Sunday, September 14, 2014

Absence

And then there are those days when all I want is a gigantic hug from mom / dad / fatso. Not because college life is bad or anything, but simply because I miss having real connections with people.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gratitude List

I should probably stop whining about college, so a list of small awesome things that have somewhat brightened my days:

- life group life group life grouppp + feeling very loved within this little new community
- great lunch dates yay Kasey
- multiple dinner dates with my favorite Singaporean + actually having someone who understands + is interested in Malaysian politics
- being really intimidated in a class full of juniors, and then having one of them walk me back to my dorm + sharing my sentiments about not knowing a freaking thing about history
- not doing my readings and discovering that the TA wasn't going to discuss about it anyway
- getting into Jube, having second thoughts about the huge time commitment, but sticking with it anyway
- dying from the complexities at Jube but hearing the midi recordings of songs and realizing that Vincent is a genius and that this ridiculous eight-part thing is actually going to sound really nice once we get a grip on our respective parts
- realizing that Plato the anti-democrat isn't as boring as I thought he would be
- Switchfoot is coming to Columbia! all thanks to IV
- eight-course Chinese dinner with Malaysians. but actually. yes. RICE.
- fortune cookie that tells me: "golden rule - K.M.S. Keep Mouth Shut."
- actually having a snack schedule in lit hum
- having a really cosy little single in best dorm ever
- having a grand piano in the best dorm ever
- the 100-page weekly printing quota
- picking up packages from the mailing center (I don't care even if they just contain mundane things like bedsheets - packages make me feel loved + remembered)
- laundry in Wallach is still free
- seeing an adorable kindergarten class holding hands in pairs and traipsing all over the Columbia grounds
- smuggling peaches back from Ferris or John Jay
- the people blasting loud music outside my dorm have great taste in music (I actually heard Charlie Parker one night and melted a bit inside)
- discovering that my favorite Singaporean lives just a floor below me
- insomnia cookies
- sunset at Columbia, when one half of the sky is deep blue and the other half is orange
- the weather now (give me a couple of months and I'll start whining again)
- not having stepped foot in that stress incubator that is Butler... yet
- the dryer actually fully dried my laundry load for once
- climbing up six floors to avoid freshman 15

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Snow in Summer

I was never one of those who looked forward to college, and in my preliminary judgments, now I see that I was probably right about feeling that way.

Every day is just a hodgepodge of missing the authenticity of home, wondering if anything lies behind the nauseating smalltalk I encounter at every turn, desperately trying to think of something remotely intelligent to say to make up my class participation for my grade.

It is summer, but it feels cold. Inside, at least.

At times a sliver of the sun's delightful rays creep out and touch me and make me smile - like when I get loving hugs from awesome IV people, or when we break out into spontaneous jamming sessions, or when we sing on the steps at midnight - but the moment these end, the clouds rush back in and remind me that I am at this place, this so-called 'greatest university in the greatest city in the world', bereft of kindness and warmth.

It is at times like this that I recall all the bullshit that I've ever been told back home:

"Don't just stick around Malaysians."
"Oh my gosh. Don't be so insular, lol. Break out from your groups of Asian friends."
"You're studying abroad for a reason. Get an international experience. Have a diverse group of friends."

Before anyone accuses me of being a narrow-minded bigot, I'm not necessarily saying that it's bad to make friends with people of different nationalities. Rather, I'm making a point that the importance of a common background and understanding is so grossly underrated.

Sometimes, after an entire day of struggling to cobble together sentences in an accent unnatural to you just so you can be remotely understood... after hours of listening to pop culture references that you never grew up with and will never actually fully grasp... after weeks of being immersed in a place which is supposed to be yours, but where you don't actually belong... the sound of a lah or a sien or a we also have a Sedition Act in Singapore is so ridiculously welcome. The prospect of trading instant noodles - Indomee vs MyKuali - becomes something to look forward to; a source of warmth in the impending winter. The joy of discovering cheap and good Thai food with people who actually understand the SEA region puts you on a high for the rest of the night. The ability to skip past the smalltalk phase and immediately launch into a deep conversation about family, country, life becomes an immense TREASURE, not a burden - definitely not something to be ashamed of.

I've always loved Malaysia deeply, but it's here that I realize how much she loves me too. And Southeast Asia as well, for that matter.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dance Troupe

Dance has never quite been my thing.

One year in kindergarten, I was excluded from the ribbon dance because I routinely fumbled in my steps. And then in another year, as I was enthusiastically flapping my sparkly gold-paper wings as the leader of the birds in The Sleeping Beauty, my principal marched in and declared that 'that girl cannot dance' (I was promptly ushered off the stage). Then - humiliatingly yet humorously - I, the inept one, was placed in a concubine troupe in a secondary school musical.

And until today, I still cannot dance.

Coming to a new country (oh, America) after two decades of comfortable Malaysia - I've had to learn new dance steps. Navigating alien, foreign, unnatural maneuvers of the body. Using muscles, joints, ligaments that I've never had to test out before. Head - hold it down; never look up; this is New York (nobody looks up here). Lips - don't smile; look serious; this isn't a kindergarten bird-dance. Legs - move fast always; one in front of the other in rapid succession; never rest; life is work.

And then the individual dancer blends in with the hundreds - maybe thousands - of other dancers on the stage, each hoping to make their mark, hoping to get their spotlight moment, at some paradoxically obscure point in time.

Step up.
"How are you?"
Step up.
"How are you?"
Palms intertwine for the briefest moment.
Let go.
Step right.
Step left.
Legs continue moving, machine-like, in opposite directions, never resting again until the next plastic "how are you".

I fumble - just as in my ribbon dance days - over these steps. The steps I know, the steps I cherish from home, are so very different.

Step up.
"Hey, helloooo (insert name)!"
Step up.
"Hey, I've missed you so much!" (crucial step regardless of whether dancers have not seen each other for ten minutes or ten years)
Hug.
Warm hug.
Big warm hug.
"Makan maybe?"
Food.
Long, deep conversations.
Hug.

But the dances I know by heart are not performed where I am. The ones here are so different. In the distance, a circle forms. Performers - Americans, mostly - twirl breezily, weaving in and out, back and forth, effortlessly navigating the intricacies of dorm parties and fake IDs and alcohol and Beyonce's legs and Kim Kardashian. They know their steps; they do not trip. I cling helplessly on to my Milo ais and MyKuali curry mee and memories of a time when people held their heads up high and their arms wide open.

Dance has never quite been my thing. And it's the concubine days all over again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Back to School

I kinda suck at goodbyes. I don't really feel like rambling on and on about what's going on in my life right now, so here, have a graph:



Some graph features to note:

- Downward-sloping curve
- Negative relationship between variables
- Elastic curve (% Δ Length of hugs > % Δ No. of days to departure)
- Elasticity value < 1

Ah. I've got so many things to look forward to, but at the same time, I've got so many people to miss too.

Friday, May 30, 2014

More Than Words

I can barely believe that IB's over. I always thought that once it ended, I'd write a nice long post about how much I appreciate everyone - but sitting in front of my computer now, I'm finding that... I can't. There are just no words for this extraordinary group of people.

I talked to Phoebs yesterday, and we agreed that it's so hard to part ways because we're not just leaving friends - we're leaving family. I'm leaving a family which has been such an integral part of my life for the past two years. I've seen them in the hallways, in classes, skipping classes, at Tray, destroying the zen at Samsara, at Puncak, in President Jingyi's car, lying down like LCCT hobos in our Taylor's hangout area when our tables were taken away. And now, although we no longer go to college for classes, I still see them: in my grad polaroids, in Freddy's deformed mouth, in the cards and notes I've received over the months, in old textbook doodles, in the Angela-shaped garbage bin we came across in a public walkway. These people have been so incredibly kind, selfless, hilarious, annoying (Ray lol), brilliant, loving, encouraging, quirky, inclusive, honest, open, and a thousand other adjectives. I've no idea - truly - as to what I'll do without them.

I think I still want to write my long farewell-IB post. But maybe another day. For now, I still have no words.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Huns Are Coming!

It was the last official day of classes yesterday, and we spent it belting out Mulan songs, solving math problems while oxygen-deprived, and watching Dr Brice striking ghetto poses.

I love this bunch of people so ridiculously much. They're some of the smartest, kindest, quirkiest, most hilarious and least selfish people I know, and they've been such an integral part of my life over the past couple of years. They've made Mondays less bad, IAs/EE/TOK more tolerable, and lunches the best part of my many days in college... so it's going to be very hard to say goodbye to them in a month's time.

IB class of '14, you've set a really, really high bar for university life :P

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Class of '18!

So application decisions are out, the agonizing wait has ended, and I finally have time to reflect on the past half-a-year and gather my thoughts. I initially didn't intend to write this post, but Jessie has been relentlessly pestering me to do so for the past week - so here we go! (P/S: Jessie I actually still love you.)

--

November reminds me of old dreams.

Back when Common App first opened to applicants, practically everyone I knew who was applying early had a 'dream school' of some sort. There was Harvard for Chewy, Yale for KY (which eventually changed to Williams), and so on and so forth. And then there were lots of well-meaning people - seniors, peers, acquaintances - who also propagated the whole 'go for your dream school!' philosophy.

Unfortunately, I was made of less decisive stuff than these people, so I had no dream school for the longest time. But it was hard for me to keep floating around, knowing that everyone knew exactly where they wanted to be - so (this will sound trite) I forced myself to pick a dream school. Initially it was Princeton, but then I read about eating clubs and thus abandoned the plan. So I went early action (EA) for Yale instead. For the next few weeks, it was nothing but Yale-this, Yale-that, bulldog-this, bulldog-that, bow wow wow.

And this is where I think that applying EA didn't work out for me as well as I'd hoped. Statistically, going for EA is all well and good - it hikes up your chances of getting accepted by a significant percentage. But psychologically, if you're anything like me, it interferes with your ability to apply to other schools during the period prior to EA admission decisions. I spent over a month working on my Yale app... and none on the others (bad idea, seriously don't do this haha). I can't bring myself to love any other school, or so I told myself during one of my less-bright moments, so I won't start writing until I know the outcome of the EA round.  

So when EA decisions finally came around, surprise, surprise (being sarcastic here!) - I was deferred by my bulldoggy dream college. And I had to scramble to finish my apps to eleven colleges in the span of a week. Yet in the midst of all the incredible stress, I remember experiencing the inexpressibly warm touch of human kindness. Mirela, a then-acquaintance by way of my fat brother, adopted me and, and from then on became my self-proclaimed academic mom. Up till today, I don't understand why anyone would've spent an entire week of winter break proofreading awful essays written by an almost-stranger - but she did. Even on Christmas and New Year's Day. Even when she'd had a little too much to drink. I'll never forget that.

But anyway, beyond giving me technical help with my essays, I'd like to think that Mirela extended wonderful emotional support to me as well. This was crucial, seeing that I was the only deferred kid amongst my super high-flying, amazing, accepted-to-college friends (they're fantastic people by the way!). I remember messaging Mirela one night, when I was horrendously stressed and on the brink of giving up on my Columbia app:


P/S: 'Facebook User' is obviously Mirela

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After a long wait, March finally tottered along. And unlike old November, March brought about new dreams - perhaps not the sort I'd initially envisioned, but pleasant and fresh in a somewhat unexpected way.

To cut the story short, some wonderful colleges opened their doors to me - not the bulldog one - but places like Wesleyan (which has friendliest alums/current students ever!), Mt Holyoke, UVa, Yale-NUS, Penn, Dartmouth... and Columbia, the one I'd so very nearly given up on.


Arranged in alphabetical order because I don't play favorites. Also Penn and UVa are tardy in sending out acceptance packages! And yes, those really are a pair of sunglasses that I got in the mail. 

As of today, I still haven't fully set my heart on one particular college; I'm still mentally drawing up pro-and-con lists for some of them. And I guess this is because I simply don't buy into the idea of a perfect college anymore. Which isn't a bad thing, really. Because, over the past five months, I've learnt this: it's not so important where I end up; but rather, what I do wherever I end up. I hope I remember that over the next four years.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

28

Obviously tomorrow's a potentially rough day, but I'm going to try my best to remember that there are bigger purposes that I may not necessarily perceive in the present.

It's such a weight to be always trying to meet high expectations, and knowing that not meeting them is bound to invite acidic comparison. Yet what doesn't meet others' (and my own) expectations may just be where God's expectations lie. And I guess that the latter is what matters.

Not too long ago, I received the loveliest text from a friend: '... accept the result with grace'. I'm going to try.

Edit: On a partially-related note, it's been so odd but pleasantly surprising to have had so much encouragement from the D-2-5 boys, of all people HAHA.