Is it easier to play the ukulele or ask a stranger out?

Instagram post for accountability:

 

The #challenge is on! 🙌 Each week for the next five weeks, @gjuarez7 and I will ask out one stranger out on a date. Romantic or platonic, doesn’t matter. Rejection is fine, and makes for an even better story.

📲 Dating apps don’t count, the ask must be on the phone or in real life. The first one to meet their #truelove wins, or at the very least, this #fun experience will help us become comfortable talking to folks! #avocadope

What’s on your list?

Made a list of things/activities that made me happy. Not necessarily in order:

  • Zumba
  • Comedy
  • Scrabble
  • Food
  • Museums
  • Karaoke
  • Boogie Boarding
  • Aquariums
  • Gardens
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Musicals
  • Interviewing People
  • Reading about Socioeconomics and International Affairs
  • Good Insightful Talks
  • Video Editing
  • Event Planning
  • Getting Things Done

What would be on your list?

Wisdom Tooth Extraction (Again)!?

Yesterday, I went back to the dentist to get tooth #32 removed. The tooth grew in sideways, so I wanted to deal with the minor pain of extraction earlier rather have it develop into something worse. Like a cavity. Or who knows, just something more painful?

So here we are again, some painkiller injected to numb down my gums. While I was losing sensation, I texted a few friends and listened to the classical music in the office to distract myself. I’m sure when the dentist and his assistant came back, I was covered in drool even if I didn’t feel this coming down my chin. Thanks kind assistant, for helping me wipe it off. You helped maintain whatever dignity I had left in that room.

Then dentist cut down my bone and fractured my impacted wisdom tooth into four itty bitty pieces. Honestly, the process was a lot better the second time around, since I knew what to expect. Thanks to prior experience, which involved watching a load of YouTube videos for mental preparation, it wasn’t as scary this round.

Plus, we had some small talk about Russia with the dentist, so it helped calm me down. As silly as it sounds, he definitely reassured me when I found out about his dog’s name. I felt like I could trust a guy with a dog named Boris. The name seems to suit the pup, who I imagined was kind-hearted, naive yet fully lovable. I’m sure the dog had solid oral hygiene too.

Anyhow, back to the extraction process. This time around, I tried to focus on things outside the dental clinic. Like UCLA, crushes, and what sort of food I could eat in the next few days. I knew I would be on a liquid diet, so apples and carrots were out of the equation. I reminisced on the time Karin brought me chao, or what others call congee/rice porridge. I really missed that mush, and kind of wished I was getting my tooth removed in a strip mall in the 626 so that I was closer to Valley Boulevard and the food down there. My train of thought just carried me to another place, while I’m certain the assistant was wondering why I was producing so much saliva. Thank you again for this woman for helping me not choke on my own spit, and using that suction tool to help keep things neat.

For the most part, I didn’t feel pain, but I did feel the pressure on my jaw and experience some uncomfortable moments when it was hard to keep my mouth open. Everything seemed to be going well, even if it took a lot longer to remove this tooth. The extraction was done, and we were onto the stitches. The visuals sucked. Cringeworthy even. I hate looking at the wires and blood, so this time around I closed my eyes at times and just trusted the dentist.

I cannot tell you how much I hate stitches. They stung. They looked gross, and they smelled of my bad breath and singed tooth. But they at least play an important role in the recovery process. So thank you to the dentist who sewed them on so tightly. I should be thanking you for the whole process actually, so thanks again! Also, thank you for the drugs!

The procedure was done, so I got picked up shortly after. On my way home, the blood-drenched gauze in my mouth got soggy quite fast. I felt a bit conflicted, since I couldn’t replace it until I got home.

Unfortunately, we were stuck in LA traffic — so it took an hour to get from Little Tokyo to Westwood. I would just have to bear the wait, and embarrassment of having to aim my tissue at my sense-less self to keep my bloody spit from dripping. I learned the hard way not to talk or even slightly open my mouth during that ride, as that nasty concoction got over the seatbelt and shirt a few times. Yuck!

When home, I snuck to a specific women’s restroom, which normally wouldn’t have gotten much foot traffic. However, people did still drop by. A middle school cheerleader and her team came in when blood was dropping down my chin. Her jaw dropped in response, so I must have scared her. Bad time to remove the old gauze, I guess. But I wasn’t so embarrassed as amused, I soaked my fresh new gauze, stuck it on top of the wound and tidied up — making sure all the traces of red were gone.

Then it was dinner time. I had lost my appetite during the car ride home, but I knew I had to eat. My friends who had their wisdom teeth removed had previously warned me about eating enough. I think a couple of them fainted, while others vomited because there wasn’t enough to food in their stomach. I wanted to avoid that, so I took those words seriously.

I brought my turkey barley soup and glass of milk to a pretty secluded part of the dining hall. It was pretty challenging to sip and swallow, so I took longer than usual to eat. Meanwhile, a portly fellow sat down at the table adjacent to mine. He had two cheeseburgers, chicken breast, pizza and a stack of watermelon slices as high as the Empire State Building.

I was impressed, because it looked like he was eating to bulk up — something I struggle with, eating enough. I was also partially jealous, because he could eat whatever he desiree. Lastly, I was also rather entertained, because our meals stood in stark contrast to each other. I felt sorry for the guy since I stared at his food, and found it ironic that he had to sit at the loneliness corner of Bplate next to me — the girl who can’t eat!

While it was so tempting to take a photo of his dinner to show you the amount of food he ate, I resisted. It took a lot of willpower, and I didn’t want to be rude.

Poor fellow, I was already rude for not minding my own business! So I finished my soup and milk, got up and grabbed a watermelon slice on my way out of the dining commons. I struggled to bite down, and thought about getting more to turn into a juice/slush — but then I reconsidered. It would also be rude to take more than one piece fruit from the dining hall, so I settled on just going back to my room.

Popped the pills like the doctor recommended, read my friend’s awesome comic series called Ten Years, and called it an early night! 

In the aftermath, things don’t seem so bad. My daily ritual has changed, but only slightly. I take some inflammatory drugs and painkillers. I drink lots of water to stay hydrated and I have to be mindful of what I can eat.

I’m to find good food even if I can’t chew. It’ll be a fun game to see how I can get some variety and taste in the mix, so maybe it’s time to look for Indian and Vietnamese places nearby. The only downside is that I probably won’t get enough protein, and my dentist said I need to skip the gym until at least Friday. It’s a bummer, but I’ll survive. And afterwards, I’ll forget about all this!

On another note, I hope this procedure doesn’t dampen my fun. I’m so excited to watch David Sedaris tonight. Maybe I’ll be as funny and witty as him one day.

Selfies aren’t New. Neither is Narcissism in the Age of Social Media.

Each year, click-bait pieces claim that today’s youth are the worst yet.* As a result, older folks get the impression that Millennials are categorically self-absorbed, spoiled and entitled. It’s repeated so often. Even mainstream news outlets like NPR, TIME, and Fortune call Millennials the “me, me, me generation”.
 
Attacking our generation’s love-hate relationship with taking selfies, critics claim that young people are vapid and vain. But who’s to say the previous generations wouldn’t have indulged in the same activity, had they possessed the technology?

Selfies are an inherently narcissistic act, but this quality isn’t unique to Millennials.

People assume Millennials are more narcissistic, because we take selfies. Especially since we take thousands of them a year. We then share our favorites on Instagram and Facebook for “likes”, a social currency externally validating the self-worth of many young people today. Yet, this phenomenon of self-documentation and the quest for adoration is hardly new. Our forefathers were just as vain as us. It just wasn’t as apparent, since self portraits were harder to both create and preserve in a pre-digital age.

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait as a Painter, 1887 – 1888

Even before the term “selfie” was coined, the concept of recording oneself was around. The tradition predates our generation. Consider the glorified portraits that decorate the wall of a fine art gallery, or historical museum.

For these masterpieces to have been created, a wealthy patron must have endured hours of posing in front of the commissioned painter. They paid for these highly-edited reflections to immortalize their youth and power. Instead of Photoshopping their least desired traits like youngsters do today, our predecessors ordered the artisan to refine their physical imperfections with a stroke of a brush.

Likewise, who knows how long royalty and high-ranking officials have waited for their likelihood to be sculpted? Weeks? Months? The process of getting these labor-intensive art pieces done is as egotistical as today’s selfies, if not more.

Like today, people felt insecure about how their peers and posterity would view them. Regardless of social standing, everyone also feared that future generations would forget them. To safeguard their legacy, the rich paid for the luxury of canonizing themselves through sponsoring the arts. Even artists like Vincent van Gogh and Frida Kahlo battled their mortality by leaving behind self-portraits. The rest, unskilled or unlucky in finances, attempted to carry on their image, traditions and life through their offspring.

Robert Cornelius has been said to be the first to take a “selfie”; photo taken  in 1839.

From high culture to low-brow entertainment, selfies are now everywhere.

Some of the oldest photos were selfies. When the camera first came out in the early 19th century, early adopters were pleased that to wait less time in front of a camera person than in front of a traditional artist. Some folks even took control of the camera for themselves. They ingeniously experimented with mirrors to capture images of themselves.

As Kodak and others companies made film cheaper, the public bought cameras. Excited, common folks explored photography as a newly accessible medium. Camera users appealed to their own internal Dorian Gray by taking self-photographed portraits. Self portraits became commonplace among the middle class, and lost their place as an exclusive status marker for the elite. Through these photos, people insured that they were seen by future generations.

New technology through the years eventually boosted the prevalence of selfies. Flip-phones, and later, smart phones sold out as on-the-go devices for selfies. The emergence of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat made it effortless to share these images. It became easier than ever to present ourselves as who we’d like to be. Empowered, we armed ourselves with a gallery of selfies to show our best self — as artificial as it may be.**

So, you might ask, “What’s the point of ‘selfies’ if they’re mostly self indulgent?”.

Simple answer: selfies bring people joy.

While some view selfies with great disdain, others regard selfies as a positive thing. CNN writes that while looking at selfies lowers life-satisfaction, posting selfies can raise self-esteem.

We can agree that passive act of constantly consuming selfies is dangerous, because it’s deceptive to compare one’s daily life to the curated highlights of another person’s. Millennials can even experience “FOMO”, or fear of missing out, when they aren’t included in their friends’ selfies. Additionally, critics blame selfie culture for the growth of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. However, more likely the pervasiveness of digitally-edited bodies rather than selfies themselves have caused these unrealistic standards.

On the other hand, posting selfies can be a beneficial way to track development and life events. Fitness models show off their “gains” through progress photos. Parents and kids alike swap photos of fleeting moments like high school graduations. Travelers memorialize their ephemeral presence at historical-cultural landmarks. Selfies have also united people of color through online communities, where members can embrace their ethnic beauty.

If it hasn’t already happened, selfies will ultimately transition to a normalized means of documentation for people of all ages. Well-known galleries have even started collecting selfies, so it isn’t too far to consider it an accepted art form nowadays.

Call us the “selfie generation”, if you want. Millennials are no less vain than their predecessors. We should admit that humans historically have been predisposed to narcissism and self-preservation. In fact, we are all members of a “remember me” generation, even if we embrace different art forms. With or without selfies, humans will continue to find ways to express our personal vanity. It’ll be exciting to see what will come in the future.
 

*Amusingly, The Atlantic points out the ongoing tradition that the old will always find fault with the young. Google the term “juvenoia”.

**I find it just as genuine to share something on Instagram as we do through physically scrapbooking or writing an autobiography. While some argue that selfies are highly-edited and narcissistic, these other means of self documentation also carry the bias and half truths we often tell others.

Doing Things by Yourself is Satisfying

In grade school, we had recess and set play times, so we naturally ran into prime social opportunities. However, as we get older, this process of making friends gets exponentially harder. We really need to push ourselves to meet and build relationships with new people. In fact, our schedules fall out of sync with even close friends. So, what happens when you can’t make those fun plans with your buddies? Or say, if you’ve moved into a new town with no connections?

Obviously, you stay at home and cry. *Sarcasm*

On the contrary, I’d recommend finding ways to entertain yourself. In your own company, you can make plans without worrying about a friend running late, or compromising your own interests. You can take larger risks. Go at your own pace. Discover hobbies or favorite foods which your peers might not share. Read books that intrigue you. Paint a new masterpiece. There’s just so many benefits on doing things alone, if you get over yourself. Or more precisely, your self-consciousness.

No one really cares if you’re sitting in a restaurant alone, enjoying that “bougie” hipster grilled cheese sandwich. No one pays attention if you’re strolling down the park, breathing the fresh air and walking through the green grass. No one who absolutely matters will judge you.

Why?

Because they’re too absorbed in their own world, which clearly doesn’t revolve around you. So, get out and enjoy life. It’s quite normal to take those off-days where you remain inside your safe comfy room; we all need that. However, don’t forget to leave your bed and enjoy the whole world out there. And don’t ever wait for a friend to remind you this. Do it yourself, and for yourself.

Photo of Young Girl by Herself by Mi Pham

English Translation of Fish Short story

Yesterday I dreamed about two unusual fish.

The fish swam in a waterless limbo. Their fins glided so effortlessly like kites catching the wind. I myself didn’t understand, but they wanted to tell me a story about their first meeting. The first fish had a weak fin. Although her scales shined and glimmered, they could not make up for the fish’s apparent disability. The other fish was beautiful in her own right. Her eyes were a brilliant blue hue. Unfortunately, she had poor vision. Since they once lived in separate tanks, they had never met each other for the longest time.

In fact, they had never seen each other, despite their homes being adjacent to one another. A potted bonsai obscured their views. The fish lived so close yet so oblivious to each other’s presence, as neighbors sometimes are. However, this all changed one summer day. That day, the waters turned murkier than usual for the poor-sighted fish. Her owner noticed the algae blooming, so naturally he decided to clean the tank. In doing so, he transferred our first fish friend to the home of the second. Frightened by the large pink hand, the fish fainted.

She woke up. The unfamiliar waters made her tense. As time grew and her nerves calmed, she slowly swam around and noticed the larger space where she had been placed. She was then alarmed when another fish approached her. She sped away, faster and faster until she realized she had no idea where she was going. Unaware of her situations, she cut her weak fin on coral. Her blood laced the water. She hid in the nearest corner. The second fish followed after, but approached quietly upon the sight of the injured fish. The second offered to bandage the wound with some kelp. Dialogue ensued. It was so natural. They befriended one another, swimming, playing, exploring and gifting each other cute little pebbles.

Unfortunately, time flew too quickly. Their adventure had met an end. When the owner finished cleaning the first fish’s home, he took her back home. The first fish was upset more than ever before. She cried, but of course, who could see a fish’s tears in the waters? She meditated, trying to decide what to do. However, she could not forget the other fish. A minute passed. Then, there was a scream of loud obscenities. The owner had knocked over the bonsai, soil gushing out of the pot. Visible was the mangled green tree, which laid dead on the ground. The shattered pot that once divided the tanks destroyed.

At that moment, the two fish had heard the noise. They swam up the edges of their homes to see the clear glass walls which separated them. For a while, they were convinced that saw each other. They played, swam around and showed each other pebbles just as before. However, it felt slightly off. Why was there so much mimicry? They were duped by the artificial memory of their friend. They only saw their own reflection in the cold aquarium walls.

The first fish quickly gave up hope. Her fin grew stronger and she later became adjusted to her solitude. She needed no one and lost all memory of her blue-eyed friend. However, the second would not give up. Her vision grew worse and worse each day. Over time, she only saw blurred shapes and figures, yet she was certain that she would see her friend. It was the same day her own tank was due for a cleaning. As soon as the owner removed the lid, our blue-eyed fish made a heroic jump. She fell for an endless period of time, and then she felt nothing. Her vision turned black.

The end.

Featured Image by Mathias Appel via Flickr

Первая Часть от Моего Рассказа

There was this poem that
stalked my mind, but sadly I’ve forgotten its name and its author. It
was written by an Asian American poet, and the poem was shaped like a
fishbowl. I read two years ago, because a former friend talked about
his English assignment. Then a year later, it was on the English HL
test in May 2011. It was a fantastic experience to encounter this
familiar poem once more. As you could imagine, I had lots of fun
while analyzing the poem. Although it was a rather short piece, I
never could remove the concept out of my mind. And so, during one of
my sadder days in Russia, I wrote a short story.
And today, I rediscovered
it on my laptop.
Вчера
мне приснились две необычные рыбки. Они
забыли, как и когда они попали в таких
странных положениях, но наверно это
случилось недавно. У одной рыбы был
слабый плавник, но она была очень милая
с разноцветной чешуой. А у другой рыбы
были яркие голубые глаза, и, к сожалению,
плохое зрение.
Рыбы
никогда не видели друг друга раньше,
потому что они жили в разных аквариумах.
Они даже не знали, что их дома находились
близко из-за одного высокого домашнего
растения между аквариумами.
Однажды
хозяин хотел помыть аквариум, где жила
рыбка с голубыми глазами, поэтому он
перенёс её в другой аквариум. Ей было
страшно быть в чужой воде, но когда
познакомилась с другой прекрасной
рыбой, она чувствовала себя удобна.
Вместе они плавали по всему аквариуму,
говорили о своей любимой еде, и играли
в прятки. Быстро они подружились.
К
сожалению, время тоже быстро пролетело.
Хозяин закончил мыть аквариум, где жила
рыба с голубыми глазами. Он вернул её
домой. Рыбка заплакала, но конечно ни
человек не мог видеть слезы рыбы в воде.
Наша бедная подруга не знала почему, но
она не могла другую рыбку забыть.
Теперь
между двумя аквариумов существовало
нет высокого растения . Рыбы могли
смотреть друг на друга мимо холодных
прозрачных стеклов. И, так они продолжали
общаться. Они поговорили, когда возможно.
Показывали новые интересные камешки
друг друга, рассказывали о жизни,
придумывали о будущих приключениях
вместе.
Они
старались держать дружбу очень сильно,
но это было не совсем как раньше. Стеклими
стенами разлучили рыбок. Впридачу,
каждый день рыбка, которая была с голубыми
глазами и плохим зрением, видела хуже
и хуже. Трудно ей видеть даже вещи в
своём аквариуме. Как могла она видеть
свою подругу?
И,
вдруг я встала от сна. Это было не ясно
мне что произошло с рыбами. Задумалась
и задумалась я. Потом я знала. Я была
довольна с двумя противоположными
вариантами для нашего конца:
…Продолжаться во второй частье.
…And
it continues, but I’ve lost the original entry in my diary. I threw
it away by accident. Yikes! However, I’m sure I’ll eventually rewrite
the two endings. I have the gisp of what happens, but the exact words
are gone.