Cum laude

I don’t know whether it’s a bigger deal in America or whether my fam is particularly nonchalant about it. Like, sure, we’re proud of you as the eldest son who has just graduated college, here are some congratulatory messages over Whatsapp. Send us photos. We want to tell you how great you look in your overpriced robe and cap.

I thought: perhaps I should care more– what do you give people when they graduate? I decided to get my brother a lei because apparently it’s customary and I thought he might appreciate one more piece of the American pie, in the same way I’ve enjoyed the experience of getting drive-thru McD’s and sitting on a Big Yellow Bus.

Because I’m sitting in the nosebleeds, miles away from the action, I’d rather be an observer than a lame participant. There will be no screams from me. Only zooming in on my brother from afar as he gets up to go to the bathroom. Only tolerating Asian parents yelling on either side of me.

Blue and gold is not a practical colour scheme. Let’s be real, it’s blue and yellow. The graduates file in one by one and from where I sit, they look like marching ants. Generation Y graduation involves documentation from the first-person perspective: what it’s like to stand next to your classmates and hashtag #graduation, what it’s like to see your face blown up on the big screen when a camera gets in your face. I see so many smart phones, it’s epidemic. Even a grandparent of a grandparent is tapping her big screen, tracking dear Billy’s every movement. “So many ‘dabs’, so many Colgate smiles and Queen Elizabeth waves”, dads type excitedly with one finger to uncles twice removed.

I learn my cum laudes. I check out the boys and the bedazzled caps. And I agree with the professor that the Humanities often get shit on even though hard science majors can’t write. I will take no part in childish rivalries.

In the end, I rush out to take your picture. I want this to be special for you. You’re right, graduation is just a ritual for the community. Get fucked up on spirits because hey we did this together- it’s a reason to celebrate. I like that, though. Let’s find every excuse for celebration. You did it. If no one will say it, not even yourself, I will. I am so proud of you.

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Thy Word

I want to compose hymns because His words are perfect. I always thought I sucked at memorising bible verses but they spring to mind from the tunes I’ve heard when I’ve needed them most. They’ve given clarity to my feelings, words materialising to describe the momentous joy, gratitude and praises of my heart.

Crazy how after I’ve come to this realization- that music helps me know His word better, I came across a post that featured this verse: “[The ant] prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:8). This is my summer project! Combining my love of music, the voice that God has given me, to create something that will help me prepare myself for temptation. Something that will help me know of His love, live a life enjoying His goodness and resist the urge to sin. I didn’t know how I’d find a routine, how to make myself excited to spend time with God. But this is it- and thank the Lord for revealing it to me. No more anxiety about how best to improve myself this summer or how I can use my talents for His glory.
Only by loving You more.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word. With all my heart I have sought Thee; Do not let me wander from Thy commandments. Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee. Blessed art Thou, O LORD; Teach me Thy statutes. With my lips I have told of All the ordinances of Thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, As much as in all riches. I will meditate on Thy precepts, And regard Thy ways. I shall delight in Thy statutes; I shall not forget Thy word.

 

Be Like You

As opposed to Flume’s Never Be Like You (I’m sure I titled this as a result of Uber ride brainwashing. It is way overplayed on the radio in Los Angeles). I’m going back to this draft because I am busting to create. I savor the feeling of excitement for things to come, of having too many things to say. It feels like magic, like I’m about cry a rainbow and fart glitter. Like, I can make something good and be pleased with myself for inciting in others what the arts do for me. I empathise with all creators out there who lose it all once they get to the workstation. Here I am, coffee by my side, my family rooting for me, fingers poised by the laptop. It’s a sunny day, there should be no distractions, no problems. But no, I’ve just eaten a burger and I can barely function. Or suddenly I’m illiterate and I don’t know how to write. Or I feel like napping- drained before I even begin.

Also, I’m embarrassed to call myself a creator, what with how hard people work to practice their art. I am trying and that counts for something right? I have a creator’s heart LOL but I don’t have too much to show for it. A few things hold me back. For example, I’m not naturally good at writing– it takes me forever to write essays. It is a torturous process of editing and re-editing a sentence until it is perfect. I do not type away and then correct, which could actually work in my favour. I just want it all to be good the first time around: why can’t I be amazing at the things I love on the first go? I guess evidence for what I claim to love is precisely how much work I’m willing to put into it. How committed I am to it. I am  basically an aspiring relationship therapist. If I truly am passionate about creating, I will do it even if it takes me ten years to write one page. And that attitude is just what propels people into success, because practice is progress. Baby steps. Like playing Brain Wars. I shy away from the Maths because I don’t want to lose; I must annihilate everyone with my Quick Eye and outstanding Concentration. However, the more Maths games I play every day, despite losing to the lowly ‘Chickens’, I will gain the skills I need to one day #pwn them all.

Back to the backstory of this post. There was a period of time when I was actively trying to figure out my life/ college goals. Kinda cool how I heard the words “the most urgent things are most often not the most important things in life” through the mouths of different people. God reveals himself through people, truly. The first time I heard it, I was overcome with anxiety. What is most important to me? What are my priorities? It made me reflect and think about what I’m doing to best serve my long-term interests, because I must find a purpose. I must be twelve steps ahead of the game and great at what I do. Forward-looking, successful. Okay, I’ll focus on my grades, my position in my sorority and pursue spiritual psychology. I want to attend life coaching/ therapy sessions and get a taste for this world, learning to facilitate conversation about who we are designed to be. My goal is to create a space for people to be and feel authentic, to be loving towards themselves, honest, vulnerable. There is no place for pride or self-consciousness for genuine connection and compassion is our humanity. I want to proclaim that God knows our sufferings and that He is greater. He will sustain us in the night, be our constant when no one else can carry us. He looks upon us with perfect love even when we believe that we are unworthy and undeserving. All well and good.

It is only when I heard it the second time that I was directed towards God: He is the answer, the cure to my anxiety. He exposed my pride. How on earth can I pursue what I say is most important to me without cultivating an attitude of humility in everything I do?
If all I want is to be recognized for being an achiever, to be heard the loudest, to have the most significant role… I am missing the point. Following Jesus means taking the back seat- this is what he did when he died for me. It’s not that I’m to make myself less important or significant, it’s not that I must put myself down and feel lesser compared to anyone else. No, it’s confidence in who I am and realizing that I don’t need outward praise and recognition. It’s showing love to everyone without reserve. It’s saying that I’m not too good for a small job, too holy to associate with someone who chooses to live indulgently. My problems are not bigger than anyone else’s. I am to be a blessing in others’ lives. I am to serve more than I seek to be served. I am to make room for people in my heart and think of myself less.

I want to be like You, Jesus. That is my goal.

boyfriend x boyfriend

We are going to have boyfriends we will each befriend. We’re going to be so happy for each other- you guys do look really good together. And so will your children. I’ll notice the way he looks at you, the way you laugh in unison. And as we order, I’ll notice that he smiles to himself as you float over the menu and exclaim how you want French Toast, only to change your mind as you flip to the next page.
“Ohmygod Sophie, everything looks so good”, you’ll feign a pained expression.
He’ll direct you: “why don’t you get the eggplant one?”
“I’ve been craving Toast!”
“Yeah, but you’ve been telling me to forbid it.”
“Okay fine. It’d be the fourth time this week”, you laugh.
He’ll pour water for you, then for himself, and then our boyfriends will talk. Instantly, there’s a sense of brotherly camaraderie, and slowly, we’re not needed in conversation. They’ll leave each other with slaps on the back and a see ya later man, until next time.
I’ll tell you: “I see why you like him so much”.

Fem

I’m surprised that she called me a girl’s girl. But surprised in a good way- I like that a lot. I think I’ve come a long way from thinking that I’m not good at being friends with girls, that I’m better at meeting and making guy friends. The process is different, I think, but no less rewarding.

With guys, it’s sarcasm and taking the piss. Guys flirt with each other and this playful relationship is easy to forge with males. Such is the disposition that I have, and I’ve always found it difficult to emulate this particular flirtationship with women. And that’s okay; maybe I can’t be as ‘rude’ or sarcastic with some women initially but it’s so nice to cut through the bullshit quick and bond over girl things. I don’t like small talk so I usually don’t hang around too long if the bullshit-cutting doesn’t happen on my watch. I’ve found that I’m able to show my affection to females through sweet words and gestures– because they know I’m straight and cannot mean anything romantic by it. I can also take my shirt off in peace.
It seems natural to hear, in conversation with males “so what else do you do you like to do besides sleeping?” or “what sort of music do you listen to?” (classic). The get-to-know-you questions are asked and received without hesitation. These date-like questions seem to me a little awkward when applied in girl on girl conversations (ha), unless we’re talking interviews or playing a special game of rapid fire.

I feel sorry for every girl I’ve ever made an enemy of in my mind because of whatever supposed essence I saw in them. She’s bitchy, she’s superficial, she wears a lot of makeup. She’s a sorority girl, she’s dramatic, attention-seeking, ditzy, hyper-sensitive, jealous.

I may have been introduced to “gender as a construct” in high school, I may have come across a couple of articles criticizing American Apparel and its sexualized portrayals of women, but my eyes are now seeing like they never have before. I am seeing and feeling as a woman just how damaging it is to expect girls to conform to a standard of girliness and to normalize these expectations. Therein lies implications from school to the courtroom. It’s not that I don’t believe that males and females are composed differently; we are genetically and anatomically different. Brains belonging to males are more similar to other male brains than to brains belonging to females, okay. It’s only when we pose limitations to what females or males can act or look like that we run into problems.

“You know us girls- we want all the details”.
“You can never trust the boys in the house alone on the weekends, amirite?”
“Close your legs, that’s not ladylike”.

Some days, I don’t want to shave my legs. I don’t have to. Yes I have nipples, I have a female body, and I love it. I like to sit ‘like a boy’ and I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mum for all of my married life. I think men are just as capable of falling hopelessly in love as Cher from Clueless (as educated by Cruel Intentions) and “he’s a guy, what do you expect” is not a valid excuse for most things you can control.

Feminism encompasses more than the gender pay gap… It’s about realizing that every person is a person before you apply a gender label on them. And it’s not just about women either; commenting on the fixed nature of women at the same time shapes the way we talk about men. It is an empathetic approach to human individuals.

Fighting curiosity

Abstinence is harder than doing something in moderation. See, the very fact that you have tried something means you have given into tempting possibilities. You want to know what it’d be like, even if it could go wrong. You hope that you’re the exception, that you can handle whatever it is you choose. “I’d never be the sort of girl to…”, “I’m not like that…”, “I’d never try that”. You say those things until you are that sort of girl, until you are like that, until you have tried it. Then, you realize that you have the possibility of becoming any person you might have once despised or sworn you’ve never be. “You’ll never understand until you experience it” becomes the defense for anyone who doesn’t get it (yet).

There’s a possibility, no matter how small, that this could turn out well. I’ll make it happen, I’ll change his mind. Sure I’ll try heroin because I can handle my pot/ Buzzfeed has announced that I don’t have an addictive personality. Hello, this hope destroys us! We never learn when people tell us first hand the important lessons like: he will never change for anyone. Why couldn’t we have listened? Why did we go through with it when we were so solemnly warned? I tend to retort: whatever, at least I learnt from the experience. But it’s almost as if we honour and value our experience more than we do others’. Like, why is it that commonplace events or similar situations experienced by the people closest to us do not apply to us? I’m probably luckier than they are, I’ll handle it better than they did. Is this egotistical or is this totally normal and healthy? Or is this just a normal bias that hinders more than it helps?

Granted, every person is different, every situation is different and I can only know what I know. But we can avoid a whole lot of pain and stupidity if we could just view the experience of others’ on the same horizon as our own. Better to fail from a well informed decision than from plunging head first without any true consideration of others’ experiences and advice. It’s not spontaneous, it’s flat out S T U P I D. “Follow your heart” is about the worst advice I’ve ever heard. Unless you’re Oprah. Good post on Oprah-read it. 

 

Fami/y

This year more than ever have my eyes been opened to the love around me. I am so grateful to have my family. Just this evening, coming back into a dimly lit house, without my brother… I felt a little bit emptier, heavier. And when he came back, I felt my mood lift. No wonder grandma wants us home, just for the sake of us being home.
My brother cares for me deeply and wants the best for me. He recommends only good things for me: his favourite Psychology classes, water bottles with the most refined filters, health supplements, green drinks and infrared saunas (#hip, #LAfit). He is so patient– I saw this in the way he poured baking soda painstakingly over the mattress so that I would have a clean bed. Funny seeing a bed like a powdered doughnut. He was so patient when the vacuums stopped working and we crouched by the bin to drain the bag of nastiness. He loves me in the way he knows best, by giving and sharing the best of what he’s encountered. I know that there is nothing in this world he will not shield me from. I never have to worry.

And my extended family! I have a group chat that is constantly firing. Birthdays, graduations, illnesses, job anxieties. We all congratulate and thank each other. We all give advice: you should talk to the baby every day in both languages, you should play her this type of music. You should try this soup, go to this restaurant on your holiday. We are all praying for you and we will thank God for His goodness together. We share in each other’s joys and sufferings and it is such a blessing.

Lord I see your love through my family.

ON MY TERMS

I want to be in control of how I feel
because I’m still angry and I hate anger
and I hate that you’re the reason –
didn’t I always want to be a strong girl
who can love without flinching,
a smart girl who can pick her own battles
but I’m hurt every time I hope for the best in you
and I’m losing when it’s not a game,
worse still because I see your goodness –
just not in the way I need it most.

I envy how you compartmentalize me,
minimize me, set me aside as if for paint to dry
until you decide to miss me, us, our something.
But as much as it would diminish the hurt,
I would not trade it for how cruel you can be.

instead of studying for my midterm

VIGNETTE

In another life
You tousle his hair and it’s strangely light
— a dirty blonde. Must have skipped a generation.
And you refer to him as “buddy”.
It is a dream that I spit on for its
cheesy fucking sentiments.

MIRRORS

I want to be sweet to you.
Then I want to delete you.
You call for me.
Then you leave me.
You must be tired, too.