Dreaming Again

You are not here to prove yourself worthy. You are enough as you are. It’s okay to not be an expert in everything. It’s okay to fail. You’re here to learn. You’re here to discover. You’re here to be happy.

It’s so hard for me to believe the paragraph that I wrote above, when I have been told otherwise my whole life. My entire existence and self esteem is built upon performing well, upon being the quintessential good girl.

I don’t want to blame anyone. But from a very young age, my achievements were all that mattered. To my parents and teachers and almost everyone else, if you weren’t the best, then you were never going to be any good, and therefore you were useless. “Not good enough” was carved into my brain, every day. Maybe it is my own fault for believing them. When I reflect on just how broken I am today, I fall into the never-ending abyss of self hate.

Honestly, I lost so much on my mission to earn those straight A’s and more. Happiness. I spent every minute working or dreading the work I had to do. Sleep. I never went to bed before midnight after 1st grade. Friends. They became competitors in an endless race. Health. I destroyed myself physically and mentally while trying to be perfect. Self worth. I was never content with who I was, unless I performed at the highest level possible.

And my biggest loss? Dreams.

When I was younger, I wanted to be so many things—a bus driver, a painter, a ballerina, an astronaut, etc. Eventually I found out that I wasn’t the best at everything. For example, in 4th grade I took an accelerated math course, and while I had an A+, I wasn’t the fastest mental math whiz in my class. I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t good enough, and that I would never be able to succeed in any of the fields I expressed interest in. My friends scoffed when I told them I wanted to become an aerospace engineer.

I was engaging in many unhealthy behaviours to cope with the stress by then. My only healthy coping mechanism was writing. I found solace in writing as I continued to feign flawlessness. Writing was the only thing I found bearable, because when I wrote I was free.

When people asked me what my dream job was, what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said I wanted to be an author. Or a hermit philosopher, because I also liked thinking about things. People sneered at me and said I was wasting my expensive education. They told me that those weren’t real careers, and that I would never earn enough money to support myself.

I don’t know exactly when I stopped dreaming, but I did. It only got worse from there. I self harmed and thought about suicide constantly. Dreams matter because they give you purpose and excitement. I wanted to be loved, accepted, and recognised so badly that I lost sight of everything that actually mattered.

This post wasn’t supposed to be depressing.

I started writing this blog post because in the past few days, I’ve noticed myself dreaming. It’s amazing to be dreaming again, after so many years. It’s so nice to be thinking about the immense possibilities in my future, rather than to just be planning my next week’s assignments out.

Right now I can see myself as a secret agent, a criminologist, a counsellor, a writer, a professor, a homicide detective, a philosopher, and so much more. All of these visions feel real. I’ve even shared my aspirations with some friends and adults on campus, and none of them have told me that my dreams were too far-fetched, too unrealistic.

One more thing, and I hope this fits in with the rest of the stuff I’ve talked about so far… I’m starting to enjoy math class again. Sure, it’s difficult. It’s challenging. It gives me headaches. But I’m learning and conquering (understanding) new topics. This gives me so much confidence and excitement. In the beginning of the year, my goal was probably to get an A. Now, I have goals that go something like: “Today, I will learn how to rationalise the denominator when there are radicals.” I’m learning for the sake of learning. It really helps that there are no academic awards, rankings, or whatever at my school. And that I am the only person with access to my marks (my scores are still in the 90s). Now I’m planning to take Calculus and Statistics before I graduate, so that I’ll be better prepared for my dream careers.

I am not here to prove myself worthy. I am enough as I am. It’s okay to not be an expert in everything. It’s okay to fail. I’m here to learn. I’m here to discover. I’m here to be happy.

I’m beginning to believe in this, and in my dreams. There are still so many things from my past that I cannot erase. I still berate myself, I still find myself stuck in a fixed mindset, I still feel very inadequate. Maybe these things will hold me back forever, although I hope not. But I know it’s not too late to be curious, passionate, and excited. After all, I’m dreaming again.

Before I sign off, please please please never tell anyone that they’re not good enough. Loving something is so much more important than getting it all right or being the best. Everyone should be given the opportunity to dream, or to dream again.

Thank you for reading. Good night.

Dreaming Again

Quotes On Pain

The past few days have been very painful for me, both physically and emotionally. “What would a teenager know about pain?” Don’t ask. We all have sorrows of our own, don’t we? Anyway, I found three quotes on pain online, and I would like to share them with you.

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” —Joseph Campbell

“It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.” —Julius Caesar

“Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” —Charlie Chaplin

It is very easy for me to get swallowed up in pain, misery, past mistakes, and bad memories. To avoid this as much as possible, I constantly try to keep myself busy and distracted. It’s a good thing that I will be very, very busy until the moment I board the plane on Friday. I have to finish (more like start) packing, work on school stuff, send a bunch of emails, and complete a section of my to-be magnum opus, among other things.

Another thing I do to block out pain is look forward to things. Right now, I can’t wait to get to Madeira (my new school) and tell you guys all about my first day there. Even when life is very bleak and boring, there is always something to look forward to (if I look hard enough). My friend said this to me in a recent Skype conversation we had:

“Look for at least one thing to look forward to, even if it’s like eating another doughnut.” —Sophia Shen

She’s absolutely right. That’s some real wisdom right there.

Have a wonderful day everyone. Thank you so much for reading my blog.

Quotes On Pain

My Goals For Sophomore Year

**I didn’t get to the point fast enough. To skip straight to my goals for sophomore year, please scroll down until you see the line of really noticeable bright pink words.**

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on this blog! In my defence, a few days ago I’ve caught a horrible cold and I’ve been feeling like utter crap. It’s not any better now, but I thought I’d write this to regain my writing momentum.

Before I get to the point, lately I have been rereading a lot of my favourite books since I won’t be able to take all of them to the States. Today I finished rereading Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. I would like to recommend both books to all of you. I love these two books because they tell the teenage story so candidly and compellingly. Especially The Outsiders, because the author was 16 when she wrote the book. So, check those out when you’ve got the time! It’s good stuff. Really good stuff.

“Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.” —Alaska Young, from Looking for Alaska
“Things are rough all over.” —Cherry Valance, from The Outsiders
By the way, you need context to fully appreciate these quotes.You really can’t get the right context without actually reading the books. I tried but I ended up deleting my explanation.

Again, before I get to the point, I know how I am going to die, kind of. I will end my own life when I get bored of it. Or, when it makes me too angry or too sad. Either that or I piss off somebody real bad and they kill me. I won’t mind. Living to a ripe old age doesn’t interest me. 

The other day my dad said something really interesting, about how we’re all going to die one day.
“Your time’s gonna run out, and whether or not you enjoy the time you have till then is up to you.” —Elsie’s Dad
I didn’t put my dad’s name up there for the sake of privacy, but yeah. I thought I’d share that. I’m gonna enjoy my time here before I go. I’m gonna try my best to enjoy my time here before I go.

The Line of Less Noticeable Bright Pink Words

Okay, finally getting to the point: My Goals for Sophomore Year.

I’ve set way too many goals over the almost-fifteen years that I have been alive. Most of those goals weren’t good for me. This time I’m not making the same mistakes again. I’m not going to set goals for things I’ll do anyway, because that defeats the point of having goals. I’m also not going to include goals that I obviously won’t keep, because I know I’ll beat myself up over it afterwards. Plus, I’m not setting a whole bunch of goals. Feeling overwhelmed isn’t a nice feeling. No more stupidity, Elsie. Never again.

The Line of Really Noticeable Bright Pink Words

 

One. I will try out ten new activities. An example of a new activity would be participating in the play, although I don’t think I will be doing that this academic year. Even if I end up disliking and quitting these activities, they will keep me involved and distracted.

Two. I will earn 5’s on the AP World, AP Psych, and AP Chinese exams. This will be challenging. AP Psych and AP Chinese will be completely self-studied (with prior knowledge, of course). I will achieve this goal by working on the material every weekend. 

Three. I will become a better person with an enriched life by practising my sight reading, by swearing less, and by strategically forcing myself to be social at times even when it’s not completely necessary. Because being social is healthy.

Four. I will write ten pieces of writing (poems, short stories, etc.) that I can be proud of. I will get at least one of them up on a public platform for others to read, enjoy, and critique. Not including any of my blog posts, by the way, although I do really like a few of them, haha.

Yep. Four goals. That’s it. Please don’t be like, these goals are not SMART, so they’re useless. For me, they are good goals, and you can keep your opinions to yourself. And yes, I’m in a stroppy mood, which is most definitely not your fault. Sorry.

Good night (or morning, or afternoon, or evening, whatever, time differences, blech). Thank you for reading, despite everything.

My Goals For Sophomore Year

G20 Summit in Hangzhou

Hey guys! Today I want to share a photo with all of you. And some other stuff too. Deeper stuff.

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I stepped outside for the first time after a god-knows-how-long nap, and it was really nice. Notice the blue sky in the photo! #nofilter! It’s never this nice here in Shanghai. The air quality was amazing too, although I couldn’t capture it with my phone.

Apparently this is because the G20 Summit is happening in Hangzhou (a nearby city). The Chinese government always shuts down all the factories when important things like this happen. The World Expo was held in Shanghai in 2010, when I was a third grader. I spent most my time frolicking outside. The air was amazing then, even more so than now, I don’t even know how to describe it.

Anyway, I look forward to reading more about this G20 Summit. A lot of important leaders from all over the world are here to debate international policies. While I won’t talk about my political views and opinions on this blog (I’m not ready for all the hate… yet), I will say this: As citizens of planet Earth, we have the right and duty to stay informed about politics, policies, governments, the choices our leaders are making—everything happening around us. Ignorance is not an option. Apathy is not an option. Whichever country you are part of, whichever party you support… please please please stay interested, please please please stay involved, and please please please vote (if you can).

I will end this blog post with one of my favourite quotes by Plato:

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

G20 Summit in Hangzhou

Oh, The Choices We Make…

I just came out of the shower and I am smelling like blueberries. I am supposed to be in a very good mood. But I’m not. My head is spinning with questions.

Are drunken words sober thoughts?

Why are we drawn to forbidden things?

What’s so appealing about losing control?

They say being an adult is hard. I wonder what it is like to be an adult and have to deal with the so-called “adult problems.” I wonder why some adults choose to “drink it all away.”

I admit that I have had alcohol before, but I’ve never crossed that line. I’ve never drunk so much so to stop caring about, well, people I am supposed to care about.

I used to think drinking was “cool.” I’m reconsidering.

Oh, The Choices We Make…

What Is Your Magnum Opus?

Magnum Opus: a work of art, music, or literature that is regarded as the most important or best work that an artist, composer, or writer has produced.

I learnt the word “magnum opus” from Charlotte the spider in Charlotte’s Web in third grade. Charlotte’s magnum opus is her egg sac, the “finest thing she has ever made.” Back then, “magnum opus” was just another new word that I could use sometime, somewhere.

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Now it means a bit more than just that.

I spent a lot of time today thinking about what my magnum opus is. I also got started on a magnum opus-worthy project. In sixth grade, my magnum opus was a 221-paged detective novel that I wrote over the course of 3 months. I was awfully proud of that piece, but now I cringe when I read it. Hopefully my new project isn’t going to be like that. I won’t disclose what my project is just yet, but I have a feeling that it will turn out to be pretty awesome.

Whatever I create now is obviously not going to be my magnum opus when I die. Because if my greatest and most important work was created at the age of 14, that would be very sad. It would mean that I didn’t develop or create new things after halfway through high school. But it is nice to be working on something that I would be very proud of upon completion. It would be my magnum opus so far. I believe that we are all here for a purpose. Most of us are still in the process of discovering what that purpose is. I think it is very important for all of us to have something like a magnum opus in our lives.

So, out of all the things you have created until now, what do you consider your magnum opus? Or, alternatively, what are you working on now that will be your magnum opus?

What Is Your Magnum Opus?

“Be Yourself.” But How?

Warning: This blog post is shamelessly unorganised. Plus, I sound more like a typical teenager than I’d like to sound. Oh, and I tried not to jump back and forth between different perspectives. I also didn’t mean to rant. It just sort of happened. In my defence, it’s 1AM over here in Shanghai.

Really? Really? You spent your precious time on Wikihow reading every article ever written on “how to make friends”? Elsie, you’re pathetic. You know that Wikihow articles are pointless, especially on the topic of making friends. All they tell you is the usual crap—be yourself, be nice, be hygienic, etc. Ugh, you have to stop wasting time. You’re never getting this hour back.

Alright, I’m done berating myself. And in this blog post, I shall attempt to make meaning out of that hour I’ve wasted. Because I’m cool like that.

A recurring piece of advice in all those articles I’ve read is: “Be yourself.”

“Be yourself” is so cliché. I see it all the time and most of times I skip over it without a second thought. But today I thought about the deep stuff behind this overused phrase, long and hard.

I mean, this is rather interesting. I’m going to a new school in September (for those of you who have been reading my blog, I apologise, I’ve said this more times than necessary), and this is the perfect opportunity to recreate myself. I can either change my entire personality, or make some tweaks here and there. The latter sounds better. I’m not about to walk into school on the first day wearing a crop top and too-short shorts that shouldn’t qualify as shorts, thank you very much. But maybe I will add a touch of confidence to my stride. I’ll hold my head up slightly, straighten my back and shoulders—something like that. Maybe I’ll wear makeup, but then I’m too lazy for that. Yeah. No makeup. Do first impressions matter? They probably do. I want to say I don’t care, but then I’d be lying. Why is lying bad, anyway?

I wonder if it is possible to completely change a person. How I present myself to the world may change, but the inner workings of myself won’t change. Or would it? I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tried to drastically change myself. And there are also other people to consider, like the people I have known before I’ve become “another person.” To them, I’ll always be the old me. Or would I? Would they be able to forget? Would I be able to forget?

So this is how I usually introduce myself: (insert smile) Hi! I’m Elsie! I am a rising high school sophomore from Shanghai! I like reading and philosophy.

That stuff covers my name, my “profession” (student), and my interests. It also shows my personality (my smile and those exclamation marks), but then almost everyone smiles when they introduce themselves. Almost everyone puts a bit more perkiness to their speech when they’re meeting someone for the first time. So that point is moot. I have better things to think about than how my default introduction is perceived, right? Right. How I introduce myself doesn’t matter. That shouldn’t define me. Wait. Do I define myself? Or am I defined by how others see me? If it’s the latter, that’s just really sad. But then again, who would I be without society? The people around me matter. I remember doing this project, “Being Human,” and my teammates and I decided that we wouldn’t be ourselves without others. I still don’t know if I agree. Why do we emphasise individuality and whatnot if it’s all caused by everyone else? So confusing. Meep!

Ok, moving on. What about labels? High school is all about labels. Although the school I attended freshman year wasn’t too big on labels, words like “sporty” and “emo” were commonly used. My current Skype profile picture is me with my short-ish, newly-pixie-cut hair covering up half my face and I’m looking down in a thoughtful, melancholy sort of way (at least that was what I was going for). And I edited the photo on iPhoto, putting myself through stuff like “Fade” and “Sepia” so that I would look even “cooler.” The “Fade” makes the bookshelf behind me look nice and old and antique-ish, although in real life it isn’t. My friends told me that I looked “emo.” Was that what I was going for? Am I emo? Of course not. I’m not emo. I’d be the last person on earth to be emo. Heck, I don’t even know what that word entails. Can a single word describe a person?

I define other people in single words, a habit that I’m trying to break because it makes me sound like some judgmental arsehole (maybe I am one?). All I see in other people, even the people I’m rather close to, must just be the tip of the iceberg. Let’s say I know this guy, let’s say his name is… I don’t know. Jack. Sure, Jack. Why not? Let’s say Jack wears chains and baggy pants and whatever teenage boys these days do to look cool. Let’s say I had a quick conversation with him once, and all he ever talked about was the new Playboy magazine. Or some other disgusting thing. If I were asked to define him, I’d be like, “Jack tries to act like he’s got swag but honestly he’s just some conceited bastard with no life.” Which could be true, but probably not. There’s probably more this Jack guy than what I see. We all have secrets. I have secrets. And labels are stupid. Why do I use them? Why, Elsie, why?

Interpreting people makes me think of Sherlock. I should really try to write a blog post without mentioning Sherlock. But Sherlock is cool. I can’t help but think about him and his deductions all the time. Sherlock deduces everything about everyone and most of the times he’s right, and most of the times he’s insensitive about the things he deduces too. But I still love him. Everyone needs a badass detective in their lives. What would Sherlock deduce about me? He’d see the indents under my fingernails and conclude that I type/write a lot. Either that or I play an instrument. Say, the guitar. He’d see the state of my skin and know that I’ve had an ugly history with acne. But that’s not a deduction—that’s opening one’s eyes and seeing what’s there. Well, this is getting rather embarrassing. Enough about deductions.

Do my thoughts define me? Even Sherlock couldn’t read my thoughts—he’s not Edward Cullen. I’ve read the Twilight series before. Don’t hate me for that, please. Anyway, a lot of thoughts flick through my head every day. Some are pleasant, some aren’t. Some are even murderous. But then I don’t act on my thoughts. If we all acted on our thoughts and feelings, we’d all be non-law-abiding monsters. There’s something Albus Dumbledore said before, something about how in the end, our choices define us. Do they? Sorry, it’s technically it’s J. K. Rowling not Dumbledore, but whatever.

Who am I? I am everything that is me. Ha, Elsie, as if that’s an answer! “Everything” is an easy answer to a lot of questions. An easy way out. An indication that I’m crawling deeper into the rabbit’s fur, snuggling down comfortably, ready to stay there for the rest of my life. That’s a Sophie’s World reference, by the way. Great book about the history of philosophy. You should read it. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. It cost me (well, more like it cost my parents) around 80RMB on the Chinese Amazon website thing. It was totally worth the money.

I’m getting off topic. Should I stop? Yeah. I should stop.

Maybe this was another hour of wasted time. Well done, me. I didn’t expect an epiphany of any sort, but the fact that I’m nowhere close to defining who I am, after all this thinking and writing… pisses me off. This probably requires more thinking. Or maybe I’ll never find out who I am, even after decades. I don’t know.

I don’t know! I don’t know and I don’t care!

After all, I’m just another 14 year old trying to be herself when she doesn’t even know who she is. What would I know? Why would I care?

I’m going to stop writing lest I inflict more of my unpleasantness and disorganised-ness onto you, my wonderful readers. Please continue being wonderful by reading this blog and by continuing to do other wonderful things that you regularly do. Oh, and be yourself. I’m a bloody hypocrite. *winks*

UPDATE: But but but but but it’s August 10 over here. Why, why does it say August 9 on the left? Time zones are so confusing! Dear physics/geography/whatever, please stop this madness.

“Be Yourself.” But How?