turbulent skies

Harsh winds come pressing

they threaten to dismantle

everything that we are

to unravel us from our edges

and breathe change

into our moulds.


We can choose

to put up our defenses

and fortify our beliefs

or to accept this unexpected current

and ride along the waves

but no matter what choice we make

we must keep our heads held high

and our eyes focused

on these turbulent skies.

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A new year & new goals (late update)

I’ve been sort of hiding from reflecting on last year’s resolutions because I know I’m not going to like the outcome and the disappointment that will come with it.

However, I was sitting in my social psychology of emotions class yesterday and the prof showed us a video about how to make resolutions that work and I realized then that there was no harm in trying again under a new light.

The basic principle behind the video was to focus on the positive: to make resolutions in the positive, to imagine oneself already accomplished the goal and to work towards that goal in that mindset, and rewarding oneself for all the little milestones that appear along the way. The main thing I hadn’t tried was invisioning the end goal – the end “me” and using that mindset to actually accomplish my goal.

It really struck a chord in me – if you don’t believe a goal is obtainable, then you’re not going to be able to obtain it. Being positive and preparing for success rather than failure is much more effective.

So I’m going to try it.

To wake up everyday (well, most days) with a positive attitude and to approach my goals from the mental state in which I’ve already accomplished them.

Here goes something!

Quick reflection on last year’s resolutions (not going to focus on the negative very much as that obviously isn’t being positive)

  • I haven’t been improving in my 3rd year unfortunately (my marks went down instead…), but it was a rough semester and I believe that I can make the change this semester
  • MCAT score was kinda meh, still unsure if I want to retake it & will decide after this semester
  • still haven’t gone to the gym…but will starting with tomorrow (ulti practice at 7am ugh)
  • been missing intramural practices….again, tomorrow is a new day
  • haven’t made a recipe book, but I cooked today so I’ll applaud myself for the little successes

Some of my goals will be repeats from last year, as I wasn’t able to accomplish them successfully this year.

But I know I can do these (100% confident)

1. Visit the places you’ve always been meaning to go. [to be expanded as more places come up]

  • the ROM [FEB 16, 2016]
  • the Art Gallery
  • CNE
  • Canada’s Wonderland
  • the Science Centre
  • Skating at Nathan Philips Square

2. Do NaNoWriMo

  • IF you are not overloaded in November
  • At least aim for 10k words.

3. Get to Masters on LoL (Okay maybe not this one)

4. Make at least 10 posts a month.

  • you’re never going to mature and grow and actively work on your goals if you don’t reflect on what you’re doing
  • journaling is good for you
  • do it

And here are some new ones…

5. Stop thinking about GPA and just enjoy learning again

  • blog about the material you’re learning instead of the grades that you are getting
  • because you used to love reading

6. Get that summer internship you wanted

  • or another one that you’d enjoy
  • be productive this summer

7. Apply to med/grad schools with your best shot

  • get references ready ahead of time
  • get someone to proofread your application essays
  • DON’T YOU PROCRASTINATE, NESSA

There.

I’m ready, 2016.

119 – Oodles of Doodles of Happiness

I just think oodles is an adorable word.

Work was good today. I changed my procedure a bit so it can be done with minimal errors. It’s amazing the amount of technical expertise you can gain from google (not really, but I learned how to pipette ethers without losing half the quantity). The samples we ran yesterday have decent peaks so it seems like my sample prep is working. Just need to test it on lower concentrations now (*fingers crossed it works and I don’t have alter it again*).

Went to the sushi place by University and Dundas – the one I went to often last year when I was living at Chestnut. The sushi is cheap (4.99+tax! :D), service is fast, and the quality is decent for what I pay. Haven’t gone back there for months now, so I was surprised to see little paintings on their walls.

There were these little animals and pokemon under the takeout menu and they totally made my day. They’re the kind of critters I draw when I’m bored in class. Couldn’t resist taking pictures, of course. 🙂

Just got off the phone with my mom (not really, she said like two sentences to me before passing the phone to our family friend and then saying she’ll call me later cause her phone is running out of batteries), and feeling just a twinge of homesickness. Usually when family friends are visiting, that means a lot of good food. I’m. So. Missing. Good. Food. T_T

Other than that, I can’t really complain. I think I’m finally getting used to living here (like two years late, but whatever), but living here is definitely not preferable to back home.

As a little moment of the inner spoiled me speaking: I miss good internet and playing games on an actual computer and flaaffy my stuffed sheep and my mokona’s and playing on my wii and all my friends of course and weather that doesn’t change from hot to cold to hot again and trees, there just aren’t as many here and my family and the city itself….

Whew.

I’m glad I got that out.

2015 New Year’s Resolutions

I often make New Year’s Resolutions, but I find that I very rarely act upon them. In order to make 2015 a year of change and self-improvement, I am going make solid goals, develop plans to actually reach these goals, and continue tracking my progress over the year. Hopefully, that will give me incentive to post more (and develop myself mentally through reflection).

Academic Goals

1. Get A’s in at least 4 of my 6 courses in the Winter Term.

  • 4 of them are Psychology courses so there are no excuses.
  • NOTE: not A-‘s. Those don’t look as nice.

****

2. Improve in my 3rd year.

  • Any improvement from 1st/2nd year is acceptable.

3. Do well on the MCAT.

  • May – get study guides, educate self on the new 2015 format.
  • May/June – make cheatsheets/studysheets
  • July – do practice MCAT questions
  • August – ensure you’ve properly studied by trying “mock exams”

UPDATE: new schedule

4. Meet up with a Professor/faculty member that is doing research that interests me.

  • email after doing proper research        ***

5. Make at least one new friend in each of your classes.

  • in other words, don’t sit alone.

UPDATE – I have friends in 3/5 classes. 🙂

UPDATE 2 – ***

6. Run for Treasurer for the CSU ***

  • go to at least 1 ASSU meeting this year (learn what it’s all about)
  • get involved as much as possible this year

Health and Fitness Goals

1. Start going to the gym.

  • You’re paying those damn athletic fees anyway
  • Once a week/once every other week.

2. Attend as many intramural ultimate games as possible.

  • Studying/sleeping in are not excuses. Only miss if working/volunteering, etc.

UPDATE: Missed one ):

3. Make a recipe book.

  • Learn/make 50 recipes by the end of the year.
  • Organize into Breakfast, Snacks, Meals, and Desserts

Hobby-related Goals

1. Visit the places you’ve always been meaning to go. [to be expanded as more places come up]

  • the ROM
  • the Art Gallery
  • CNE
  • Canada’s Wonderland
  • the Science Centre
  • Skating at Nathan Philips Square

2. Do NaNoWriMo

  • IF you are not overloaded in November
  • At least aim for 10k words.

3. Get to Masters on LoL.

  • Not a solid resolution since there is heavy lag
  • It’s okay if you don’t make this goal.

4. Make at least 10 posts a month.

  • you’re never going to mature and grow and actively work on your goals if you don’t reflect on what you’re doing
  • journaling is good for you
  • do it

Defining “Potential” and Learning to Grow

Disclaimer: The following discussion may contain spoilers from “Dream High“, the Korean drama.

You often hear “You’ve got a lot of potential” or “I see potential in you”, but it’s hard to actually qualify and quantify potential in a way that you could describe to someone else. When looking for a good candidate for a position, employers often want to see your potential, but it’s hard to present it in such a way that accurately describes who you are. This search for potential is why we spend hours making resumes, trying to draw up as many past experiences as possible to make us more appealing, but it’s difficult at times when every achievement is scrutinized by the jeering faces of society and every mistake is amplified by the constant need for perfection.

Potential, by definition, is possibility, one’s capability to become something else. It’s your ability to improve in the future and fill the spot you were hired or selected for. But how can offer an employer a prediction of your future capabilities? The human mind wavers, changes, and adapts to oncoming situations – there is no sure way to predict where you will be in a year, in five years, and so on unless you happened to have psychic abilities or a good sense of premonition. So, how exactly, do you demonstrate to a complete stranger your competence and ability to become something else?

I never expected to learn the answer through watching a Korean drama, let alone one that involves a school of pop star students. It was an unexpected slice of life, one I thoroughly enjoyed. In “Dream High”, I found a sense of maturity that wasn’t forced and seemed genuine enough to touch my heart. When the students in the drama were struggling to show their potential in a promotional video of themselves, Kang Oh Hyuk, their teacher suggested they look to their past instead of to their future when thinking of what they have to offer. It struck me as being awfully clever as it’s something that’s applicable to everyday life. We don’t know how well we will fare in future situations, but we know how we’ve changed from the experiences in our past. We know who we once were and upon comparison with our present selves, we can demonstrate growth, change, and maturation. And because were capable of change, we will continue to be capable of change – and that, is the promise of potential.

I suppose that is why the most effective resumes showcase what you have learned from each past experience rather than just a list of what you have done and of all the achievements you have been recognized for. The ability to adapt is far more valuable than current expertise (although the latter is often a bonus). The ability to continue learning and continue growing isn’t something you are necessarily taught. I believe it’s a perspective, a state of mind – it was the barrier that the students in the drama had to acquire in order to become a better person and a better performer.

Potential underlies the basis to being open minded. It is allowing new perspectives, new experiences to mould and change who you are. It’s a scary thought really, if you were to think about it in that way. After all, no one likes to lose “who they are” and no one likes the thought of not knowing who they are. I like to think of it as simply erasing the boundaries of who you are. Yes, you are fundamentally one thing, but you are also many other things on top of that. And by keeping those boundaries open and never closing them, you’ll always become something bigger. And that’s what growing truly means.

Fight for Freedom (re: Hong Kong)

This post will be a little unusual compared to my usual content, but I felt that since the matter was so close to my heart, it wouldn’t be right to not put a little more thought into what is happening around me.

I was born in a beautiful, bustling city where the streets are always crowded with people moving along at a busy pace, putting out their best efforts in earning their living. I was born in a city that was epitome of the idiom, “time is money” where everyone seems to be needed somewhere urgently. I was born in a city with advertisements on every corner and with streets designed perfectly for balanced market competition – there are streets solely for the purpose of selling and purchasing technology, for cell phones, for shoes, for stationary, and for everything else you could possibly need. I was born in a city that never sleeps for at night, the markets only get livelier and the streets are lit up from end to end. I was born in a city where sun almost always shines and where people are happy with just little things.

But most importantly, I was born in a city that was free.

Yes, I was born in Hong Kong. And yes, I believe in this ever growing “umbrella revolution”.

If you haven’t heard about the recent chain of protests, then I suggest you get yourself educated. I will leave links at the bottom of the post for convenience.

What provoked me into writing this was the amount of criticism I’ve been seeing around on the internet – particularly on Youtube and social media. There are three main points of criticism that I believe are completely invalid and so removed from the core issues that Hong Kongers are fighting for. I am flabbergasted that Western countries are not giving full support and are sometimes even downplaying the situation.

The first point they make is that democracy isn’t as great of a system as commonly believed and therefore Hong Kongers are foolish to fight for something that isn’t even worthwhile. These critics throw America in as an example. Yes, I agree, the USA is in debt and has a multitude of problems that must be resolved, but at least those of us, in democracies, now what’s happening. At least we have a say in who gets power. At least we have the freedom to express how we feel. The core issue Hong Kongers are fighting for is autonomy, not democracy. They want a choice in who has power, they want the freedom to vote for who they want and they don’t, for many reasons, want that power to be in the hands of a pro-Beijing official. Hong Kongers do not want to have their rights taken away from Chinese socialism. If you don’t believe that the Chinese government is restrictive, then I want you to take a look at their censorship policies. People are harshly punished for any kind of criticism against the government and they’re not allowed access to a multitude of information (banned by the same government). Understand that in Hong Kong, there are no such restrictions. And that Hong Kongers are simply fighting to maintain the freedom that we take for granted in democracy.

The second point people often make is that protesting is a useless method of provoking change and that it will simply escalate the situation rather than make it better. The fact that you’re making this comment already makes that invalid. It’s not useless. It’s raising awareness, it’s building public support (the crowds get bigger and bigger with each day), and it’s putting Beijing and the Chinese government in a tight situation. How can you restrict and suppress the rights of Hong Kongers, how can you break a (nearly) twenty year old promise when the whole world is watching?

Lastly, there are those that believe that this isn’t big enough of an issue to be protesting for – that this isn’t important. It is the most important thing to have occurred in Hong Kong in the past two decades. Beijing’s announcement that they would screen candidate members for the 2017 election is a betrayal of the promise made in 1997 when Britain handed over Hong Kong to the Republic of China. They promised “one country, two systems”, they promised the retention of freedom and autonomy in Hong Kong. When you break a promise that affects over eight million people, not only is it important, it is wrong. If we let them get away with seemingly minor settlement, then who’s to stop them in the future? When there are only pro-Beijing representatives in power? Who’s to stop them from assimilating Hong Kong into China? It is better we act now rather than later.

It is better we make our voices heard now. Let us make Hong Kong the center of attention in South East Asia. Let us raise awareness of this broken promise and let the whole world be a voice of justice. Let us be the voice of reason that pushes Beijing to listen to the citizens of Hong Kong. Let us support the youth that have been peacefully protesting in the streets of business districts – let them know they’re not alone.

You don’t have to care, you don’t have to support them. But please, don’t judge, don’t downplay their efforts just because they’re fighting an issue you don’t understand.  We are too often too quick in throwing out judgement and that, more than anything, needs to change.

Protesters in Hong Kong begin to carry umbrellas to protect against  rain, sun and tear gas. (Image from Associated Press/ABC News).

Protesters in Hong Kong begin to carry umbrellas to protect against rain, sun and tear gas. (Image from Associated Press/ABC News).

Read more about the “umbrella revolution”:

Hong Kong People! (nytimes)

 5 things to know about the ‘umbrella revolution’ (CBC)

Global Support Pours In for Hong Kong Protests (Time magazine)

Hong Kong’s 1997 Handover (Britannica)

Wikipedia – Transfer of Sovereignty 

Hong Kong protests stand ground ahead of Chinese national day (Guardian)

Protesters stay out on Hong Kong streets, defying Beijing (Reuters)

What’s at stake for Hong Kong? (npr)

On Shannon Hale & Childhood Inspiration

I remember being in fourth grade, awkward as ever, but overflowing with stories to tell and words upon words in the corners of my mind. My approach to reading was suicidal, I dove headfirst into every chapter, never looking back and never paying mind to what was happening around me. I remember at the time that I was just beginning to blossom in the world of structured writing, just beginning to grasp the power of words and how simple phrases could affect the thoughts of the mind that was reading it. I remember the shining moment when I got our class an extra hour of gym time – a game of capture the flag on the gravel fields outside – by writing a persuasive piece of writing to the teacher emphasizing traits such as “dexterity”, “agility”, and “strength” (three words you might recognize in any decent video game at the time) as traits acquired through physical exercise. I realized even then that my writing was probably not very impressive, but it stood out among the other pieces written by my classmates, and thus had some hold upon my fourth grade teacher. I had built up quite a reputation that year for being whiny and unwilling, but nevertheless clever. I didn’t have very many friends and I’m not quite sure I valued those I had enough. I had my head either stuck in a book or glued to the computer screen; it’s no wonder that my eyesight suffered as a consequence.

I remember the summer after fourth grade when I first started wearing hard contact lenses at night – lenses that promised to act as the ocular version of braces, preventing my eyesight from getting worse and giving me perfect vision during daytime provided that I wore them every night. I finally got to ditch the glasses that I’d been wearing since second grade and it was a good feeling to be able to run freely without the extra weight on my face. But it was also a hassle: putting them on every night and taking them off every morning and washing them. But I suppose it was worth it. Feeling the weight of spectacles upon my nose now – it was definitely worth it.

Look at its beautiful mosaic cover!!!

Look at its beautiful mosaic cover!!!

It was around this time that I discovered an author by the name of Shannon Hale, her various books nestled on some lower shelf in the fantasy genre of the children’s section. She was a No Name in my eyes, not something popular that my friends read or that the librarian recommended and was certainly not a popular book at that library as I often saw it on the shelf untouched. Nonetheless, the cover of The Goose Girl stuck out at me, some mosaic drawing upon its over. Perhaps it was the alliteration in the title or simply the plainness of its cover that attracted me, but I slowly picked up the book and again, without hesitation, plunged myself into its pages. I was enraptured, turning page after page after page. I was surprised. Some No Name author had impressed me. It had action. It had romance. And it had a female protagonist – a key factor at the time as I had trouble relating to books with male protagonists (perhaps the reason why I never continued on with the Eragon series). It was around the time when Harry Potter was shooting into popularity and when boys were often the main characters in novels of the fantasy genre. It excited me (perhaps the inner feminist in me?). It gave me power when there was no one in my life I could turn to and talk to with ease. Books were an escape.

In sixth grade, my friends and I encouraged by our teacher started a small elementary school newspaper. It featured articles mainly written by our class, but also from other grades and other students. Everything was hand done. We printed out the articles in columns, cut them out, and taped them down with invisible tape. Pictures were resized (mostly by cutting) and taped upon the page. I was part of the lucky few that got to work with layout and witness its entire process. It was breathtaking. It was beautiful. It may have been a small and silly publication with a multitude of errors, but hey, it was ours.

I remember writing an article, a book review, on The Goose Girl. Incorporating some of that persuasive writing ability that I had acquired in fifth grade, I made the novel sound to be more than it could be (or at least I hope so in an elementary standard). I’m sure I didn’t do Shannon Hale justice, but it was full of love and adoration for her and for her writing. I remember walking into the our little school library a week after and being approached by the librarian (who was friendly and knew many students quite well…I miss her) who said that she was approached by a student that wanted to read The Goose Girl after hearing about it in my book review. I was thrilled. She then informed me that our library didn’t actually carry the book. Not surprising since I did say Shannon Hale was a No Name among my friends (but certainly not a No Name to me after reading her books!). I wrote the book’s name on a piece of paper and submitted it (along with the names of other books of the series) in suggested books to purchase basket. Surely enough, the book appeared about a week later. It was a gratifying moment. I felt as if I had accomplished something…something small but yet big in my heart. I loved the school library and to have my opinions and thoughts mattered meant a lot to me. Our librarian was thoughtful and worked hard to keep our library buzzing. The library was a popular place (mostly on rainy days, often in Vancouver) and she was definitely one of the reasons why. I knew that if the book was available that someday some other kid would read it (if only because they had read almost every other book in the library due to its small size) and I hoped that it would affect someone the way it affected me. Though unlikely for that particular book to have that effect, it was another book in the library…and I believe this now more than ever, that books are building blocks to perspective, to imagination, and to developing ourselves. I had given something back to the community in a very small way, but still one that mattered so very much to me.

I proceeded to read several others of Hale’s books: Princess Academy, and the sequels to The Goose Girl: Enna Burning and River Secrets. That was the expanse of her books on the shelf at the time and I thought to myself, “This is it. There’s no more from her”. At the time, the library was the world to me and I was not yet fully experienced with Google which was only blossoming at the time. She disappeared for a very long time.

I yearned for more. Needed more. So I turned to other books to satisfy me. But nothing ever satisfied me as much as reading The Goose Girl for the first time. I think it was then that I realized how much writing and reading – how much language meant to me. I knew I would not be able to escape it for the rest of my life.

I chanced upon her name a couple of months ago at Indigo; a couple of her books were on sale. I was flabbergasted – she was gone to me, I thought she had stopped writing, I thought she disappeared. But here she was, alive and right in front of me. I know it’s an exaggeration to say since Shannon Hale was not physically standing there…but her books were. And that was enough. I had to read them. I had to read them all.

I dove into Austenland, Midnight in Austenland, Ever After High, and The Actor and the Housewife. One after the other. I enjoyed them all thoroughly. Ever After High was a burst of nostalgia for The Goose Girl was a fairy tale (rewritten). But the other three novels were a surprise to me for I had known Hale as a children’s author and was surprised to read her writing intended for an adult audience. Having strong female protagonists (YES!!!) comforted me and I easily slipped into her stories. The romance felt real more so than the fairy tale ones, than the stories of princesses and princes. It was a beautiful experience and I’m grateful for her contributions to the literary world.

The Actor and the Housewife awakened a new yearning in me and with that, a new understanding. I wanted a best friend, a relationship as fulfilling as the one that leapt out at me from the pages. I wanted a Felix Callahan in my life. Someone who understood without the words explaining it, someone who feels like you’ve known forever, someone who doesn’t need to be by your side or talking to you everyday to still be your friend. And I suppose I also related to that feeling, to that kind of existence. Because the internet is kind of like that. You have friends from all around the world that you don’t necessarily talk to every day but still get along with right away once you find the time. Like Becky and Felix in the novel with their telephone conversations, I have found so much fulfillment talking with people miles away. Distance didn’t matter to them. And I realized, distance shouldn’t bother me either.

Shannon Hale, I know you’ll never read this, but I thought it’d be nice to declare. You have inspired me, connected to me, and reached me with your novels in a way I’ll always remember. Thank you. And please, please keep writing.