New Year Resolutions

I decided that this year will be different from all previous resolution-forgetting, resolution-neglecting years. It WILL be different, it WILL be successful, and it WILL carry its success spirit over to the future.

So other than putting a bunch of WILL's in my post, what exactly will I do differently this time around, to ensure that my goals are met?

For starters, I am now using Joe's Goals to track my progress. It is a simple goal-tracking application, where you give points for days that you were successful, or negative points for unsuccessful days. You can track as many goals as you wish, even writing logbooks to detail them. The only complaint that I have is the negative/positve point system. I'm not quite sure how to utilize negative points to my advantage, and there is no help page. But I'll take a wild guess and say that really, it's up to you how to score goals.

Secondly, I have an account at Mint.com. Money always dragged me down in years past, due to my family's less-than-ideal financial situation, and since October, I have been left to feed, shelter, and clothe myself, with the only monetary help coming from my brother to help fund my tuition. Therefore, because I'm somewhat prone to impulsive buying and forgetting, I need a way to help track my assets without having to write everything down. Mint.com exceeds my needs, even going so far as to track HOW my money is spent, a feature that I desperately need.

Finally, for those who don't know, I have been deep in graphic-novel obsession for months now, and a few notable works have given me hope and motivation to create my own. It's about time to get my daydreams, obsessions, and confessions into the open air and hold nothing back. I hope to free myself from the burdens that has plagued me since childhood, and working on a graphic novel will help with that.

"All right!" you say, "get on with it! What ARE your goals?"

1. Work on my own website. Originally planned for completion by the end of Summer 2008, it... obviously hasn't happened (otherwise, I wouldn't be using Blogger). I hope to have some working version by the end of January. In addition to a blog, I hope to put up an artwork gallery, web design works, a collection of writings, and a music collection. The first item is in high priority.

2. Work on my first graphic novel. This is more of an anthology of short stories rather than a novel, but I lack the proper term to describe this ("graphic anthology"?). A full-fledged autobiography (possible a series) is in the planning stage, though the anthology comes in first; after all, I need first a small step into the graphic-novel industry. This goal is a bit more difficult to achieve, primarily because I don't have many acquaintances or friends who are as obsessed about graphic novels as I am. But I'm sure Comic Relief (the local comics store in Berkeley) has some resources.

3. Draw and/or doodle every day. I got this idea from Dani Jones, who wrote about overcoming artist's block and fueling creativity. The idea is simply to draw anything every day, setting aside a few minutes to do so. The doodles can be ANYTHING, on the condition that they are not for any particular job, and they have to stretch the imagination a bit. I decided to extend it to devoting half an hour every day for doodling and sketching. And what better time to do so than right before bedtime :). Check out Dani's original post.

4. Get no more than 8 hours of sleep every day. Not as trivial as you may think. I sleep a lot (well, definitely a lot more than most CS majors :)), clocking in an average of 10 hours per day. That may seem nice, but seriously, too much sleep isn't good. If I get too much sleep, I feel inclined to sleep more. Not kidding. Under this condition, I could spend a whole day in bed, a situation that I wish to avoid. After all, I want/would like to stay productive.

5. Make music. While I have Reason 4 and Ableton Live, I touched them very sparingly, Ableton even less so. This goal won't have much progress until I get my Macbook Pro (yeah, I ordered one before New Year's) - my current laptop is underpowered, not to mention prone to crashed and lags and slowdowns and frozen screens and yadayadayada. Why music? Because I have a lot of songs in my head that I made up and never got around to record/compose them. It'll be nice to see what they actually SOUND like, rather than IMAGINED like.

The above goals are to be worked on every day. Unfortunately, I can't seem to share my goals on Joe's Goals. A simple profile page would be nice.

So! What's in it for you?

It's much easier to accomplish your goals if your friends are involved: to cheer you on, to lend a helping hand, to bet a hundred bucks that you can't do this. So fellow readers and friends, when you can, when you want to, nag me about my New Year's resolutions. Nag nag nag me until I reach my wit's end. Seriously. Nag me. I'll thank you for it.


Living Off a Prayer

Prayers scare me. Or unsettle. Or rattle. I'm not sure which. All I know is that they make me uncomfortable.

Since meeting and acquainting with a few Muslim classmates, I have, on several occasions, witnessed their praying sessions. In every instance, I ended up straying to some corner where I could not see them, nor could I hear them clearly. The tumult resulting from hearing them pray causes me enough unrest to resort to a secluded location, where I may collect my breath and composure.

Don't get me wrong. I respect everyone's choice of faith. But prayer or words of grace, no matter in what faith, stirs up an physical ache in my chest that triggers my "flight" instinct. Only desperate willpower prevented me from fleeing the building where the prayers are conducted. Why I have this ache, I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps my lack of faith is to blame, perhaps there really is such a thing as "personal demons" that scream and struggle to flee at the sound of prayer.

If there is such a solution to this, I would like to know about it.


Streets of Berkeley

I walked the avenue till my legs felt like stone
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could hear the blood in my veins
Black and whispering as the rain
On the streets of Philadelphia...

Recently, I rediscovered "Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen, part of whose lyrics are printed above. I don't remember the movie at all, but the song's melody stayed with me since I saw the movie many years ago. Now, I'm playing the song, over and over again.

I often wonder how many people wander their neighborhood streets, destination unknown or neglected. The simple joy of treading familiar and foreign territory, discovering the expected and the new, in urban forests or suburban plains, surpasses the joys I experience from entertainment, digital or analog. I only regret that I never thought about carrying about my sketchbook until now. There were so many scenes I witnessed that are unique to their moments.

But I have always walked the streets alone. The last time I dragged someone out on my sidewalk-hikes, he was practically begging to go back to his place (sorry, Steven ^_^;;;). Perhaps it was the aimlessness of my Spaziergang, or the fact that I couldn't find the school I was looking for (Hillside School), that exhausted him. I could hike up the mountainous neighborhoods of Northside and come back down without rest, and expel barely a tired breath. The hiking trips in Alum Rock Park with my father must be the culprit behind my fitness. I don't think a lot of friends that I know can lay claim to that privilege.

Left with my own mind as my companion, I could wander and end up in a outlandish street, unaware of my path (this is how I found the aforementioned school one day and couldn't retrace my path for Steven). In this way, I have walked great distances that many would prefer to bike. I dared to walk to the neighboring town of Albany twice so far, and a good distance into Oakland many times. After every session of depression and social anxiety group help at Kaiser in Oakland, I would walk towards my Berkeley home at nine in the evening, four miles away (the Target store in Albany is 4.5 miles away from my current residence), with the intention of catching the 51 should it chance to pause at the nearest bus-stop. Countless times I end up missing the bus, watching it zoom by, and kept walking, knowing that the next time the bus comes along, I may as well be close to finishing my trip by foot.

These lonely trips by aching foot gave me many views of the streets of Berkeley and Oakland as they really are, when most people might zoom by in their cars and bikes, privileged as they are to possess such convenient transportation. I watched cats and squirrels dodge looming vehicles and duck under parked ones. I listened to lonesome rants of homeless folk as they carted their shopping carts to the next trashcan. I smelled their repulsive isolated body odor lingering near store corners and sidewalk trees. I avoided catcalls from street roamers as they hung around solitary 7-Elevens.

All this I witnessed with my eyes and ears, and no one lent theirs to accompany mine. But I want someone to join me someday. I cannot walk alone all the time. It will be nice to actually talk to someone while I embark on a Spaziergang. And frankly, walking alone is, well, lonesome. The silence of the neighborhood, especially that of Northside, hovers impatiently over me.

Funny thing is: the reason why I love fall and winter more than the warmer seasons is because I love to walk. Nothing, absolutely nothing, delights me more than strolling in the rain on the hilly Northside, with raindrops dripping off barren trees and onto my rain-jacket, and my breath seeping out between my lips and dropping down with the weight of the rain. Even better: nocturnal strolls. December chill + 11pm + downpour = winter delight.

So? Will you join me one day? Will you risk hypothermia and wander with me in the winter rain? Or sweat and wheeze in the summer evening while I laugh and point at the bay-view? Soon? Later? Never?



Perfection Unpersonified

Let's talk about perfection.

I'm not perfect. Oh, I have a lot of vices. I wish I didn't. The person that I wish to be is drastically different from the person that I am. Oftentimes I find myself dreaming about futures revolving around the perfect me, untainted, unspoiled, unsinned. Everything is predictable, everything is according to my wishes, everything is perfect.

Then I wake up and find myself clutching my blanket, with dreary sunshine through my window blinds and an anxious alarm squeaking from my cell phone. And things feel a lot colder.

Oh, I am a romantic fool, a title I accept without contest. I muse in Shakespearean verse, I think in hyperboles and melodrama, I speak in attempted prestige. When something goes wrong or proceeds contrary to my liking, I feel like the sky just fell on me. No matter how professional I can be, how respectful I can be, I still have the heart of a child that wants and wants and never gets what she needs.

I have a heart the size of a world that not even Atlas can bear. Can anyone match its size? Can anyone bear it for me? Can I ease the burden off my chest?

I am selfish. There are many desires unfulfilled, many frustrations unappeased, many inopportunities unsolved. I want so much and yet cannot receive them. I know it is wrong to be so selfish, but my heart disobeys my mind. It is like a greedy monster of a child that my motherly mind has to raise, all by herself.

There are so many things I want to say to the people I love, the people I hold most dear to my heart. I want to speak, not write, not sit here and muse and lament and bitch and scream. But my lips stay shut. My courage evaporates. And the words become unspoken, and I beat myself up for lacking the courage and the willpower.

Maybe I love too much to say much. This world just doesn't seem to have any more room or desire for romanticism.

Yes, I have a guilt complex. It keeps haunting me, refraining me, restricting me. It beats me up and leaves me in a ditch of hatred. It whips me and shuts me in a cell of woe.

The perfect person, I will never be. But what is perfect? Is it the perfection that many people seek? Are we searching for the wrong perfection? I believe, or want to believe, that the "inperfect world" we live in, is in fact perfect. The "inperfect man" is in fact perfect. We just need to redefine our definition of "perfect".

I want so much. I need so little. What better discrepancy than this? And what more can I say? What more can I say?


There's no end to this.


The Birds Just Ate the Bees

So... let's talk about sex.

In my middle school years, I made self-pledges of abstinence from alcohol, illegal substances, and sex. The first two are still in effect, and I do not foresee the voiding of them anytime soon, if indeed they shall occur in my lifetime. So far, I have only revealed the alcohol pledge to others, and fielded questions concerning the reason behind it. That pledge shall be discussed at a different time. The pledge against illegal substances should be, I hope, self-explanatory.

The pledge against sex is a bit of a mystery to people - that is, if people actually knew about it. I had never told this pledge to anyone else, although this can be attributed to my general reticence. It was a secret shared with no one, and I felt there was no need to reveal it for any reason. My stance on the subject was clear-cut: no sex. None.

Why? Simply because I was afraid of sex. I received no advice from anyone senior to me; "the talk" never emitted from my parents' lips. The most I ever received from my parents is constant warning about trust, namely, that I shouldn't accept drinks from men. Lord knows what they could put in those innocent-looking cups of juice. Not that it mattered, because I avoid alcohol, and non-alcoholic beverages were usually self-served.

Despite the innuendo shared with friends during adolescence, the secretive, snickering chat about "making out" and "getting it on", the witnessing of couples kissing under schoolyard trees and hugging a little too intimately, I still didn't know much about sex, save perhaps for the pamphlet from my doctor. Even then, it was still a mystery. If the act was simply putting a stick-like thing in some hole on my body, then I see no reason why anyone should fret over it. Nobody frets over sticking a sausage into my mouth. Sausages are tasty, after all.

I broke that sex pledge years ago, when I realized that I was depriving myself of perhaps the greatest pleasure granted to man. Man is an animal, and should not deny himself the enjoyment of primal instincts. Who am I to pledge abstinence, when I, like many others, could barely resist feeling my body? Such irony was noted by a close friend many years ago, and he never could figure out how I could live such an irony. Not that it matters anymore, anyways.

Still, I have yet to engage in sexual intercourse. There must exist certain conditions before I would commit to losing my maidenhead: first, that it is done with the intent of love, and not just lust; second, that it must be with someone that I can trust. Both are somewhat obvious reasons, but I have had trouble finding anyone in whom I can place complete trust. It's mainly because I grew up somewhat paranoid in the first place.

Wherever I can find this apex of human pleasure, I hope the search has not been in vain. I just hope someone can understand my masochism.


Mother of Hate

I hated people. I hated them with a roaring but insidious passion. 

Some time in high school, I made up a story about a woman who murders couples in love. As a bride-never-to-be who witnessed the groom's suicide hours before the wedding, she fumed at every sight of affection expressed by others, and would secretly target them for her nightly bloodshed. She never killed women, only men, and same-sex relationships were off her radar.

If this sounds messed up, it is. It also shows how messed up I was for many years. 

The worst part, I believe, was that I could hide that hatred. I put up facades like they're just wallpaper. It's a vice more than a virtue, and I list it as a (possible) virtue because, well, some people don't like gloomy faces.

Thus, not many people knew my hatred. Not many people knew that inside the mind of an overimaginative and off-the-bat little girl was a spiteful witch who once thought of her hometown in dystopian ruins. Not many people knew that there were some days that I wanted to run out and scream at people, and let myself go.

I managed to abandon that hatred a few months ago, with great difficulty and personal intervention. I went from distrusting everyone around me to, well, liking a lot of people. It's strange, then, to imagine that just a year ago, I did something that in hindsight was dangerously stupid.

I won't go into details about what happened that February night, but a few people know, and somehow I wished they didn't know. It would have saved them some grief. But then, they did help me through, in some way, even though I wasn't aware of their help back then. At least, I wasn't unconsciously aware of their help. I knew they are supportive, but... it's hard to explain here without deviating from the topic at hand. 

From time to time, though, I still have these hatred-moments, though not as powerful as they once were. There are still times when I feel like running away without a care, hitting people without a care. Always I rebuke myself with a "shut up and bear it" comment. After all, I've met too many nice and wonderful people to lose myself, and I certainly don't wish to hurt them.

Sometimes, though, I have to wonder: Do I really hate? Do I really want to hurt? Do I really want no harm on others?

When can the line be drawn between reason and emotion, if there is a "when"? If reason is embodied, then what difference is there between it and emotion?

Perhaps none?

Internal War

Anyone who began to know me just this semester, or perhaps the previous semester, will find it impossible to believe that I am at constant war with myself. It is not a simple two-sided war; the quote "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" finds its meaning useless in this war. Everyone and everything within me is an enemy to one another.

This war reached one of its peaks last semester, due to a mistake that quickly turned into a strife of climax, where the mental blood spilled fresh from the wounds of the many me's within me, and my body was merely a wandering, soulless battlefield. Love and hate clashed, sympathy and apathy dueled, confidence and self-pitying ripped each other asunder. Day in and day out, these forces and others filled their bloodlust and craved for more. Some days were more peaceful, some more contentious. The war never reaches an end.

I firmly believe in the quote: "The worst enemy is within the self." Terrorists are a joke, sexual predators are clowns, street crazies are buzzing little flies. Insults and tirades, shot from the mouth-guns of the dissatisfied and the angry, are merely bullets of cotton to my body-shield. No one, absolutely no one, can scare or threaten me, except myself. In fact, I fear myself more than I fear death.

Last spring was also a peak in the war, and actually got me in trouble . I cannot describe how mind-altering, how uneasy and tense, the situation was. A simple war cry had found itself from my war-torn heart to an innocent victim exterior to my body. This resulted in a stressful night and a forced move into a different dormitory. I will not describe exactly what happened that night online; any curiosity can be directed to me personally. (I actually don't mind talking about it, seeing that it's in the past, but FB isn't exactly the best place to do so. It is where my trouble started, after all)

In the midst of this internal war, one stands out the most; the fight between the war generals. Here is the only two-sided battle: the duel between Heart and Mind. I think the significance of this is self-explanatory enough for me to save further details for the boldest of inquiries.

I'm not sure when the war began, but I do remember a dream I had once, a few years ago, in which a conference between enemies was held. In that conference were many me's: Anger, Happiness, Frustration, and so forth. And in the center of the conference - perhaps it was really an interrogation - was my Reason, the only soldier of the Mind, but a powerful one, worthy to be its own army. All my Emotions wanted to overpower Reason, imprison it, use it as a war slave. They threatened it, mocked it, sneered and spat at it. No war was declared then, no event worthy of initiating the declaration was made then, but it was the beginning nevertheless of the self-war.

Sometimes I look around and wonder about the people I see. Are they fighting themselves? Are they punishing their weaknesses? Are they beginning their wars? Is it possible to have no self-wars?

I do not believe embodied peace can be achieved. Perhaps the self-war is life itself, the sole meaning of "alive", and most people just don't realize it. 

Who knows? This one doesn't, this one will never, and this one doesn't care to. Also geht Leben.