I. fortune cookies

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Starting a new project as of today. Each week, I’m going to try to post a picture accompanied with short prose about an event, a passing encounter, or a mood.

Currently the last week of 1L. S and I took a practice exam, and fatigued by the intensive fact pattern, we decided to head over to this Chinese restaurant before returning to the library. It’s the kind of gimmicky establishment adorned with red lanterns at the entrance and ornate gold tablecloth overlaying circular tables spread throughout the spacious (but mostly empty) interior. A tourist trap for the Greenwich Village passerby, or perhaps a pit stop for the drunken crowds swelling in and out of the bars on West 3rd. It’s the kind of place you stumble upon without forethought, because you meandered too far into this area or you forgot to make a reservation at a Yelp-approved venue in the East Village.

It’s the kind of place that gives out golden-orange colored fortune cookies wrapped in plastic that read “Fortune Cookie” with a depiction of the fortune cookie on the front. And when you crack open that fortune cookie, there is a fleeting exhilaration of revealing the unknown contained in that small token of cultural idiosyncrasy — only in America. Then you share the profound wisdom printed onto that thin, white rectangular piece of paper with your friend, and after exchanging the wisdom you’ve gleaned from these valuable documents, you both ponder over the poignancy of its words.

I don’t know if my fortune will ring true. I’m two exams away from finishing this long, challenging year. Perhaps the profound wisdom that this fortune cookie has really taught me is that I can share the fortune with the best companions. After scoffing at our fortune cookies, S and I went back to the library, struggling together over our practice exam and sounding like two crazy girls postulating over criminal law. If I could rewrite that fortune, it’d probably read instead: “You are lucky because you have chosen great companions.”

 

slow jams & jumbled thoughts after dark

listening to Snakehips – Fly High 002: SFTB Valentines Special

i’ve been meaning to write more lately, yet articulating my jumbled thoughts has been a thorny process. there are a myriad of events and topics that i want to write about, particularly personal ones. putting these thoughts into some tangible form, however, and further conveying them into a public space, are acts in which i am not entirely confident.

as i listen to this slow jams mix, i am reminded of one of my favorite pastimes in childhood. around bedtime, my mom would come into my room, tuck me in, and turn on the radio to 96.5 FM, assuring me that its “love songs after dark” program would lull me into serenity. i grew up listening to 90s r&b, falling for their soulful beats and smooth-crooning melodies, and even more, falling in love with the idea of romantic songs for lovers after dark. slow jams were mom-approved (a special endorsement from a tiger mom who typically would only let my sister and me listen to classical music and npr). slow jams were also nostalgic and hopelessly romantic.

these are qualities that i zealously guard in my own character. i am nostalgic and hopelessly romantic. i am a lover of slow jams. i started writing poems at age eight, maybe younger, and that marble composition book was my proudest achievement at the time and remains a prized possession. even at that age i was somewhat aware of the power of poetry, like music, to capture emotions in a way that simple conversations or long-form prose cannot. i suppose i grasped the importance then of the incredible intensity of emotions and the need to express them through abstract channels like poetry and music. i also guess i often feel things so intensely that i find the individual need to understand my own emotions.

one of the hardest emotions i have grappled with is love. the compassion i have for others can be overwhelming, and i have fought to temper that compassion from its full potential of possessive, unyielding infatuation. in the process, i have retreated significantly, but at a cost: it has become more difficult for me to openly and generously offer my love because it feels as if i am giving up a physical piece of myself that will be trampled on and hurt again.

a few recent events have made me question the way i have become reserved in my compassion and the rationale i have for protecting what i consider a sense of self. encountering individuals who bear their hearts openly and value the expressiveness of their affection has taught me to explore my jumbled thoughts about love. regardless of whether these thoughts are part of a mid-twenty-something’s crisis, i want to move forward in an action-oriented manner.

to love freely, to give and share pieces of myself without fearing the pain, to think creatively, to explore the depths of my passions and to discover new ones, to act courageously, to learn with and from others, to uphold values dear to me: these are acts i aspire to follow as a twenty-something still nostalgic for slow jams after dark.

It’s June

“IN EARLY JUNE THE WORLD OF LEAF AND BLADE AND FLOWERS EXPLODES, AND EVERY SUNSET IS DIFFERENT.”

— John Steinbeck

I’m not feeling particularly poetic today. My prose will render itself exhausted of all lyrical possibility, as my mind is utterly ravaged from the ceaseless beating of That-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named. It was a beautiful and glorious day, and the physical embodiment of such promise and warmth is a stark contrast to the brutal mental exercise that has occupied my world for months.

June. A year later and still I wander adrift, but perhaps with more purpose and direction. I’m thankful, so thankful, for the path I’ve traveled and the encounters I’ve been fortunate to experience along the way. I feel so incredibly lucky to have such bright and passionate friends who support me — and especially, for expressing the voice of reason when I become overloaded with irrational sensibilities, which is almost always the case. I feel lucky to embark on adventures of leisure, and to carelessly indulge my fantasies of a twenty-something.

June, June, June. So full of opportunity, of promise, and brimming with passion.

Mandela’s Patience

As the world reflects on Nelson Mandela’s iconic legacy, one major narrative of his heroic story is his patience. We revere his superhuman strength and tenacity throughout his struggle to achieve the Herculean task of building democracy and peace, liberty and equality.

But what is often missing from this narrative is what patience means. We know what Mandela did — what he dreamed, how he struggled, and what he achieved. And we understand the extent of his plight to carry out his vision for South Africa, and the world. Yet the patience that Mandela exemplified was not merely a matter of time and effort. Mandela’s patience cannot be simply summarized as the ability to tolerate and wait.

Linguistically, patience is derived from old French pacience (“quality of being patient in suffering”) and Latin patientia (“patience, endurance, submission; quality of suffering”). What this etymological origin tells us is two-fold. First, patience involves more than just waiting. Second, patience has been associated with the experience of suffering. In other words: patience is neither enjoyable nor kind to us, and its existence gives us a great deal of pain.

However, we do not need to perceive patience so negatively. We have misunderstood the nature of patience, and in doing so we have wronged the virtue of patience to our character.

Patience is also more than just the negative experience of suffering. Patience is not a singular emotion or process: it embodies a great number of attributes.

Patience is faith. Patience is courage. Patience is hope

Patience is tending to one’s garden, watering a row of fragile, young plants day after day until their roots become firmly established in well-nourished soil and the sprouts bloom into flowers. Patience is making a meal, preparing an eclectic assortment of ingredients and standing over the stove, coddling those distinct ingredients to blend into a mouth-watering dish. Patience is working out in the gym or outside, pounding that treadmill, that pavement to achieve the 5k, shed those pounds, or simply stay healthy.

Patience is forgiveness. Patience is compassion. Patience is selflessness.

Patience is supporting a loved one, investing in tolerance and unconditional love even when all the deposited trust in the relationship has become bankrupt. Patience is attending to oneself, cheering on and fulfilling one’s own dreams and desires.

Patience is conviction. Patience is sacrifice. Patience is discipline.

Patience is acknowledging what can be achieved and what cannot be achieved, distinguishing between the possible and impossible in one’s personal life and in society. Patience is working towards the seemingly impossible, even in the recognition that perhaps one will not be able to see the impossible that will very well become the possible in the future.

This is what Mandela’s patience teaches us about the complex nature of patience.

But a Moses does not live to see the promised land—and maybe it can never be found.

(Philip Gourevitch in The New Yorker)

Time

Time is a curious thing.

Arguably, time is the single most important basis by which we measure our lives. The temporal yardstick that allows us to compare successive events relative to one another. Whether we had a good time, or a bad time. The timing of particular experiences that lead us to formulate broader patterns regarding the isolated, day-to-day happenings. Asking, what time is it?, to make sense of our current position in reality.

Without time, what would life be like?

I can’t imagine the answer to this question. Actually, even trying to contemplate this question terrifies me. Such contemplation implies a hypothetical in which all sense of rationality and order must be removed from my mental construct. Any preconceptions I currently have about life and the universe must be eradicated.

I think about the role of time in our conceptions of the world around us because of the way time plays funny tricks in my everyday, layman life. How days can pass and yet Monday seems very much like a Saturday. How years can pass and yet what happened 5 years ago seems like yesterday, while what happened a week may seem like years ago. How, when in the present moment everything seems so vivid and real, yet when it all comes to pass, that moment becomes fixated in a vague and surreal memory.

Often, we think of time as a concrete object, even as a personified figure. Hey Time, stop moving so quickly. Stop sprinting and slow down a bit so we can all take a breather here.

Time plays with our hearts, as well as our minds. We grow sentimental and nostalgic for times that we cannot recover, and we eagerly anticipate times that will occur. Dreaming takes place in both the form of wistfulness for the past and imagination for the unknown future.

Time controls our movements and our behavior. We are bound within our own mental construct of time, limited by the arrows on the clock.

These qualities of time attest to its incredible power over us. Our existence depends on time — in fact, our sanity, our way of living, our emotions all depend on time.

So, I ask you again: without time, what would life be like?

On Aging: Youth is Relative

Today, I came across an article from the New York Times that moved me tremendously. It vocalized many of the fears that I have been holding and desperately wanting to avoid. (As a disclaimer, I don’t intend this blog to be so personal and depressing, but as I have mentioned in an earlier post, recent events in my life have led me to constantly think about questions-on-life subjects.)

Tim Kreider writes in the article on his reaction to his mother entering a retirement home:

My sadness is purely selfish…However infrequently I go there, it is the place on earth that feels like home to me, the place I’ll always have to go back to in case adulthood falls through. I hadn’t realized, until I was forcibly divested of it, that I’d been harboring the idea that someday, when this whole crazy adventure was over, I would at some point be nine again, sitting around the dinner table with Mom and Dad and my sister. And beneath it all, even at age 45, there is the irrational, little-kid fear: Who’s going to take care of me?

Beyond his personal anxiety over becoming elderly, Kreider discusses the societal fear of aging and our attempts to romanticize the process. I appreciate that Kreider acknowledges the illusion of a glamorous aging process, and I agree that the end of life is far more ugly and powerless and painful than we would like to imagine. Knowing that popular portrayal of aging is romanticized helps me face that reality.

But let’s be real. I’m a coward. I’m scared to even be writing this post and discussing perhaps my greatest fear of all. Without the illusion that aging can be a beautiful process, and that leaving this world can be a peaceful celebration of one’s life, I don’t think I would be able to confront reality at all. I have a low pain tolerance level and can be a little paranoid about things.

Growing up scares me. Wrinkles scare me. Having to get a job and work in a structured environment everyday scares me. Moving away from my family scares me. Dealing with the consequences of an even slower metabolism scares me. Graduating from college scares me.

I guess we are given greater burdens to bear over the course of our lives for a reason, and instead of fearing responsibilities and adulthood and the inevitable, I will have to protect a strong faith that no matter how difficult the journey may be, my path is chosen and shaped out of care and deliberation.

The takeaway?

You are older at this moment than you’ve ever been before, and it’s the youngest you’re ever going to get.

With that, I conclude: I am forever young.