved her loyal and charming, thoughtful and genuine.

meet jordan roth: photographer, writer, friend.



jordan's links:
instagram - @j.s.roth





TWO WEEKS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC.

Saturday, July 15, 2017



i’ve tried many times to quantify what i learned on my trip to europe, but i wasn’t able to force revelation of its own accord, so i’m just going to eke it out now.

i just spent two weeks in the czech republic, without my family but surrounded by people--some of whom i’ve known for years now, others i met the day before we started running the eight-day english camp--who believed in truth, as i do, and were therefore bonded by the spirit of likemindedness in Christ. the amazing thing is, as a Christian, there’s really no necessity to be like the other person in any other way. i had absolutely nothing in common with the people on the other team (not age, not life stage, nothing) except for our faith, but because faith is the most important thing in a good relationship, it also becomes the sole essential thing. all the other stuff--shared taste in food, books, whatever--is all just bonus.

we stayed in a triangle-shaped hotel on a green, green mountain and ate three meals a day: one at eight, one at twelve-thirty, and one at five-thirty. every morning, we woke up and went to do morning devotions at seven. we taught english and ran workshops and played games and, most importantly, built relationships with the campers and with each other.

here’s what i learned:

intention is everything. genuine relationships can’t be built on the sand of shallow questions and small talk. nor are they necessarily constructed well on foundations of shared experience. to be intentional is to seek people out, to refuse passivity and pursue activity, to ask the tough questions and not shirk from opposition. when you learn people’s answers to the tough questions, they’re allowing you to become closer to them. but people can’t answer unless something is asked of them. have the courage to ask the questions.

service is contagious. the little things are absolutely important--things like asking people if they’d like to have their water glasses refilled, or trying to be considerate of roommates you hardly know. if people serve each other in little ways, it creates an atmosphere of service, which causes other people to want to serve as well. and there’s joy in service for anyone who does so, even if he/she is not able to define it as such.

you only live once. the first time i heard this year’s english camp theme, i wanted to roll my eyes and say, “that’s so 2011.” this year’s theme was yolo, but the evening programs--which involved different speakers talking about the theme--really forced me to think about what yolo really means. our culture defines it as a term to use whenever we do something crazy or potentially regrettable. but when you think about it, you only live once also means exactly what it says: we only live once. so what are we living for? for whom are we living? why do we live?

if truth be told, if i weren’t a Christian, i’d be extremely different from the way i am now. i’d probably be agnostic. i’d be a lot more cynical, ambitious to a fault, and definitely more vulgar. i don’t think i’d be as introspective (or maybe too much so), and i would absolutely be a hot mess, trying to fill up my life with meaningless things, losing myself in stories and other people’s lives and my own ambitions. ultimately, though, i would get sick of avoiding the own tough questions, which i would refuse to ask myself. because they’re hard to answer. and i wouldn’t know how to answer them. and i might have spent my entire life that way.

going to english camp made me realize how meaningless life is without God in it. but the reason why i don’t think He’s a social construct is because of how beautiful creation is, the conscious moral awareness that we all have as humans, and the way everything makes sense in the way the Bible--and only the Bible--explains it. we are naturally depraved humans from birth; we do need a Savior; Jesus did come to save us.

i talked to this one girl at english camp about God, and she mentioned that she’s the kind of person who needs proof that He exists. which i completely understand, only the proof she wanted was standing right in front of her, and she didn’t see it.

because Christians’ lives are proof that God exists. how does a person do a complete 180-degree life turn and change directions of his own accord? answer: he/she can't. lives transformed, paths veering from one possibility to the other. what could have been for me didn’t happen. what could be for you doesn’t have to.

what’s your life’s purpose? & how did you come to that conclusion?

psssst. i made a couple of videos from my time in czech! czech 'em out HERE!








SHE MADE ME TEXT HIM [Episode 3]

Thursday, July 13, 2017


In this episode of Rachel's Life, I forget how to ride my bike, my little sister shows off her acting chops, and my friends and I have a wild night in suburbia.

SUBSCRIBE to my channel for immediate updates :) [Also, Episode 4 is already here. It'll appear later on this blog, because it's special:]






ON HOW WE GROW

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


I start a fresh document as we drive away from English camp, labeling it “Europe Diaries 2017.” At the very beginning of the post, I write down the following question:

How does one grow & mature?

We arrive at the place we’re staying at for the night, so I don’t get much further than that, but I still think about it over the next few days. And I’m still thinking about it now.

Out of the millions of things we learn in life, only a few of them are actual conscious epiphanies. Sure, we can look back at our past selves and analyze how we acted, but rarely is the decision to become different intentional. Sometimes it just happens by the grace of God. Which is great. And other times, we come to actual realizations, moments where we consciously notice some particular life lessons and try to alter our behavior.

Over the course of the English camp that I helped at this past week, I've felt myself changing, but not due to any particular epiphany. It could just have been the general culture of the camp, and it might be temporary, but that made me wonder: how do you mature?

Even looking back at my past actions and thoughts last year, much of which was chronicled in “Europe Diaries 2016” (none of which will anyone ever see), I have to say: I know I changed. But how was that change brought about? How did my character develop? How does one degrade or improve in character? And how do I communicate that to the characters I write, the stories I write?

People can be complacent, but we can’t be static. We change a lot. So I’m basically just going to analyze a couple of different ways I’m different now than I was before.

Self-Control.
Any time I lose control over my speech, I almost always end up regretting something that I say. Any time I lose control over my actions, I almost always end up regretting something I do. A lot of my instincts are correct, but my impulses are more likely to be wrong, and they’re stronger than my instincts when they assert themselves. The couple times I follow my impulses, I’d say that one-third of them make me do something I end up apologizing for or something, and so as a result, I’ve been trying to practice more self-control.

HOW I LEARNED: trial and error, making mistakes, etc.

Finding Comfort in the Uncomfortable.
I still would prefer not to be in long lines, but I don’t loathe them like I used to. Defusing awkward situations is a skill that is acquired by practice. And I’ve learned that I’m not going to always be comfortable on this earth. If I’m honest, I’m probably only comfortable when I’m at church or at home with my family. In any other situation, I feel uncomfortable, but that’s just because I’m me, and being me means being A) a Christian, B) an introvert, and C) a human. And any time we strongly identify with a particular worldview, we’ll feel uncomfortable in any situation that forces us to address alternatives or opposites of that which, for me, happens every single day in a variety of different situations (i.e., school). That’s just the way it is—and the fact that I feel uncomfortable as a Christian gives me hope in the fact that when I die, I’ll be content in heaven. 

HOW I LEARNED: a slight epiphany precluded by an obsession with Andy Mineo’s album Uncomfortable, which had insights that greatly widened my perspective

People Matter.
This is actually very terrible, but I’m neither a thoughtful nor selfless person. I’m not great at giving gifts, and I’m not good at putting people first. But I’ve slowly been trying to invest in others, because besides Jesus, people are the most important thing on this earth. And I’m trying to do better.

HOW I LEARNED: Still learning.

There are a million things that are wrong with me, and not all of them will ever be solved. I’ll never reach perfection, which is okay, because I can’t expect it from myself. All I can do is rest in grace, and keep moving forward.

How have you grown/matured in the past year? What has caused you to change as a person?


IN WHICH MY BROTHERS AND I GET LOST IN THE WILDERNESS [Episode 2]

Sunday, July 2, 2017


In this episode of Rachel’s Life, I show you my blogging/writing process, you meet my family, and my brothers lead me down the path of death and destruction whilst on a hike.

Episode 3 coming soon :):)


THAT TIME I REVAMPED MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL [Episode 1]

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


If you’ve been with me since Day 1, or at least Day 23, you’ll know that I used to make YouTube videos. Cringey, terrible, trash-worthy, garbage-filled, phone-filmed YouTube videos that I somehow let myself put on the Internet.


Most of them have been taken down.


Recently, I was blessed with a Canon Powershot G7x, a camera that I’ve had my eye on for a while. It has one of those flip-up screens and A1 quality and honestly just makes me feel...like I could actually make something legit.


So I did. Or at least, I tried to. I filmed a day in my life, and to my surprise, I liked it. I liked trying to turn my average day into something worth watching, something a little more artsy and cultivated than a normal vlog.


So, without further ado, here’s Episode 1, in which I ding-dong ditch someone, make bomb veggie stir-fry, and get up to other various tame suburban shenanigans.

Also, in case you’re wondering...Episode 2 is coming on July 2nd :) :) :)


INTERNET FRIENDS [A VIDEO TRIBUTE]

Monday, June 26, 2017



I’ve been trying to make videos on my phone for the past couple of years, but finally stopped because filming on a phone is super frustrating, even if it’s high quality. Then my parents gave me a Canon Powershot G7X as a graduation gift--a camera I’ve been eying, because it has A1 quality and one of those flippy screen thingies--and the video creation began again.

The first video I made was a tribute to all my Internet friends--all of you out there--who’ve encouraged me by reading my blog posts and commenting. I read everything, try to comment back, and am so blessed to have an online community that supports me, even if nobody knows me in real life. If I wasn’t able to feature your blog in this video, please don’t be upset; I tried to fit as many as I could in. Take it as a thank-you story that was meant for all of you. I mean that.






THE ONE HUNDRED WORD CHALLENGE | SENIOR WEEK

Saturday, June 24, 2017


ABOUT THE CHALLENGE:
I’m sure it’s floated around the Internet in some shape or size before, but I made this up on the spot. Basically, I’m going to try to encompass the entirety of senior week (the week leading up to graduation) in EXACTLY one hundred words. Impossible? Maybe.

senior week

On Monday, smelling of sea breeze and bonfire, we smashed burned marshmallow and cold chocolate between crumbling graham crackers, eating to the low hum of R&B.

On Tuesday, we rode Guardians of the Galaxy twice and sing-screamed to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 until our voices disappeared.

On Wednesday, I tried on my cap and gown.

On Thursday, I donned it for real and couldn’t stop smiling throughout the ceremony. Later, at two in the morning, I got a glitter tattoo of a whale and fell asleep in the grad night nap room an hour later.

--

Squeezing so much into a hundred words seems like an impossible task, but it makes the words you choose all the more valuable. It chops the excess and forces you to think about what you’re writing, instead of simply throwing words on a screen--which, I’ve come to realize, is what I do most of the time when I write. And it makes the reader think about the things you’ve chosen to share: what, exactly, is so poignant about the specific memories I chose to represent?


To You: Choose a big memory to write about, something that you don’t think can possibly be summed up in one hundred words, and write about it in one hundred words. No more, no less.

HOT POST-GRADUATION MESS

Monday, June 19, 2017


My cap and gown are still sprawled on my bedroom floor. My grandma bought me flowers, but they’re wilting in a jar next to my bed, dry petals scattered. It’s one-twenty-two a.m. and I’m hungry, but guilt jostles the Panda Express, chocolate cake, and ribs that my stomach is currently digesting. I haven’t gone to the gym in two weeks.

Somehow I think I expected the fact that I’m a high school graduate to change who I am as a person, but--surprise--I’m still the same lazily motivated, messily organized girl that I am. A new week is beginning, and I have to piece together a new routine for myself. For the past four years, it’s been wake up before seven, throw on some clothes, go to school, do homework, go to bed. Now there isn’t the least resemblance to that routine, and I have to figure out a new one. Come September, when I move to San Diego and start college, I’ll have to figure one out again.

Tomorrow I’ll probably wake up around nine. The stifling summer heat has already begun, and since my windows are open, the warmth will have already pervaded my bedroom by the time I rouse myself. I didn’t shower last night because I was too busy reading a cheesy teen romance novel, but I might go on a morning walk to clear my head. When I get home, I’ll probably procrastinate a bit more and tidy up a bit, wait for the graduation glow to dissipate, until the unsettling reality of finale, fin, finite sets in.

In the past, I’ve done recap posts and summer bucket list plans, but I don’t have the energy to do those anymore. I never follow my to-do lists anyway, and besides, I’ve learned the art of keeping things to myself. I’ll report them as I go.

In a week and a half, I leave for a missions trip to the Czech Republic, the second time I’ve made the trip and the first time traveling overseas without my family. There, I’ll help teach an English camp and spend a day in Prague, which is probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited. A week or two after that trip finishes, I’ll be at Zion National Park, and a couple weeks after that, possibly Northern California. Between the gaps, I’ll be writing both my book and this blog, hanging out with my friends, and trying out the camera I received as a graduation present from my parents. I know this summer will be full of failed projects and rainbowy aspirations and plenty of random things, but I’m thankful for what I’ll get and I’m excited to see what’s going to happen.


Onward!

THE LAST GIRL IN THE WORLD

Monday, May 29, 2017


We’ve been told that all good things must come to an end. Even things that feel permanent. Stuff that maybe we take for granted. Like this town. Or for me, my mom. So how tightly are we supposed to hold onto the stuff we love? Really tightly? Or not at all? Should we be sad when they go away? Should we fight? Or is letting stuff we love go inevitable, like the old adage says?

- The Last Boy and Girl in the World, Siobhan Vivian

I’ve been reading young adult fiction a lot more lately, but it’s the frank, endearing, non-simpering kind of young adult that I swallow in small bites and finish feeling satisfied. I think it’s because I finally relate to it, the catch and release, even though I still love middle grade fiction.

One such book is The Last Boy and Girl in the World, by Siobhan Vivian, and I couldn’t put it down. You can, of course, google the blurb and read what the publisher says it’s about, but for me, it was a story about a girl who was trying to do everything and anything to compensate for things she couldn’t control and feelings she didn’t know. There’s a boy in the book, but it’s more about the moment than the boy itself--the feeling that, in the face of The End of a town and a lifestyle and a stage in life, really the only thing you can do is ask “why not?” and leap forward.

My town isn’t being flooded by river water. I’m not having a breezy romance with someone I wouldn’t have a chance with in any other circumstance. But these past couple of weeks, I’ve been collecting moments, moments where I feel like Keeley, the last girl in the world, trying to do whatever whenever because I can.

I’m listing my collection of moments down here. They might seem small. I’m not one for doing actually crazy stuff or getting in trouble just for the heck of it, but I’m also not one to lose control, either, so for me, these were exhilarating and spontaneous and everything that I don’t do on a regular basis.

MOMENTS COLLECTED:

Breathing in dollar store fumes as my friends and I plaster someone’s car with Saran wrap, Silly String, and Post-its. When she comes out, we hide behind a car, then surprise her with an air horn that only has two horn noises in it. It’s an eight-dollar prank with a thousand-dollar value. We’re a little too loud, but I blame it on the fumes.

Quick, syncopated heart thumps, because the garage door opens and our friends jump out, squirting water guns at us. Two minutes later, more people pop out from the backyard and dump buckets filled with water on our backs. I’m wearing jeans, but it’s hot out, and I’m laughing.

After they ambush us, we hop in our cars and go to Yogurtland. On our way back, we race, wind whipping through the open windows. They’re blasting some kind of trap music, but we’ve got Jesus music from Air1 going on, because my bluetooth isn’t working that day.

Accidentally lighting my marshmallow on fire, then squishing it between two halves of graham cracker and Hershey’s chocolate as my family roasts marshmallows literally and each other figuratively.

Sitting in the car after a good gym workout, muscles aching pleasantly. I only exercise for the endorphins.

It’s too hot to do anything else, so during our youth group picnic, I dig out the water balloons and start a fight. Everyone targets me. I feel attacked, but in a positive and uplifting way.

I finally convince all my Asian friends to dress up as bananas for our last high school dance ever. I’m pretty sure only we get the joke.

Chocolate-chip banana bread, waffle fries, fried chicken, s’mores, cookies, ice cream, three days full of junk.

My mother wakes me up at six-thirty to go to Newport Beach. I go from sleeping in my bed to sleeping on the sand, listening to the waves crash.



So far, this is my collection. There are plenty more that I haven’t thought of and many I don’t remember, but it’s the ones that you do remember that count.

What’s most important, however, is the fact that moment collection spans across one’s entire lifetime. Because even though this is a small list, more will be added later, throughout different sections of my life. Once I move past the Last Girl in the World stage, I’ll add moments from the Reality Bites stage, moments from the Always & Forever stage, and so on.


It keeps going, and the fact that it keeps going keeps me going, too.

THE PAST FEW WEEKS

Saturday, May 27, 2017


I’ve spent the past few weeks of my life tossing crumpled dollar bills into car cupholders, laughing so wide my cheeks force my eyes to close, drinking caramel frappes at midnight, scribbling on car windows with markers bought at the ninety-nine cent store, talking to people I’ve never talked to before in my life. Some say it’s living; some say it’s life; some say it’s the last few weeks of high school.

The wifi at my school cut out, because all the juniors are doing state testing, so I haven’t been able to work on the writing course I signed up for. And when the wifi is on, I don’t know what to write, because you can’t write about what you’re doing when you’re in the moment. You just have to live it. Sometimes you have to sit there, in a silent classroom, and stare off into space and think about what you’ve been doing and what why you’re doing it and what more you want to do. Thinking is scribbling things on the chalkboard in your head—at least, that’s how I justify doing nothing.

The last day of school, for me, is June ninth. After that is a week of senior activities, June fifteenth is graduation, and after that, we’re done.

I’m done.

I’m relieved and I’m screaming and I’m exhausted and I’m exhilarated and I’m everything I have been in the past four years and more, because I’ll be done and we’ll be done and and I’m sad, but also, I’m not.


I’m not.

SOME KIND OF BEAUTIFUL

Sunday, May 7, 2017


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.

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