Young Father

I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a child during college. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have married at 18. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have that kind of responsibility at such a young age.

But my friend can. Not only that, he knows what it’s like. He married at 18 and had his first child around 19. His precious daughter is now six and he is at community college doing his uttermost best for himself and his family.

When I first met him, I could tell that there was something different about him. There was something bigger that made him that much more driven to learn in class. He was obviously hardworking and motivated in class. He always seemed to be in a rush yet casually went through his days. To be blunt, there was always something different about him even from the beginning.

After learning he was a father and a husband, I couldn’t get him out of my head for several days. He was so genuinely caring when he sat me down and talked to me. He had a tone of love in his voice when he talked about his family with a smile on his face. To a certain extent, I thought I was lucky to have seen that other side to him because he is definitely different in the classroom and with the other students.

As someone who has never been a mother and don’t know what it is like to be living his life, I don’t have any right to advise him on how to raise his child. But as a daughter of two very busy parents growing up, I hope for the best kind of environment for his daughter to grow up in.

I hope he spends as much time with her as he possibly can. I hope he doesn’t constantly shut her out after a busy day to work or school. I hope he doesn’t constantly keep things from her in hopes he will spare her from worrying. I hope he does his best to be there with his daughter as she grows up. I hope he does his best to get to know her through all the different phases of her life. I hope he does his best to cherish all the memories they make while she’s young. I hope he does his best to be involved with her life as much as he can.

I see him as a wonderful young man. I can only hope he is the perfect husband for his wife, and the world’s best dad for his daughter.

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A Reoccurring Dream

After a long week of work and study, I collapse into my king-sized bed and throw the comforter over myself. The quiet humming of the AC calms me somehow as I snuggle into my blanket and close my eyes. Finally, I could sleep without worrying about tomorrow’s schedule. It was Friday night after all.

Soon, I see this white light in front of me. It wasn’t as if I were standing in front of a lightbulb, where the light is too blinding to even look at. It was as if my eyes were protected somehow, allowing me to look straight ahead…despite not knowing what I was looking at in the first place.

I believed I was asleep but couldn’t shake the feeling of “having been here”, the feeling of deja vu. This warmth coated my body and suddenly I felt weightless. All the stress in my body completely disappeared. All the tension in my muscles, which have been there for years and years, had simply vanished. I didn’t remember the last time I felt like this, but I didn’t ever want to leave.

I looked ahead again, towards this oddly calming light and felt a pull towards it. My feet felt as if I was suspended in the air, so I could not walk forward but I felt my legs try to. It was as if I was being called, as if I was returning somewhere I’ve been before. I kept looking at this light but could not understand what about it fascinated me so much.

After a while, I felt a hand reach out to me. Something told me everything is going to be okay. Something told me I was taken cared of. Something told me all I had to do was wait for whatever is supposed to unfold next. It was as if something was guiding me. Somehow I was protected. Somehow I was watched over, in a way. Somehow…I had this sense of security.

Then I opened my eyes and found myself still laying in my bed, surrounded by the darkness that is nighttime. But I found myself holding onto that sense of security, and I felt in my heart that everything was going to be okay. Something told me I wasn’t alone. Something told me I was taken cared of. Something told me I was promised…what, I don’t know.

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Everything That Has Become My Life

A paper I wrote a couple years ago about my freshman year in high school reads:

The room was crowded, the people noisy and the environment slightly intimidating. There were people sitting in the chairs, at the desks, on top of the tables and even outside the door due to the lack of personal space. You looked around and almost everyone you saw had a bright smile on their face, or that spark of hope in their eyes. It was a new year, and we’ve all heard so much about this class. A place where you could do your own thing, create, and put together something was a place I wanted to be. I’ll never forget the first time I shyly asked to take out a camera. My teacher greeted me with a warm, supportive and loving smile, as he made sure I knew how to take care of the equipment and use it properly.

“I think you’ll do well with this camera, here.” He handed me a Nikon D50, holding the lens, reflecting the sunlight into my eyes, in one hand and the body in the other. “You press this button here, the settings for manual and everything is here…do you get it?”
“I know, thank you.” I said as I began on my way.

Although he hadn’t given me advice or taught me anything I didn’t already know, his encouragement was enough to push me down my path of photography. After that I spent countless numbers of days outside the classroom just wondering the campus, trying out new techniques and angles along with lighting and settings. After that I soon became one of the major photographers the team had. Throughout my time with them, on the team, my teacher’s constant support and encouragement never died down or ceased to help.

Because of this, I was invited to be apart of the editor’s page in the back of the yearbook where all of the highest contributors got their photo printed along with an original quote. The photo shoot was going to be taken professionally by PSS Imaging. I was going to be the only freshman, and only newcomers presented in the back. It was a real honor to me to be apart of the experience.

When I got to the studio, the senior portraits were hanging beautifully on the walls; the smiles bright and the eyes glittering with excitement. I wondered what it would be like to have graduated and go through everything that comes with the process. The idea of getting there was a rush of hope for the future.
While I looked through the files and past yearbooks the company had contributed in, our team walked into the dressing room one by one. A young lady came out to get us and guided us through the different doors. Everyone was very jumpy, talking about what poses they were planning on doing, or what quote they had sent in to be published. Everyone was smiling and happy. Everyone was looking forward to the experience. Everyone, but me.

I was rather nervous. I would never choose to be in front of the camera rather than be behind it. I would have always been the photographer, not the model. I would have never thought I’d know what to do in such a situation.

But when I got in there, everything happened very quickly. The movements seemed very naturally. The lighting was a bit harsh, reflecting on the white surface surrounding me on the ground below and the wall behind. The rest of the room was internally dark, mysteriously holding vague shapes of other objects I could not make out.

Later when I left, the experience was very appreciated. I was with my friends. We made a very memorable last memory together as the year ended. The page turned out perfectly when the book got published, a few weeks late. The photos were beautifully selected, the quotes incredibly original, the designs stunningly simple yet elegant.

When I look back to this class, I realize my life changed, and my path began starting at this point. When I took my first step down the path, I knew I wasn’t going to change courses. Without my experience there I would not had fallen for the art of photography, I would not had found such a loud voice without saying anything, and I would not had found a passion I always yearned for without traveling that far.

“There’s an event this week, do you need to check out a camera?” My teacher would always ask me this, knowing I would never turn down an opportunity to take pictures.

I went to many events I would have never been to if not for the purpose of being behind the lens. I got to meet so many friends, and make countless numbers of memories as time went by. My experience there was something I’ll never forget.
“This is a very great photo of her. It’s one of the very, very rare pictures you’ll see. She’s always on the other side of the lens.” He teased, eyes glittering with joy, as my friends came across a photo of me in the published yearbook we had all helped put together.

To this day, I still hold photography has a huge portion of my life, as well as who I am. I tend to look at the world as if I am constantly holding a camera to my eye. I tend to look for opportunities for a different angle, lighting, camera setting, or just place in general. As I got more into photography, I noticed myself getting more and more creative as well as open and bold. It’s a huge part of me, what I do.

When photography came into my life, I would always be doing something. Time has gone by a lot and I’m still doing things. I take photos for my school’s programs, I’m in classes, I’m historian, I’m putting together photo shoots with my friends, and so forth. I go through my photos, being able to see a storyline of my own life through the lens I once looked through. There was a period where I had a monochrome phase, or a close-ups phase. These ‘phases’ I went through told a lot about what I was going through at that time. Sometimes it was that I was facing something hard to handle and got depressed, or I was feeling girly and focused on flowers. Most of the time, I wouldn’t go far from home. There would be photos of things around the neighborhood, like flowers and the empty street, or the sunset or sunrise. There were even times that I stayed inside. I would find objects around the house and have a photo shoot with that, practicing backlighting, fill lighting and diffusion lighting. I would play with the settings on my camera, the Photoshop on my computer, or the tripod stand my dad hides secretly in his closet.

I know when you ask someone about me, you’d hear that I have really long hair, and the normal stuff like being ‘nice’, ‘a great friend’ or ‘smart’, or you would hear that I’m really into photography. People know me for having my camera around, doing events, and my photos. I love it. It’s my life, and I never would have guessed it would start from that one simple classroom.

In that classroom, I learned a lot about teamwork, cooperation and timing as well as friendships, guidance and leadership. Working on a project with dozens of dozens of other students was never the easiest task for a lot of us. Especially when you don’t ever see half the people you work with, it becomes extremely important to make sure you get your part done because someone else might be relying on that one portion. I know my peers always thought it was all fun and games working on the yearbook and getting to say you helped put it together. There were always those people who look down on us who work day and night to simply get together one outline of one page. But in reality, you learn a lot in that class. You learn a lot about the other people you work with, about responsibilities and work effort. You learn a lot of things that other classes can’t teach you, because it’s not something that’s taught but has be to be experienced and dealt with.

I’ve taken a lot away from my experience personally. I walked away proudly to have been apart of the team, and the family. And even though I’m not with my old friends or my “co-workers”, I will always have the memories and lessons learned. My life changed, and can never be rewound back.

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I Can’t…

As much as I wish to help you through all the ups and downs, as much as I want to protect you from everything that is the pain of life, as much as I want for you to have everything that is in your dreams…I can’t live your life for you. I can’t speak your mind in your place. I can’t always be there to stand up for you and protect you. I can’t always be all the help and guidance you need.

I see you going through your days. I see you pushing through all the tasks you need to get done. I see you stressing and worrying even despite all your attempts to stay calm and shrug everything off as if it were nothing. I see you.

And I see nothing but a wonderfully strong warrior who has gotten through all the battles that were designed to push you down. I see someone who is so strong, so intelligent. I see someone who has a big heart even despite all the times it had broken to pieces. I see someone who will go far in life.

I know “following orders” is always the easier path of many. I know simply “listening” to what others tell us is probably the course with least resistance. But, sometimes, you need to fight back.

The world pushes you down. The world tries to tear you apart (from someone, from something, even from yourself). The world goes on and never waits for you to wake up.

I see you walking through your days trying to simply stay busy and neglect everything you truly need to think about. I see you occupying yourself with tasks that might even be meaningless in the long run. I see you trying to avoid the questions that need to be answered. I see you trying to walk the other direction even when you know you can’t avoid it for long.

And as much as I want to help you, as much as I want to see you get through this…at the end of the day, I can’t speak for you and I can’t make your decisions for you. You need to put up a fight. You need to realize that reality will, one day, hit. You need to discover what has been missing all this time.

You need to calm down and look around. You need to fight for what you want. You need to keep walking forward instead of standing still. You need to reach out your hand and grab everything you wish for.

I can’t do it for you.

Moxie

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Someone

In this period of time where nothing but work and study should be a priority, I find myself yearning for a little bit more time to spend with my friends…to spend writing my heart out…to spend exploring the beauty that surrounds me with my camera in hand……to spend with family.

It’s a headache to have to do nothing but work and study from dawn to dusk and dusk to dawn. It’s exhausting to never really get the human interaction component in your life that you crave so much. It’s petrifying to see yourself become so exhausted and so stressed that you have become pale, have lost any appetite for a meal, or snack, even, and have no longer find sleep comforting.

I know…I know…
I made this choice. It was my call whether I wanted to take the hardest portion of calculus over summer, and take another STEM course, AND work part-time to have any income. I could’ve avoided this if I had just said ‘no’.

But, guess what?
I don’t regret it.

I find myself completely engaged every morning when I go to lecture. I find myself easily smiling and laughing at the side of my classmates during my night lecture and lab. I find myself feeling proud of myself when I check off yet another task from what seems to be an endless to-do-list.

The only thing missing is…
Someone. A close friend.

Someone to tell stories to about my day and about the amazing lecture I just went through. Someone to hear my giggle as I go off about how excited I am for this fall, when I get the honor of learning from these professors even more. Someone to look at me wide-eyed as I tell them about my studying schedule and for me to just laugh back at them because, even though I agree with them on the fact that it sounds like hell, and maybe it is but, I will make it through.

Someone to go to lunch and talk about our plans for the next week, for the next month, for the next semester. Someone to fantasize the future with. Someone to talk about new discovered pet peeves, about new coffee shops, about new friendships, about the “new life” that we find ourselves living. Someone to complain to about how long lecture was or how much studying we always try to avoid but always have to get through. Someone to laugh with, to joke around with, to tease endlessly…to make those beautiful summer memories.

Basically, someone to make all this feel like SUMMER, feel like LIFE.
Because, without all that, without a close friend by my side, in my life, I’m not “living” but I’m simply “getting by”.

Don’t doubt that I’m not so proud of myself for wanting to try this and actually going through with it, despite all my fears, worries, and doubts. Don’t doubt that I wouldn’t go back into time just to do it all over again. Don’t think that I wish for any of this to just “go away”. Because, I don’t.

I know this summer has been hard. I know this month has seemed like it lasted for years and years because of all the stress and pain. I know it’s had its suffering days. I know there were nights that I just couldn’t sleep. I know there were nights that I would wake up with yet another nightmare. I know it hasn’t been the watermelon and strawberries that is summer.

But…it’s my summer…

I’m working hard to achieve a goal. I’m working hard for a future that is still unknown. I’m doing my best to get by with what I have and what I know how to do. I’m doing my best to keep it together and get it all figured out. In the end, I’m doing something with my life. I might not have the time to go shopping, to simply lay in bed and complain about the heat, to spend all my days with friends, or to binge that show on Netflix (not that I haven’t watched a few episodes here and there), but I’m getting shit done.

The only thing I will complain about…and will probably complain about some more after I’ve written this post…is the fact that I haven’t really spoken to anyone in a month. That human interaction that we, as humans, naturally crave? Yeah, that has somehow disappeared from the equation that is my life right now.

That “someone”/ those “someones” are nonexistent right now.
And it’s such a pain to have to chase after people during my busy schedule that is driving me insane.

I’m exhausted. I’m out of energy. I’m drained.
I’m stressed. I’m worried. I’m restless.

I don’t regret this summer…but, like I said, the only thing missing is…

SOMEONE

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An Escape, Please

I sat at my desk, scribbling away at some integrations from calculus class. A headache pounded my head after days depending on my caffeine intake, because I could never find myself able to go to sleep until it was too late. If waking up each morning before the sun rises wasn’t hell enough, getting through the day with my eyes constantly wanting to take a nap during lecture was ten times worse.

How was I supposed to get through my days when I couldn’t even manage to give myself enough energy to retain any of the information my professors blabbed on about? My body constantly pleaded me to go to bed, to go rest, to do anything but the hundreds of math problems I had on my desk. I couldn’t blame myself either because for days, for weeks, it’s been a constant flow of studying and nothing else.

Food? Snacks? Drinks? Friends? Breaks? No. No. No. No. And no.

I got up bright and early and go to class right away. I headed to the library or home and study until dinner or my night class. I got through that and then back to my desk to study. I stayed and studied until I knew it would be impossible to be up the next morning unless I either went to bed or suffered through another all-nighter.

It was a little too much. Too bad I had underestimated the intensity of my schedule when I still had a chance of changing it.

Then the one thing that puts me over the edge comes faster than I could’ve imagined. Surgery. My dad needed surgery. Him. Not me. But him. He needed surgery.

After that, I began sitting at my desk holding a pen in my hand and a piece of empty lined paper under my arm, but I wouldn’t be moving. I’d stare at the page and stare blankly at the integral sign, but I wouldn’t write. I’d go to lectures and I would take beautiful notes, but all of that stopped making sense and I wouldn’t know what to do.

I mean, what do you do write when nothing but panic runs through your mind. What are you supposed to say when you are overwhelmed like no other. What are you supposed to do when you are in over your head and internally screaming when no one seems to be listening and no one seems to even notice. What are you supposed to do…tell me, because I don’t know.

It went from not eating and not taking many breaks because I was busy studying, to not eating and not sleeping much because I was nauseous was worry and fatigue from the panic.

I just needed an escape from everything…but it never came.

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No, Thank You

You want me to follow your rules?
You want me to follow your orders?

I say, “No, thank you.”

You want me to hide my true self and everything about me for your own facade.
You want me to hide all my struggles and all my problems for your name’s sake.

I say, “No, thank you.”

You want me to devote my life to something I have no interest in.
You want me to change my whole personality to just please you.

I say, “No, thank you.”

I got my life figured out.
I know where I want to be.

You want me to stop doing things I love just save face for you.
You want me to stop caring about things I adore just for you to look better.

I say, “No, thank you.”

You want me to follow your rules and do nothing wrong.
You want me to obey you and ask zero questions about anything.

I get it.

You want the best life for me that you can imagine.
You believe there’s only a couple ways for me to find happiness.

I get it.

You are lost in the dreams you never got to chase after.
You are regretting the past because of where you ended up.
You want me to have a better future than your present.
You want me to be that perfect little daughter you always wanted.

But, I say, “No, thank you.”

I’m not that “perfect little daughter” you always wanted.
I don’t completely love the path you have chosen for me.
I am not a machine you can just build up to whatever you want.
I have to follow my own dreams and chase after the things I want.

You want me to simply listen to you.
You want me to just be obedient to you.

I respect you enough.
I love you enough.

But I also have to love myself.

So, I say, “No, thank you.”

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Chiến đấu.

One last time. One last straw. One last breath. One last war.

I don’t want to walk away thinking I could’ve done something different, that I didn’t try hard enough, or that I missed something I could’ve had. I don’t want to walk away thinking you were the one that got away. I don’t want to believe we messed things up and didn’t get to where we were meant to be.

So…

I will fight for us. I will try everything I can think of to make us work. I will stay around more than long enough to give us time to be okay again. I will keep you in my heart and keep hoping that I’m still in yours. I will continue to dream about us. I will continue to pray for us.

When someone means that much to you, you don’t simply let it go. It doesn’t matter what gets in the way or what it takes to get over roadblocks. It doesn’t matter how long we have to wait. It doesn’t matter who disapproves or who tries to get in the way. It doesn’t matter…because what is meant to be will always find a way.

I believe I love you for you for a reason. I believe we have our connection as proof that we are meant to be something. I believe we are what we are for some kind of purpose that will play out in the rest of our lives. I believe…something about us was meant to be.

So take my hand and I’ll lead the way. Stay with me and I’ll be strong for the both of us. Believe in us and there won’t be anything that can hold us back.

One more time. One more chance. One more war.

Believe in us. Let me in your heart. And take my hand. We will get through this.

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UCLA 

She has worked through school by herself, her parents being people who only ever graduated high school but didn’t retain much. She was taught at a young age to always wear a mask for the people around you mean nothing but harm. She was isolated from friends and invisible chains which kept her in place where her family and her future came first. 

She has learned, through many events, that the world is a mysterious place. She has learned that hard work and dedication gets you far. She has learned that your own blood doesn’t always mean the best. She has learned so much…and all she wants to do is help. 

She wants to become a doctor. She wants to make a difference. She wants to find her place in this world. Her medical career means so, so much to her. She has worked day and night to achieve her dreams. 

She is my sister. 

She had watched me undergo multiple surgeries. She had witness my struggle through my battles. She had made a choice, to become like the doctors who saved my life and gave me hope. 

She is caring. She is kind. She is thoughtful.  She is grateful. She is wise. She is loving. She is compassionate. She is determined. She is a go-getter. She is well accomplished. She is a warrior. She is a dreamer. She is a daughter. She is a sister. 

She is waiting for her acceptence letter from UCLA still. If she gets in, she leaves this July and starts her journey to become a doctor. She will start another chapter in chasing her dreams. 

I pray for her to get in. My heart aches to watch her so stressed. I worry for her well being as the pressure and the waiting gets to her, more and more. She has her backup plan. She has a future in the medical field either way. But she deserves this. I pray for her suffering to end happily with an acceptance letter from UCLA. 

She will become a beautifully strong and incredibly smart doctor. She will not only help countless of patients, but leave warm memories in their minds just as my own doctors did. 

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A Letter I Never Thought I’d Write:

I am nineteen years old. I am Asian-American. I am a first generation college student. I am the product of who wonderful immigrants who had fallen in love. I am the daughter of a woman who had to live through the heartache of being separated from her immediate family. I am the daughter of a strong man who had to sacrifice his future of the future of his younger siblings. I am the younger sister to one young woman who you know has done so much in her life. I am the best friend and mentor of a young teenager who is doing her best to endure the harsh winds of life with the resources she has been given, to keep on smiling and keep her head up, and to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am a close friend of a wonderful young man who has been through thick and thin to get to where he is, to preserve the heart he has, and to survive all the battles he’s been put through. I am a friend to many whom I wish to help by spreading some happiness in their lives and to make their lives a little easier than before.

I am one of the many who has fought through depression, in which I am one of the people who had survived. I am a one of those who has been through one too many surgeries. I am a one of the people who has felt the pain underneath the knife, in more ways then one. I am one of the countless who struggled with accepting their own past, and even their own reflection which they face in the mirror. I am one of the billions of people who have made countless mistakes and have wished to take back every last one in hopes of having a better outcome. I am one of the many strong and brave warriors that walk on this earth who are learning what it means to live.

I am an artist. I am a photographer. I am a writer. I am a passionate soul who wishes to reach all ends of the world with the words and ideas that come through her mind. I am one who carries a big heart, not only because I wish to spread kindness but because I have felt the uttermost pain I do not wish on any other soul. I am one who carries a heavy heart. I am a compassionate warrior who thrives to connect with those she comes in contact with in hopes she will shine a little light into their darkness.

I am a young woman who strives to find her place in this world, because she knows, deep down in her heart, that she belongs. I am a young woman thirsty for love, an emotion and a drive that many witness but few ever understand. I am a young woman fighting her battles day in and day out, never wanting to give up and just settle down for something less than what she deserves. I am a young woman looking for the companion who will be my equal other half.

I am a daughter…just as he is a son.

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