Letter From My Conscience


1. Stop dreaming about a world where you live among the howling wolves and the snarling tigers that you always envied so much. I know you yearn to be wild and beautiful, to run so fast and so free that reality falls away behind you – but the only tigers you've ever seen were at the zoo, anyways. Even they had their cages.
2. Admit to yourself that you are a monster. Everyone is selfish, everyone is twisted, and if there ever was a time that you rode upon that moral high horse, you've certainly taken a fall. Accept this, but do not despair. A monster who finds love can still be saved, but the ones who fake innocence will always die alone.
3. Remember that failure is not the enemy. Failure will motivate you, and it will make you stronger. Failure is just a growing pain, but someday you will be all grown up.
4. Do not resent the happy people. It's not their fault that you are not one of them. They do not have easier lives or more luck on their side. They're just better than you at appreciating what they have.
5. Why do you keep waiting for the world to inspire you, to move you? Instead of blaming your lack of purpose on the world's inability to amaze you, realize that if you want to find something that you are passionate about, you have to go out and find it.
6. Poison dart frogs have toxic skin, but you do not. No one will die if they touch you, so stop being so afraid of letting someone hold your hand.
7. "The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. The brick walls are there to stop the other people." It's okay to be the other people. Just don't use that as an excuse to stop trying.
8. Stop fighting yourself. You will never win.
9. Learn to accept that disappointing yourself is inevitable, and that it happens to everyone. What will set you apart is what you do to get back up, what you do to make yourself proud again.
10. Never stop writing, even if you run out of ink. Never stop loving, even if you're not sure what love is. Never stop believing, even if no one else believes in you.


The best way to die

December is a cold month, an old month. It is tired and weary and its bare branches wave goodbye as they suffocate under the beautiful, white snow that gleams with hope, that promises a beginning after the end. But it is still an end. Everyone always writes about falling in love, but nobody ever writes about falling out of love.

I have never fallen out of love before. I have had it taken away, suddenly, had my entire heart wrenched out of my chest and immediately replaced with a stone which hurts when it beats and pumps cold blood. I have had love taken away, but it was a gunshot straight down my throat – quick and easy – a painless death, they call it. I have never fallen out of love before, but I imagine it would be more like drowning.

I saw a couple at the Greyhound station today. Being my usual nosy self, I watched them out of the corner of my eye, fabricating stories, composing tales of tragic romance. They were in their fifties, I think, probably been married for twenty years or so, sitting at a table in front of the sad little concession stand that sold pretzels and hot dogs and soda that slowly rots your teeth. Their shoulders were touching, their thighs side by side, their chairs an inch apart, and he was singing. His skin was dark, his face worn and slightly obscured by graying facial hair, and he was wearing frameless glasses, an old baseball cap, sweatpants, and a windbreaker. A pretty average guy, at first glance, but by god, his voice caught my attention even from several tables away. I listened secretly, peeked over occasionally, smiled to myself as I saw him play his imaginary piano and lean into his wife, serenading her.

But then I saw her eyes. There was not even the hint of a sparkle, the tiniest glimmer of love! This man, whose voice I imagine won her over many years ago, was giving her a romantic private concert, every girl’s not-so-secret dream, and yet this woman was completely indifferent. She just sat there, in her own damn world, propping up a bored face with her fist, as his voice echoed in the space around her. Is that love? I wondered to myself. Is that what love looks like in the month of December?

I have always had an irrational fear of water. I am the lame person at the beach who won’t go more than ten feet into the ocean because I think it will betray me when I start to enjoy myself, flip me on my back and fill my lungs with cold, salty terror. I don’t want to drown. I never want to drown.


When love isn't enough

He slid his hands beneath the soft cotton of her shirt, fingertips barely brushing her skin. Reveling in the anticipation of feeling more of her, touching more of her, he let his hands linger for a moment at her waist. Can I? he inquired, a trace of worry in his voice, as he searched her eyes for an answer. Golden hair fell across her small face as she nodded her head – Oui.

His lips traced her clavicle, her hands found his thighs. They explored each other’s bodies, so foreign and so familiar, sharing the one language they could both understand. Articles of clothing found their way to the ground – a red blouse, yellow skirt, white t-shirt, blue jeans, falling to the floor like splashes of paint, ornamenting the room like an impressionist painting. The early afternoon sun trickled in through the windows, casting soft crescents beneath the curves of her breasts, and darker shadows around the edges of his jaw. They moved in unison, breathed in unison, marveled at each other as if each exquisite beings. Every touch was a word, each kiss a sentence, and for this moment in time they understood each other perfectly.

Don’t go, he said, as she tied up her hair, combing through the blonde strands with careful, slender fingers. His right hand reached out and his eyes begged her to stay. Adieu, she responded, misinterpreting his words, gathering her things to leave. Glancing down at his outstretched hand, she wondered for a moment if he was asking her to stay, but then she turned swiftly and walked away.


All the things I could have been

The first dimension is a point,
and the second is a line.
The third is the world we live in,
and the fourth, I'm told, is time.

The fifth can see a future,
but the sixth sees more than one.
Out of the infinite possibilities,
which 'me' will I become?

The seventh is parallel universes,
and the eighth is all their tomorrows. 
I wonder if there is another me
with her own happiness and sorrows.

The ninth takes every possible path
of every universe -- but then --
all of this becomes a single point
when we get to dimension ten.

But these dimensions are worrisome
because they offer too much possibility.
What are the chances that the path I take
will be the right path for me?


*Credit to Eric Chi for showing me the video, Imagining the Tenth Dimension, many years ago. It's pretty cool, you should check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkxieS-6WuA.


If you're lost and alone, and sinking like a stone, carry on

When I was ten years old, I played in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championships in Williamsburg, Virginia. Now this wasn’t exactly as impressive as it sounds, considering that as a ten year old girl golfer, I didn’t really have much competition at the state tournament. In fact, there was only one other girl in my age group, and I got to play at the world championships only because I beat her by a single stroke.

Nevertheless, one of the moments that I remember most vividly from my twenty years of life came after this three-day tournament. My mom bought me a charm bracelet and gave me a charm for every par I made. And then my dad said something that, even if he doesn’t remember saying it, I clung onto for a very long time. “You know, you’re a very strong person,” he said to me, smiling. “I was so proud watching you play in front of all those people. You might seem small and quiet, but underneath it all, you’re so strong.” My ten-year old self blossomed at these words. I believed in myself. I felt strong, confident, fearless – I knew I’d do big things with my life.

A decade later found me sitting alone in the Starbucks on Forbes and Craig, recalling this moment with a twinge of regret. Lately, I have not felt strong at all – I’ve felt beaten down, defeated, and broken. I’ve felt overwhelmed, confused, and lost. I am a paper person, cut out of a flimsy sheet of blank paper, surviving delicately. I have been entertaining the idea of a magical box in which I could hide from this thing we call life. The world and all its troubles would melt away at its walls, and my existence would be temporarily erased. Inside this box, there would be no responsibilities, no consequences, no future to be afraid of.

“Can you make me this box?” I asked my boyfriend, slightly pathetically, as I buried myself under a shield of bedcovers. I felt like such a coward.
“But then what would I do?” he responded, as if I was actually making a realistic request, while pulling the covers away from my face.
“I don’t know, you could come in the box with me,” I suggested hopefully, knowing full well that neither of us could ever disappear into any sort of supernatural contraption.

It’s funny, but it’s almost like I am more of a ten year old now than when I actually was one. Where did that strength go? That belief that nothing was out of reach, that I can do anything I decide to do? Somewhere along the line, I let life get the best of me. I gave up in the face of challenge, crumpled at the first hint of failure. I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough, and settled in comfortably among the masses of the average. I started rambling about boxes that could make things disappear.

But that ends here. As I played the first nine holes I’ve played since high school today, I remembered the lessons that golf has taught me. I remembered that if I made a mistake on one hole, I had the rest of the round to make up for it. I remembered that one bad shot wasn’t worth getting upset over, and I remembered that I played best when I was enjoying myself. I remembered how when I was little I’d be terrified and nauseous at the first tee for every tournament, and I remembered how I kept doing it anyways, and how I grew to enjoy being watched on the tee box, grew to feel confident and strong with my driver in my hand, eager to impress the crowd.

I know I’ll never be the best golfer, the smartest physics major, or the most creative writer, but I know that I can at least be better at all these things if I just remember to believe in myself a little. I’m sorry if I sound dumb or cliché, but I hope you believe in yourself too. Because sometimes we forget who we are and sometimes we doubt ourselves, and I know this long life story might have been a verbose way to get my message across, but to anyone who happens to be reading this – let’s believe in each other. Let’s stare the future straight in the eye, and never waver for a second. Let’s all be strong, like the ten year olds we once were, and let's become the people we wanted to grow up so badly to become.


I am nothing without you


Today I came to the rather amusing realization that many of my best pieces of writing are the products of premenstrual emotional instability. It sounds ridiculous and absurd, I know, and probably makes the immature and/or ovary-less readers (the two may or may not fall within the same category - my research has been inconclusive) uncomfortable, but it is the gosh-darn truth. I cannot write unless I am full of feelings, and I certainly cannot write goodly unless these feelings have filled me to the point where they have piled above my heart, spilled through my shoulders, and found their way down my arms to the tips of my pen-bearing fingers. Alcohol, I admit, has a way of sparking inspiration (beer the humorous and witty, wine the sentimental and teary), but the best cure for writer's block is by far...wait for it...out-of-whack hormones.

But alas, while it is indeed that time of month, my rude visitor has brought no passions to my heart's surface, only Advil-begging, can-I-curl-up-in-my-bed-and-die, why-wasn't-I-born-a-boy cramps. And so I sit here at 4:00 am, listening to the soundtrack of Breakfast at Tiffany's (for those who understand the reference in my new blog layout, I give you my heart - unless you are a wild thing!), trying with no avail to summon the world of Holly Golightly, wretchedly hoping to be inspired the way Paul Varjak was. Feed me, feed me, I beg out my dark windows. Feed me your pain, your love, let me drink your tears and kiss your smiles. What are the things that you find most beautiful? I want to know so that I can be just that. Tell me your dreams - no, tell me your secrets! The latter tends to be more interesting, though in my own pathetic heart the two hide within the same chamber. Let me swallow your pills, let me take your bullet, please understand I want to walk in your high heels, your business shoes, your sandals, your sneakers! I am not asking for much, I am just bored and uninspired and wondering why I find slender fingers and impeccable grammar to be attractive qualities in men, or if it was wrong of me to pour only half a glass of milk because I was too lazy to throw the carton out, which I'd have to do if I finished it. A day in your life, a piece of your strife, that is all I want, really - if an alcoholic asked for an innocent Irish coffee, you'd give it to him, wouldn't you, oh wouldn't you?

For the longest time

"Oh my God, it's happening!" The phrase we've all come to know so well, has suddenly turned into "Oh my God, it's happened." I can't believe that it's been ten weeks since we first arrived at Cornell. It seems like just yesterday when we were building towers out of uncooked spaghetti and sharing first week experiences about leaving the Nitrogen tank open or dropping glass on the floor. The first weekend here was probably one of the loneliest of my life, isolated in my single room up on the fifth floor, but that all changed when I met the rest of the CCMR REU students. I ended up becoming friends with the most incredible group of people - it truly amazes me how so many perfect, kind, intelligent, hilarious, good-hearted people could have existed together in this small town all summer without Ithaca simply exploding from the overwhelming awesomeness. Watching everyone's final presentations made me proud to have known each one of you, to have shared in the experience of doing real science while also having a kick-ass time out of the lab. I feel blessed and lucky for all the experiences I've had this summer and can only hope that the memories we created are enough to last me until the next time we meet again.

Goodbye Cornell, and goodbye friends - thank you for a spectacular summer!

We look good.


Diary of a misunderstood patient

"Your call has been forwarded to an automated voice messaging system." Sometimes when I can't stand being alone I try to pick up words in the whirring of the ceiling fan, the only other thing in this white, empty room that appears to be alive. I am startled by the way my shadow falls on the wall, towering above my own self. I form a little cave with my bed covers and sit in them silently, listening. Unfamiliar sounds startle me and strange lights make me uneasy. I grow very still when I hear voices: I am fascinated by the conversation, but terrified of the people. I imagine myself unzipping my skin and stepping out of who I am. Tomorrow will be better, I think, or worse.

I have been reading Bukowski lately, and some Dickinson, Poe, Hemingway. I admire how their words make tragedy beautiful. My tragedies remain tragedies. Sometimes I picture your death, pretend I was standing right there, memorizing the details of an event that I sometimes still refuse to believe ever happened. There was this one day when I looked out the window and saw a single, lonely cloud floating by itself in the blue, blue sky. I looked away, for the briefest of moments, but when my gaze returned out the window, my lovely little cloud had already vanished from sight. I don't wear seatbelts anymore because yours never saved you anyways.

I don't have visitors very often, but today I had a visitor from the past. What is the worst thing you've ever done? I keep asking myself this question, as if it will define me. I keep asking others this question, hoping their sins are worse than mine. My feet cannot touch the floor, I am flailing, and my eyes are blurred by the waves of the ocean, or maybe they are just my tears. I cannot eloquently communicate what I want to say, so I will just memorize your words, each one, with impeccable accuracy, until someday my vocabulary can describe this blood-red tangle of synapses and neurons that the doctors will probably deem "crazy."


*This is a mostly fictional piece, written from the point of view of an institutionalized patient. I don't claim to know what it would be like it all; I was just thinking about it idly and started writing, and this is what came out.

Love is the color of sunsets

I like the kind of evenings when there is just enough of a breeze that even though we are wearing jeans and t-shirts, I could order hot cocoa without looking out of place and we would take turns sipping out of one cup and I wouldn't have to be embarrassed about how my hands are always cold because I could discreetly warm them up while holding my hot drink. We would meander home at a leisurely pace, enjoying the perfection of simplicity, and you would chuckle to yourself and little crinkles would crease around your eyes, and I would know that you are about to make another one of your terrible jokes, and we would both start laughing and some hot cocoa might spill out of the cup but I would just kiss it off your fingers, or you off mine, and it would be sweet in both senses of the word. Moments like these would be their own little time capsule, lasting forever, with pink clouds above us and our footsteps in sync below.

If we were all made of glass

Sometimes I wish that we lived in a world where everything was made of glass. I could run across fields of emerald crystals which would reflect the sunlight in every direction and the shards of glass grass wouldn't even hurt because I would be glass too. I would be both strong and beautiful, now wouldn't that be something?

I could hold drops of dew like glass beads in my hands and gardens would glisten as if sprinkled with glitter. Rainbows would be made of the thinnest sheets of glass and when they shattered they would fall like confetti. I can imagine the breeze combing through my hair - I think it would sound like wind chimes laughing. And I think that if we kissed, our warm lips of liquid glass would melt together like honey. I hope that my skin will not be transparent because I don't think my heart could match the beauty of this world. But did you know that red glass gets its color from gold oxide? There may be hope for us yet. We would all have hearts of gold.

We're not broken just bent

Sometimes, when I am very still, I can feel the soft but steady beat of my heart so distinctly that if I close my eyes, my entire existence seems to become absorbed with each thud, thud, thud...until I am nothing but a heart, beating in pitch darkness.

Most people's thoughts arise from within the skull, but mine are born at the center of my rib cage. I can't help but allow myself to be controlled by feelings, seized by impulses, driven by intangible forces. It is as if my blood is the fuel for the fire that ignites in the core of my being and spreads throughout my body. Obeying is the only way to put it out.

Tonight, I am drinking wine, because it is the nectar of the gods, brought to Olympus by doves. Ambrosia is supposed to grant immortality, but I do not quite feel alive. I simply feel. I feel shame for the "51 deaths in Egypt" that are nothing but a headline to me. I feel dismay for the couples who throw their love away without even trying. I feel powerless for patients of terminal illnesses. I feel angry for the innocent man who lost his legs in the Boston marathon bombing. I feel regret for the children who were never born. But the worst feeling is knowing that I will never truly feel any of these things. I can put myself in someone else's shoes as much as I want, but in the end, it is impossible to feel what another human being feels. Empathy does not exist.

Sometimes I think that heartbreak is not so bad: it is the one feeling that is the opposite of feeling, as it destroys the very thing you feel with. But then I remember that without feelings I would be nothing, and since that is a terrifying thought, I urge you to treat these words with as little regard as there is wine left in the bottle beside me. How can I feel so much, but not feel anything at all?

I make up stories about people I pass on the streets

Two police officers walk into a Dunkin Donuts. Their uniforms fit just right, and have the effect of making their somewhat plain characteristics mysteriously appear more handsome. The girl behind the counter was hired just a few days ago. She has long, glossy hair the color of dark coffee beans, pulled up in a pony tail, with long bangs framing a pixie-like face.

It is cold outside and the first police officer is rubbing his chapped hands for warmth. He is looking for coffee on the menu, oblivious to the fact that the chilly weather will cause him to come to this particular Dunkin Donuts many more times in the upcoming weeks, and that he and the lovely girl behind the counter will begin to engage in flirtacious banter as he becomes a regular, and that within a matter of months they will have fallen deeply, deeply in love with each other.

The second police officer waits in the corner. He would sit down, but he doesn't want to look like he's slacking. The pair was supposed to be on duty, but he had convinced his partner to take a quick coffee break because he knew about the new girl who worked at Dunkin Donuts and was hoping to catch a glimpse of her. He will be bitter when she ends up with the wrong police man, and his jealousy will be harmless at first, but then he will decide that they were meant to be and that their love will annul the sin of stealing her away.

She resists being stolen because she has a clear conscience and knows the difference between right and wrong just as surely as she can distinguish white from black and day from night. At least this is what she tells herself. Her encounter with temptation had been awfully close, though, and as unknown feelings begin to betray her, she suddenly finds that what she has is no longer satisfying, and she grows more and more unhappy.

Years later, on one particularly cold winter evening, the two police officers will walk into the Dunkin Donuts once again. There will be another newly hired girl with pretty eyes and luscious hair serving their coffee from behind the counter, but neither of them will flirt with her. They will sip in silence, each regretting that they allowed the thief of their hearts to run away with no arrest.

A Love That Kills

he said, i fell in love
with the girl in the rusko
t-shirt with blue streaks
in her hair, like waves
of sin
that pulled me in

she said, he was the first
good boy
who wore a suit and tie
and looked me in the eye
as he talked about the economy
and his future
with me

he said, i smoked
for the first time
committed the crime
of love
because i needed an excuse
to spend time with her

but she said, i'd start
all over, throw away
one habit for every day
i spend with him

and they loved each other

and they ruined each other

until they couldn't remember
which came first.

I'm kind of just talking to myself

So the other day I decided to sit down and relax under one of the big, shady trees on the grassy slope that I pass everyday on my walk back from the lab to my dorm. I've always wanted to just sit outside, alone, and ponder to myself, converse with the wind, maybe write a little. It seemed like such a romantic experience, like a beautiful little glimpse of what living in heaven would be like. It wasn't.

The ants that suddenly appeared after I had so carefully selected the best spot to sit were so abundant that it seemed as if the ground around me had literally come alive. Those damn little ants were even bold enough to venture onto my jeans! A tiny bug crawled onto the keyboard of my laptop, and I'm pretty sure it disappeared somewhere between the keys "d" and "f." Winged creatures of which species I have never seen before and hope to never see again flew so close to my face that I made direct eye contact with them. And then, out of the blue, it started to rain! (Literally out of the blue - rain just started falling out of a cloudless sky.) Within a matter of minutes, I had gathered my things and run back home.

But such is life, right? You build up these dreams in your head and too often, reality disappoints you. I suppose the opposite occurs in the form of pleasant surprises with equal frequency, but that's another thing about life - we complain about the bad stuff and take the good for granted.



Truth or dare or dare to tell the truth

A few days ago, my friend told me that he noticed I like to write from the points of view of imaginary personas. The next day, another person told me that I always write as “my ideal self,” hesitating to say what I really feel and choosing instead to hide behind a façade of words. I realized that they were right, so I took out my pen and paper and told myself that no one would ever read what I was about to write. But I fell into the same trap once again, and ended up inventing a character:



She is an empathetic person, for the most part, but sometimes she decides that it’s not worth it to care anymore, because caring is a very tiresome occupation. Caring turns people into onions, because they make her cry.

Sometimes she looks around herself and tries to memorize everything she sees. Remember this moment, she’ll think in her head. Days will pass, then weeks, maybe years. Sometimes she remembers that she tried to memorize a moment, but she can never remember anything about the moment. Most times she doesn’t remember to remember at all. This is usually because there are not that many significant moments in her life.

A shadow grabs onto her ankles and follows her wherever she goes. On rainy days he is not there because he drowns in puddles.

The first time she said “I love you” was in her head, in a daydream that never became reality, because she realized he didn’t love her back. The second time she said “I love you” was in a text message that she stared at for a second too long before sending – causing her to brake the car too late. That should have been a hint that he was bad news, but she loved him blindly, and getting her heart fixed later cost a lot more than fixing her car. 

She always thought wishing fountains were silly. Who came up with the idea that tossing pennies into a fountain could make our dreams come true? What messed up logic could make people believe that their most ardent wishes and wildest dreams could come true with the petty payment of one measly cent?

Handwritten letters make her nervous. She doesn’t like things that are out of her control; once she drops the envelope into the mailbox, there’s nothing she can do to make sure it gets to its destination.

One of the things she hates most is waiting because waiting is wasted time, and time is the only thing she has. She wonders if time would still go on if the whole world went still.

She is a writer, but she knows she will never really be a good writer because she is too afraid. Her writings are never quite real because she worries that if they were, the world would think she is a monster. She tried it one time, but pretended she invented a character.




…I’ll leave it up to you to decide if some (or all) of this is real. But I assure you it's not. 


What does a soul look like?

If I had to describe mine, I would say that it was made of flames, but little flames, the kind that would lick my bones in an almost gentle way. It would be light orange along my limbs and warm at my fingertips, but deep blue around my heart, swirling like a dragon that is unraveling its body.

I think I was born with this intense need to be perfect, for the whole world to be perfect, and knowing that neither will ever be anything close to this fantasy expectation fills me with this strange cousin of guilt, a dissatisfaction for which I don't know where to put the blame. Sometimes I put the blame all on myself and I feel as if I am dripping with thick, black paint that I can't wipe off.

Are you ever startled by your own breathing? Sometimes I become so acutely aware of the action which keeps me alive that I need to concentrate on inhaling and exhaling because I am afraid that my own body won't remember how to do it without my instruction. During times like these I can feel the dragon hissing and spitting, and wonder if I've gone crazy, and I fear that I will erupt in the flames of my own soul.

The day I almost got a tattoo

I think we have all secretly wanted a tattoo before,

as dark as the shadow that follows you into various

questionable tattoo parlors where you suddenly

feel as brave as the red neon lights that spell out

a dare. You try imagining a pair of black, delicate wings

fluttering on the nape of your neck, beneath a wedding veil,

or a tiny figure eight tracing the veins of your wrist,

alongside the tubes of an IV bag. There are more people

in the shop than you expected, and you begin to judge them

because you suspect that they are judging you.

In the very neuron where ink first bled, you begin to doubt

why you wanted anything so permanent anyways,

and as suddenly as a drop of blood blossoms

from the quick prick of a needle, you retreat through

the very door you just entered. Sometimes I feel like my dreams

are too similar to the tattoos I never got: the same fears

have kept both my skin and my life unchanged.


*The style of this poem was inspired by a poet that I follow on tumblr: writingsforwinter.tumblr.com.

How To Save The World

It is past midnight and I am drinking coffee. Part of me reassures myself that since I bought the coffee at a Korean supermarket and can’t read the foreign words on the label, there is a 50 percent chance that it is actually decaf, but the more sensible part of me realizes that I have probably just cost myself several hours of sleep. Upon this realization, I take out my contacts, put on my glasses, and prepare myself for a night of sad music and sadder musings.

Like any other young person with an inkling of hope to amount to something in life, I am plagued with the dilemma of what to do with my future. Now I know that I am only one out of 7 billion people who exist on this planet, but in kindergarten I was taught that it only takes one person to make a difference. And since they correctly taught me how to count double-digit numbers, list the days of the week, and spell the months in a year, I choose to believe them on this matter as well. But what must I do to make a difference?

I used to (and still do) wonder about what job to pursue after college, where to live, what my life goal should be. But maybe it’s not career paths or huge life decisions that ultimately change the world. Doctors save lives, of course, scientists help us understand the world better, businessmen turn ideas into products, the media keeps societies connected. But maybe the secret to making your mark on the world is that the real magic occurs in more subtle ways. In the words of Emily Dickinson:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Maybe I am simply setting the bar low for myself for fear of failure and disappointment, but maybe I don’t need to prevent an apocalypse, discover how to harness nuclear energy, or run for presidency in order to do good in this world. What I do need to do is make my own small contributions whenever I can, starting right now, with no less heart and passion than if I was indeed saving the whole world. And if everyone did this, each in his or her own magical way, we might just live to see the world become what we always dreamed it would be.


If you're sad and you know it, clap your hands

You probably think we had no business changing what was written. It’s not our fault though, honest – we were abandoned. What were we supposed to do, scattered across this blank page, a chaotic array of floating words? Some of us were crooked, some illegible, some even violently slaughtered by angry slashes of graphite. We were scribbled across a flimsy sheet of paper, given a look of immense dissatisfaction, then cast aside amongst the piles of a messy desk. There was silence, at first, in this quiet world of black and white, but then we looked at each other – and the clamor began.

When I was alone,
I just needed some hope.
But now I know
giving up was easier.
I used to think
things have a way of working themselves out,
but soon I realized
my dream was just a dream.
I didn’t want to believe that
we don’t always get what we want,
but I know
everything fell apart
in the end.

It was written in bolded letters, etched with such force that we ripped the paper. There was fatigue and weariness amongst us all – we weren’t meant to carry the burden of such heavy misery. We are meant to inspire. Perhaps we could rearrange ourselves on this blank canvas, hold hands so that we form sentences, come together to rewrite the story that we didn’t want to be responsible for telling.

In the end,
everything fell apart.
But I know
we don’t always get what we want.
I didn’t want to believe that
my dream was just a dream,
but soon I realized
things have a way of working themselves out.
I used to think
giving up was easier,
but now I know
I just needed some hope
when I was alone.

The change was minor, but the effect was great. Maybe when our writer discovers us on her desk, she’ll realize that looking at life from a different angle is really all it takes to be happy.


(This is an old piece of writing, but I rediscovered it on my laptop today and wanted to share.)


Evolution of journal entries, from 2000 to 2013...

2000

Hello. My name is Brooke. I went to New York today. I did reserch about planets, stars, galaxies, and the Universe. It was cool. I sat on my dad’s lap. The first time I did reserch it got lost. But Steve gave me his. Steve is very nice. I saw a space moovie it looked like I was really in a space ship and was in space! I think YOU should and want to go to new york. New York is the coolest place I ever went!

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Hi today I went to the Yankees Statem. I saw a baseball game. I ate Bagle Hot Dog and Penuts also some Coke. I had Binoculars. I think the view from the top level was nice but too scary. I didn’t now that the Yankees play so bad. It was Mariners 11 and Yankees 1. Can you beleave that? I baut a teddy Bear. We went to the Yankees Statem because it was Steve’s 10th Birthday! I didn’t know they had to hit so far to get a Home Run. Bernie Williams was the only one who hit a Home Run! Going to the Yankees game was the !BEST! trip ever!!!!

2001

Today I had a wonderful day. I went golfing and ate at a resrant called: East Grand Buffet. When I came back home I biked around. Later at around 8:00 my family played a game. My Dad would write a sentense and then someone would act it out. The other people would have to guess what the sentense is.

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Right now I’m flying high in the air. I can see the clouds! The plane that I’m on is quite fast! I’m really bored. I can’t wait till my family gets to California. I really want to meet my cousins because my family is going to California to meet them! I know I already said I was bored but right now, I’m REALLY bored the only thing I want to do right now is write. I can’t wait till I get to California!

2007

I want to catch the sun, to hoard the stars just to comfort myself, assure myself I’ve done something worth doing in my 14 years but I’m regretting every day, every word I speak. It’s not just that summer is coming to an end. It’s that I’m afraid to lose. And I might not be losing everything, but God knows I’ve lost the past. No matter where I look I can’t find that little sliver of confidence I once had. I can’t find those smiles that came so easily, I can’t find those days when I was content with what I had.

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In the dark hours of the night, when the seen become unseen, is when the unseen is seen more vividly than ever before.

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Sometimes I wonder, and it bothers me that I should wonder, but sometimes I wonder what’s ahead of me to look forward to. I look around, and I know I’d rather live than die. Yet at the same time, I wonder what I’m living for. I wish life was a merry-go-round. I could be happy with getting nowhere.

2012

What defines a person? His actions? His words? His dreams? Ugh. It’s 4:05am. On such sleepless nights, what are dreams anyways?

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I failed to keep up with this journal, just as I knew I would. I wish I could just fast-forward to the final goal: a beautifully filled journal, each page completely covered by words written in such a blur of passion that they are almost tumbling into each other within the confines of these lines, straining to express the details of my life. Yes, that is what I want to hold in my hands one day – a completed journal.

2013

Chilling at Starbucks for half an hour before work. I really want to own a café someday. I don’t know why I love coffee shops so much; I guess it’s because it’s full of thinking people. It’s a small little place where inspiration hits, where dreams form their blueprints, where imagination becomes reality.

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I’ve always been scared of drinking alcohol when I am sad. I know that it will probably actually make me feel better and that the next time I am sad I’ll think that drinking is the solution. But tonight I will make an exception because I am lonely in my room and beer is the only drink in the fridge. I have “Great Expectations” by The Gaslight Anthem on repeat right now and I’m not sure why but somehow it just fits my mood. One of these days, I’m going to figure it all out. I’m going to know exactly who I am and what I want, where I’m going and how to get there. I’m going to be the best I can be and nobody is going to stop me. I don’t usually make promises unless I know I can keep them, but I guess this will be my second exception of the night. Because tonight, I promise to find myself.


Bonjour From Paris: Day 4

Today, our main destinations were the museums l'Orangerie and d'Orsay. However, we started out the day by shopping at the local flea market outside our hotel:

I didn't end up buying anything, but it was cool looking at all the fresh foods, as well as browsing through scarves, purses, hand-made journals, and many other things.

I also made a new friend. I love puppies!!!!!
Next, we went to the Museum of l'Orangerie. This was a small museum and I didn't take many pictures. My favorite parts of this museum included Monet's two water lily rooms, which consisted of two oval-shaped rooms -- each with a panoramic view of water lilies -- connected together to form an infinity symbol. I also enjoyed the work of Renoir immensely. He is my favorite because he always paints happy scenes; even when he grew so old and ill that all his paintings had to be done in horizontal frames because he could only paint sitting down, he would paint joyous scenes.

Both the the paintings in front of me in this picture are by Renoir.
We have a copy of the painting on the left at home! The painting on the right depicts the daughters of Henry Lerolle (another painter). I think it's really interesting how all the famous painters we know today were all acquaintances of each other in the past. Apparently, the Lerolles hosted parties often, as they were members of the "intellectual elite," and even Claude Debussy attended these parties!

On our way from l'Orangerie to the Orsay Museum, we passed by the Love Lock Bridge, a famous bridge in Paris where couples will hang locks with their names inscribed on it. Here is the bridge:

The Lock Lock Bridge.
The Museum of Orsay was pretty strict about taking photos, so I don't have any pictures, but here are a few of my favorite paintings:

Femme assise sur le bord d'une baignoire et s'épongeant le cou by Edgar Degas.

Naissance de Venus by William Bouguereau.
Chemin de la Machines by Alfred Sisley.

Les Glacons by Claude Monet.
We then went to Notre Dame, but it started pouring...

We got pretty soaked.
We spent quite a while searching for a particular restaurant that my dad had looked up, but when we finally found it, we discovered that they only accepted people who made reservations. We ended up going back to to the hotel and eating at a German cafe right outside the hotel, but it turned out to be so, so good.

The one on the left is called Abbaye de Floreffe, and the one on the right is Licorne Legende. Both super good!

Duck leg and potatoes, very similar to the one we had on the first day.

Goose liver again! I remember it's real name now: foie gras.

I don't remember the name for this, but my brother called it "beef sashimi," because that's essentially what it was: raw beef.

And last but not least, some delicious veal.
Tomorrow will be our last day in Paris! We are going back to Notre Dame again so we can explore it more, since it was raining when we went today. Then we are going to go to the Eiffel Tower. Can't believe there's only one more day left!

Bonjour From Paris: Day 3

We spent the entire day exploring the Palace of Versailles. This was the home to the French royal family, as well as a hub for political affairs, from Louis XIV's reign until the French Revolution. Complete with a reception room, a large ballroom called the Hall of Mirrors, the King's lavish chamber, the Queen's equally lavish bedroom, a room dedicated to Napoleon's accomplishments, a hall commemorating successes in war, a dining room, an opera house, a chapel, a gigantic garden, a separate estate for Marie Antoinette within the garden, and many other rooms and buildings that I can't remember, the Palace of Versailles was pretty freaking astounding. I was a bit disappointed that a lot of the rooms had been renovated, but there was still a feeling of surreal-ness as I walked through the palace, knowing that it was once bustling with people from an entirely different era, when France was still a monarchy. Anyways, here are some pictures from the adventure:

The palace from outside. The line was insanely long.

This is the Hall of Mirrors, used for family and  court functions, including the famous Ball of the Yew Trees. I wish I could go back in time and attend a ball. A real ball!

This is the King's Chamber.

And this is the Queen's Chamber.

This was a room adjacent to the King's Chamber where the king often signed official documents or had private meetings with other members of the royal court.
Lunch time! French Onion soup, my favorite.

And mashed potatoes with herbs.

We then went out into the gardens to watch the fountain show! This statue shows Apollo on his chariot. They sure were big fans of Greek Mythology; practically every room had either a painting or sculpture of a Greek God or Goddess.

Then we went boating in the little river than was built in the garden. Poor Steve rowing the boat all by himself. Look at the concentration on that face...

I felt bad, so I decided to give it a try too. Turns out the oars are freaking heavy...

As you can see, Steve does not approve of my rowing techniques. Sorry, brother.

We even saw a swan! So pretty.

But then it started raining, so we headed home and bought some dinner on the way to eat at the hotel. We were all too tired to go out.

Ended the day by trying some Hoegaarden, at Steve's suggestion. Not bad, but the Jeffe from the first day was still the best, I think.

My feet are so sore...I feel like I just played a 36-hole golf tournament. Tomorrow we are going to Notre Dame, Musée d'Orsay, and Musée de l'Orangerie. More walking! So I better go get some rest soon.




Bonjour From Paris: Day 2

Here are pictures from today's events!

First stop was the Arc de Triomphe. So many stairs to climb to get to the top!
Worth it though, here's the view. The street in the middle is Champs-Elysees, one of the most famous streets in the world. We explored its many cafes and luxury stores, but everything was so damn expensive that we ended up eating at McDonald's (which actually wasn't disappointing at all - they have "hamburgers" twice as big as normal ones, served on baguettes with twice the patties. Win!)
Next stop: The Louvre! Biggest museum I have ever been in.

Some of the most memorable pieces included the Victoire de Samothrace,

The Mona Lisa (hey Dad),

And Venus!
We even chilled in some of the statue rooms and did some sketching. I felt so artsy...

And of course, I tried out some new beer.

And some more...

But by far the most exciting part of today was the new harmonica that I bought. I already learned Piano Man on it. Life goal accomplished.


Tomorrow we are going to spend the day in Versailles. Time to go to sleep now!

Bonjour From Paris: Day 1

So the trip from home to our hotel in Paris was supposed to consist of a 6 hour flight to Heathrow, a one hour layover, another one hour connecting flight, and a convenient metro ride. As a result of various forms of adventure and disaster, however, such as security alerts at the airport, delayed flights resulting in missed flights, an unavailability of metro tickets at the airport, and a weird train that decided to end its route early, we arrived at our hotel at 4:00pm, as opposed to the scheduled 10:00am. Nonetheless, our day ended with a lovely family dinner at Cafe Hugo, a quaint little restaurant with red-toned lighting, heaters that looked like street lamps, and a combination of bright-eyed tourists and native Parisians. Here are some of the delicious things I had:

The one of the left is called 1664 and was an alright light beer. The one on the right is called Jeffe and was so good that I finished it before my entree came...
Believe it or not, this is goose liver. I'm sure it has some fancy French name that I don't know, but in any case, it tasted like butter. And you eat it like butter too, served on toast. Pretty crazy.

Duck leg with potatoes. Whoa.

Lamb chop!

Crepes! But this is no ordinary crepe, it was filled with bananas and then "cooked" with...burning rum? Made for a pretty sight, and was pretty good to eat too. 
Anyways, after we retired to the hotel I took a hot shower in a fancy shmancy bathroom, and then totally goofed by not realizing the towels were hanging on a towel warmer. Burned a finger on what I thought was an innocent towel hanger. Oh well, worth it!

Can I drink the sun for afternoon tea?


Do you remember when we were little how we ate oranges so very carefully because if you swallow that seed a little plant will start growing in your stomach, honey. But as we grew older that was no longer a fear, not because “we knew better” but because our bodies grew with our minds, and as we began to think darker thoughts we became cold caves where no plant would ever dare to grow. I miss the days when I thought shooting stars could really grant wishes, before I learned that they were merely pieces of dust and rock burning as they crossed the atmosphere. Maybe it is too late, but maybe if I keep asking questions and seeing the best in people and letting my mind wander, maybe I can grow a garden around my heart. Maybe flowered vines will embroider my ribs and delicate tulips that look like colorful little porcelain cups will collect sunshine above my tummy. And maybe I will pick a bouquet of these flowers and give them to you, and to him, and to her, and maybe we will all be children again. 



I didn't want to die, so he threw me in the sky


If I was a constellation,
I would wear a dress of black
embroidered with a trail of stars
sparkling down my back.

Will I be pretty like Cassiopeia
or have the strength of Hercules?
Will I shine as bright as Sirius
or guide lost sailors overseas?

I wonder who would put me there
and what my myth would be.
Who will tell my story?
Will they remember me?

I'll be so far from everyone,
in a corner of these lonely skies,
but if I'm seen by just one being
I will finally close my eyes.



Allow me to introduce you to the night


My first exposure to metal was “Violent Pornography” by System of a Down, the eloquent first lines of which were,

Everybody everybody everybody living now, everybody everybody everybody fucks,
Everybody everybody everybody living now, everybody everybody everybody sucks!”

I remember thinking to myself, What the hell is this?! But then I heard “Empty Walls,” System of a Down lead singer Serj Tankian’s first single, and the lyrics stuck with me. “Don’t you see their bodies burning? Desolate and full of yearning, dying of anticipation, choking from intoxication…” Not the prettiest imagery, I know, but I couldn’t shake it. I was hooked.

A week later I was enthusiastically showing “Violent Pornography” to my poor, bewildered brother and urging him to listen to it the whole way through. My alarm became “Chop Suey!” by System, and I aptly woke up on the first morning of my junior year of high school (the year of a million AP classes, oh god) to the lyrics, “Trust in my self righteous suicide, I cry when angels deserve to die.

Educated by my metalhead friend Natesh Sood (shout out to ya!), I was introduced to Disturbed, Nightwish, Korn, Manowar, Iron Maiden…I remember my respect for metal increasing tenfold when I heard “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Iron Maiden – I never expected to come across a modern day metal song that alluded to an eighteenth century Coleridge poem.

Then came the fateful night of my first concert – Three Days Grace. Probably one of my best high school memories, I remember coming out of that concert with my ears ringing and souvenir dog tags around my neck – and almost getting run over by a taxi. Seriously, I touched the hood of the car. But near-death encounter aside, it was a night I’ll never forget.

I discovered that metal could even be comical that night. My Darkest Days opened for Three Days Grace and sang what is now one of my all-time favorites: “Porn Star Dancing.” I’d include lyrics here, but seeing as the whole song is hysterical I can’t really pick my favorite line. Guess you’ll just have to look it up yourself!

“Indestructible” by Disturbed became my theme song for every track and cross country meet during senior year (“I’ll have you know that I’ve become indestructible, determination that is incorruptible!”) but when I came to college, my metal playlists faded away into the back of my music library the same way my miles run per week diminished to zero.

But last night, as I was studying for an exam, I suddenly had the urge to revisit my metal music. And I fell completely and irrevocably in love with “The Night” by Disturbed. My heart would literally pound like crazy every time the chorus came on and I just wanted to break out dancing like there was no tomorrow.

“There can be no better way of knowing,
In a world beyond controlling
Are you gonna deny the savior
In front of your eyes?
Give in to the night.”

And on that note (pun intended), I want to conclude by saying that I am an avid listener of Disney music, I love Josh Groban and would die to go to a Norah Jones concert, I am a sucker for cliché pop songs, and I am the farthest thing from a metalhead you will ever find. But there’s just something about it – it’s loud and it’s angry, and you won’t love every song and won’t always be in the mood for it – but it’s passionate and powerful and if you give it the chance it can really make you feel something. Seriously.

Give in to the night.