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I’m really guilty of complaining¬† about first world problems.

Everybody has those days. You wake up and something just feels… wrong. It rains as soon as you leave the house, and you get back a failing grade. Every person who tries to console you just seems annoying.

Then, there’s the glorious days. The ones where something amazing happens – something that lights up your life enough to dispel any inkling of sadness. Where you might as well be the luckiest man in the world.

And finally, there’s the bittersweet anomalies. The ones where your day goes on and on in a rollercoaster ride of distress and joy, confusion and pleasant surprises. Or where one unhappy event stains the rest a sad shade of blue.

Today was one of those days.

My life revolves around interviews, lately. Had a shaky interview, the fifth in three days. Got an offer from one company, and it’s brilliant; found out that I got into final round for another. Danced swing and tango and cross-step waltz. Biked through pouring rain and wavery sun to brave the gym, and felt great — only to encounter disappointment on the way back – a rejection.

And with that, a cloud of gloom brought my happiness to a screeching halt.

But how do you recover?

Sometimes, it’s just a little of the things you love. A cup of hot tea. An hour or two with color and design. A bear hug.

And, of course, a belief that things will get better. They always will, if you put your mind to it.



a whole new world

There’s no feeling quite like stepping off a plane. Struggling through the crowds, stretching from grogginess, stumbling forward along the royal blue carpet. The final rush out the doors into the whipping wind outside, hailing a taxicab, hoping the driver won’t take you for a spin. Emerging in a sea of unknown faces. Feeling that pioneer’s tingle, a jumble of hope and excitement and tension that’s born of a thirst for adventure, and knowing that it’s about to be satisfied.

There’s something unique about each city. It’s apparent in the surroundings, for sure — nothing identifies a metropolis like its skyline — but even more than that, it’s infused in the core of its people. The local lingo. Hospitality, standoffishness, nonchalance. The little things that make a transplant stand out in a sea of true locals.

But this lack of belonging is exactly what attracts us. I won’t say it’s not uncomfortable. There are moments when I wonder why I so often choose to leave sunshine and comfort behind, and plunge into the unknown. But I also know that it makes for the most memorable experiences, and if it’s not worth remembering, was it really worth it at all?

Call me geek, call me nerd, call me bitch, whatever — attending Grace Hopper has been truly transformative. Meeting recruiters, meeting teachers, meeting students from schools around the country and hearing just how different our lives are day-to-day. Instant connections, formed over mutual understanding and enthusiasm. Witnessing firsthand the potential and drive around me, I felt for what may be the first time like the part of a greater and quite wonderful new movement, one that is willing to accept and collaborate but also to compete and claw its way to the top. After two months of stressful stagnation, energy seeped back into my system at last.

I’m ready again — to believe in myself, and to believe in a bigger and brighter future. Let’s do this.

fighting the sophomore slump

There’s plenty of stereotypes about college kids. Drinking too much, check. Freshman 15? Maybe not, but freshman 5, sure. But the stereotype I’ve found to be the most bitterly, confidence-crushingly true is the sophomore slump.

I didn’t think so before. For all the times I complained about being burned out as the spring days rolled by last year, I didn’t really believe it. “Things” were great–were always great. Each failed test was only a test of morale. Each night spent slumped in the hallway at 4am, in that awkward mash-up of sober and exhausted that feels somehow even more intoxicating than all that vodka you shouldn’t have downed, was a secret revel — of the joy of companionship, of the exhilaration of being young and stupid and alive.

Things were great.

And then summer happened. Somehow, in those three months of delicious freedom, things changed.

We didn’t notice it at first. We confronted the new school year with almost as much enthusiasm as the last, all smiles and hugs and incessant cries of “I’msohappytoseeyou!” And we were — until responsibility reared its ugly head.

Ugly, indeed. Jobs. Papers. Interviews. Friends. So many things to juggle, and so little time! Where to start? Not there, because that’s not due till next Friday — but not here either, ’cause you need to be there. And there’s a meeting at 7:15, and at 7:45, and at 8:20, until your Google Calendar has become pastel patchwork of responsibilities. Not to mention all the stress from home (did grandma survive surgery? did dad save the family from the stock market? did your little bro hit his first home run?). There’s no way to know, without asking. You might forget, and not ever know.

So much to do, so little time. No wonder we cry.

And sometimes, that’s okay.

A lot of the time, life is about pretending to be happy. It’s a common facade, and it exists for a reason. As a believer in optimism, I believe that simply through the sheer act of pretending to be happy, you can convince yourself that you are.

Many people would disagree, citing definitions of “true” happiness and the potential pitfalls of optimism. But, ultimately, there’s nothing like good company and a smile to spread the cheer.

So, we might be jaded, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Eventually, if we pretend hard enough, everyone else will be convinced — leaving only you, and I know that you can do it too.


make mistakes
be myself


blue collars, yellow collars

Standing in line for Subway, I look up at the menu. Originals, classics. $4.00, $4.50. Ham, turkey, chicken teriyaki–so many choices. What do I want…?

“What would you like?” asks the girl behind the counter shortly. I fumble, bad at making decisions. Turkey, I say. 6-inch on wheat. And zone out again. But maybe I wanted tuna…?

A few seconds later, I snap out of my reverie again. The girl ahead of me in line is talking very rapidly. Smiling, making conversation with the girl behind the counter like long-lost friends.

Yes, it’s my first year here, she says. The weather’s awesome now. It gets cold? I guess I’ll have to get used to it. That’s a nice shirt you’re wearing, where did you get it? Oh, I miss shopping!

… and so on, and so forth. I stare for a bit. Their conversation seems so natural, as if they’re bonding over the vegetables the girl behind the counter is dutifully folding into the sandwich. But somehow, I knew. The difference, the reason why she said nothing further than “what would you like?”, laid in the deep, beautiful mocha of their skin. Mine, a tanned yellow-brown, could not compare.

But no, something said inside my brain, that’s not PC! You can’t say that!

And yet, it was so apparent. There was a kinship between them somehow. Maybe they knew a mutual acquaintance. Maybe this wasn’t her first time to Subway–the chatty one to my right, that is. Or maybe they just saw something that they could relate to.

I’d felt it before. The lady at the dentist who went out of her way to help me when she found out I could understand Cantonese, who wanted to help me get my perfect smile when I didn’t even realize my teeth were out of order. The man at the card-swiping station at the dining hall last year who was overjoyed when I understood his “ni hao.” All those people who serve us, and who we look by–or even down upon–by virtue of their blue collars, seem somehow more apparent, more valuable as human beings, when we can connect over the color of our skin.

And is that so bad?

Any American with a hint of “good moral conscience” would condemn me. And indeed, I think it’s sad. I wish that I, too, had made conversation with the girl behind the counter. Maybe we could have been friends. On occasion, I look around at my closest friends, and though I love them, I still cringe on occasion when I realize just how insular we are.

It’s not anybody’s fault, exactly. It’s a common complaint here at Stanford; that the cultural houses, Okada, Ujamaa, Muwekma, Zapata, that they do more to divide than they do to unite. Perhaps it’s true. I’m guilty of it too, whenever I speak about how much I love being Asian. But on the other hand, that does give us solidarity. Being Chinese is part of who I am, as much as my love for Italian culture, or my interest in learning Japanese. Cultural diversity is, indeed, something to be valued, but so is cultural identity.

Where do we draw the line?

because we can

Wandering down the street, weaving in and out of bikes. Up the familiar stairs, aiming for that lonely spot of sunshine. A butterfly rests lightly upon the dusty pink top of a rusty chair. As soon as you catch (what must be, must be) its eye and smile, it’s gone.

It’s just another day here. Sun shining down, laptop open, typing away at something that your friends and your professors and your conscience tell you you shouldn’t, because it’s not “productive,” because it won’t “get you anywhere.” And it’s true, by their definitions. Simply by being here, we’ve internalized the belief that anything but going, going, going, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is sinful.

But sitting here with the sun kissing your bare shoulders, why should you care? It’s a beautiful feeling, as if the sadness and the stress and self-doubt are contained in the cold within you and — just for a moment — they’re relieved.

We are lucky to be here. Some would criticize our every complaint, every tired sigh, every admission of stress. Because we are so lucky to be here. Because not everyone else is.

But because we can, we do our best. We appreciate the sun, appreciate the butterflies. Cry when we’re sad, and shiver when it’s cold. And do our best to help everyone else see the sun.