Sunday, August 2, 2015

Is it really that hard to spare a little something for someone on the street?

My sister told me once when she was driving home from work, she had a box of free donuts next to her (she and I, like many shameless others, are greedy suckers for free food). There's this one homeless man she'd recognized on the streets pretty regularly on her commute from city to suburb, and this time, with that box of donuts next to her that she unarguably did not need, she'd determined to give it to him.

But when time came for her to roll down the window and give that box of food to him, she didn't do it. As soon as she passed him, hands glued to the steering wheel in front of him, she broke down, and that's how my mom received her on the phone minutes later–in tears and practically unintelligible. (She was actually genuinely freaked out hearing my sister in such a distraught state, thinking some sort of disaster had occurred.)

When I first heard the story and then relayed it to my best friend, I received and retold it with amusement and a few chortles here and there. And my best friend agreed, yes, it was actually quite funny in retrospect, especially if you personally know my uptight older sister (and the fact that she was on her period at the time). But then, she said, with wrinkled brow and concerned visage, that my sister had had good reason to cry.

It was sad.

And after that, I started noticing. A couple of my friends in college would stop a car full of people to provide the bus fare a ragged old woman was requesting at an intersection, or fish some granola bars out of a backpack to give to a young man begging for food. Once I noticed the man in front of me stop to wave over an injured man with a sign, standing in the rain, to give him an unopened bottle of water.

The majority of people do not fall into that sparse category of three or four individuals who would open their windows to give away something of their own to a complete stranger who may or may not actually be in need. And I think many people are scared to give and scared to roll down the window to someone who isn't immaculate and presentable and "normal." I can't say I'm not one of those people, because I am. I've had a pack of M&Ms or a box of leftover (and absolutely delicious) truffle fries on me before, innocuously sitting in the passenger seat, but I never even made a move to press the button and reach out to a stranger. It's such a simple gesture. Press a button, reach out a couple feet, make barely any contact to someone on the street, hear a "thank you" or "bless you."

Why is it so hard?

My dad, like my sister, is uptight and operates primarily out of caution. He doesn't like to take flyers from people on the street, he tries not to make eye contact with strangers; he frequently interrupts a seemingly just fine moment with "WAIT. Careful, careful–". (My poor dad is often the butt of family jokes precisely because of his extremely cautious nature.)

I grew up with that very American mindset that people who are homeless have reasons behind it.
Like perhaps they didn't work hard, or they chose that lifestyle (sounds crazy, but I've actually heard of people who do prefer living without a home), etc. etc. But life isn't black and white like that. Sometimes misfortune befalls someone all at once, and Murphy's law just strikes without mercy. It might be a veteran stripped of his/her government promises post-war, and cumbered by multiple injuries; or maybe it's just a victim of a seemingly spazzing economy.

But here's the thing. I decided yesterday, it doesn't matter if these people begging–for lack of a better word–for just about anything someone could spare to give them deserve that generosity, if you could even call it generosity (because what's so generous about giving away leftovers, right?). I don't think it matters if that person on the street is actually homeless or not, is someone who was struck by misfortune or caused it himself/herself. How is anyone ever going to know or truly judge if someone "deserves" a fellow human being's kindness? Probably never.

In the end, I believe it's your own willingness to break the seal, the stigma, and reach out for that very first time, that actually has a place in the debate of what "matters" and what doesn't in the grand scheme of things.

Chances are, if you do it once, you'll do it again, and again, and then, at some point, you will end up giving something to someone who does indeed deserve a little bit of kindness anyway.

Each time I made no move to help out someone emitting a specific and obvious plea for help, I was left thinking about those 20 seconds of pointless internal debate for hours after. (By the way–this is the grand result of those cumulative hours of pensive thought and self-beating-up.) I've resolved, next time I'm in the car with some presentable food, snack, and/or drink with me, I will give it to someone who seems to need it more than me. I will make eye contact (NO you wouldn't dare, my dad would say), roll down the window, and reach out to hand over something that's mine to someone I'd possibly never ever interacted with before in my life. I'll probably feel so much better after. It'll probably make my day, and chances are, it'll make that stranger's day too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The College Life

I was pondering what to title this entry, since every inane idea that came to mind was... well, inane.

Anyway, as my freshman year in college has officially concluded, I've decided to try and sum it up, this time not with my quotes, but with others'. Mostly others'. Actually I haven't decided yet if I'm going to do another journal-entry-snippet post... It's quite likely I'll be too lazy to do so.

Here we go. Brace yourselves. Because this is what life at Rice is like, apparently. My life? (Special thanks to my friends for unwittingly providing quality comedy material.)

"I've gone to Starbucks four times these past four days." -Bailey

"I had a dream that ______ was my boyfriend and he lost a scuba diving slipper, so I was looking for him the whole time to return it to him, but then I had all these cacti and I couldn't fit them in my suitcase!" -Linda

"I'm already drunk." -Unintentionally dumb friend at 9 p.m.

"We need to find you more girl friends." -Austin

"If your life were a montage, it'd just be you eating a burger in slow motion." -Andrew

"Remember when we used to get lost coming back from Duncan?" -Linda again

"I was 45 minutes late to my exam." -Me :(

Guess the speaker!
Name bank: 
(Can be used more than once)

  1. How are your ovaries?
  2. I woke up in a puddle of drool. 
  3. You should come eat with me otherwise I'm just going to eat dinner in my room. 
  4. Why are you always so hungry? You are a small person with a big appetite. 
  5. We're gonna get destroyed tonight. 
  6. Hey did you sleep last night? Oh... me neither... 
  7. It's only a mile... Eh, let's take an Uber there.
  8. I haven't been to my morning classes in two weeks!
  9. Where's the easy mac?? Can we bring down like 6 of them?
  10. Oh whoa you have friends! No no, I'm surprised and impressed only because I don't have any, you see.
  11. I gotta say, it feels good to have finally made it. 
  12. Are we playing Neopets tonight? 
  13. Hey, could you get me some dinner? Yeah, just bread and peanut butter.
  14. FREE FOOD!!!
  15. Sperm is so basic.
  16. Can I use your toaster oven?
  17. So we found this Smashburger outside in the lobby and I kind of want to eat it... can I use your toaster oven?
  18. We're such pieces of shit. 
1. Shaian   2. Linda   3. Meera   4. Austin   5. Shaian/Tirso   6. Akeem   7. Linda   8. Shaian   9. Andrew   10. Meera   11. Tirso   12. Carolina   13. Bailey   14. Bailey   15. Linda   16. Andrew   17. Shaian (and Andrew)   18. Everyone.

Okay, in all seriousness though, I really had an amazing freshman year, and a lot of that has to do with the wonderful people I'm around daily. Rice is awesome. And I'm so excited to welcome the five (!!!) students from my high school joining me next year. 

Yehhhh NorCal. 

Monday, March 9, 2015


Warning: The following contents may suffer extreme self-indulgence. 

This is what I call the perpetual complaint. And it began as a random musing, a result of what my roommate says is "diffuse thinking," about extroversion and introversion and the attachments to physical appearance. Then it, like many other things that begin as a simple seed of wonderment, blossomed into a fully-fledged complaint.

But perhaps "blossomed" is not the correct word for this subject. Considering it's a complaint, and a ferocious one at that, "exploded into a monster with snapping jaws" might be more accurate (since that's somewhat akin to what I'm feeling right now). Here is the simple fact, one that has been reiterated again and again by the introverts all over the world: We live in a world modeled for extroversion.

And here's another: We live in a world built for good looks. The other day, I randomly wondered to myself how many objectively (well, as objective as it gets) good-looking people are introverts, not extroverts. I could come up with three, maybe four people. I'm sure if I actually combed through my whole Facebook friend list or something, and then checked all my yearbooks (and maybe my sister's too, just for good measure), I would find several more. In any case, here's the thing–most good-looking people are extroverts. I pondered this notion aloud to my roommate, and she suggested that this might be causative. Good-looking people are raised, most often, knowing that they are pretty, and so they feel more confident, and attract more attention since others gravitate naturally towards them. So, the extroversion would seem to be something that is the result of nurture rather than nature.

I'm sure this isn't always the case, but I can imagine this occurs fairly frequently.

We live in a networking world. This is a world of fake smiles and tinkling laughs and necessitated charm. Our society lays it out for us, plain and simple: If you want to succeed, you have to do this and this and this to get there. You have to be a certain way–act a certain way, look a certain way.

And that, most often seen in the business world, is something that I think sometimes stems from that pesky thing called participation in the classroom setting. When I say participation, I don't necessarily mean public speaking; I think those are two separate things. Participation is the phenomenon that is valued very highly by certain instructors, and I can understand why, I suppose, particularly in language classes. Titillating discussion might not occur if there is not motivating factor behind it, if there's no grade attached to it, and participation, for many classes, is what can drive discussion and development of ideas. Writing seminars, for instance, language classes, humanities course–all of these seem to need participation to fully effectuate the learning experience.

But maybe it's because the system has functioned in such a way for so long that the motivation behind participation has been cemented as a point-based structure. And at this point, I am severely tempted (and will indulge that temptation) to quote Daenerys Targaryen–"I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel." My level of irritation with this heavy emphasis on participating for the sake of points, which results in fancy but empty answers pulled out of brown-nosing students' butts, has reached such a point that yes, I want to break this system. It just seems wrong that from such an early age, institutions beat into students the notion that they have to be a certain way to succeed. They have to learn a certain way and adhere to the nature of the formulaic classroom to be a "good" student.

Society has basically taught us that "shyness" is a fault. Introversion does not equal shyness, though that's a common misconception. Even though shyness can overlap with introversion, either way, the two are lumped together in a negative waste bin. My French textbook literally states that "timide" (shy) is a "défaut" (a fault). That doesn't seem right at all.

To be shy, or quiet, is not a negative characteristic. Just like being outgoing or bold, it's how such individuals choose to act that ultimately determines the level of positivity or detriment. There is significant merit in the ability to listen, and, like Nicole Krauss said in The History of Love, there's a treasure in silence. Perhaps more relevantly, however, is the fact that, like curse words, knowing when to use one's voice in necessary and important situations heightens the level of attention subsequently given. Think of it this way: If you speak all the time, many people will get used to your voice. And the likelihood of foolish phrases slipping out, mixing in with the wise words you have to offer, is much higher if you're totally okay with verbal communication (aka, verbal filter is lower). On the other hand, if you take the time to listen, as often quiet people do, and thus have the cushion room to carefully choose your words to form a specific and well-catered opinion, you're more likely to prove your point effectively. Plus, if people aren't used to your voice being blasted everywhere at all times, their ears will probably perk at the sound of your unique and individual voice.

I know some people make it seem like introverts are unique snowflakes and heighten the merits of introversion to the point of stuff like "quiet empowerment" and "silent but strong" and so on and so forth. No, I don't think introverts will take over the world, and no, I highly doubt we're unique snowflakes. Fact is, most people have a little bit of both introversion and extroversion.

But, it's wrong to proclaim introversion, shyness, and/or quietness are undoubtedly "faults." Introverts might not be out to take over the world, like creeping vines or something, but we have a level of additional staunch because society caters to outgoing fellows. So whoever says we should "get rid" of the qualities that make us introverts should watch out.

Nothing rankles more than inconsiderate, hasty, willful ignorance.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

To Darling Globbee–

Oh happy 19th to my best friend and other half! There are few with whom I can let loose my awkward tongue and unleash that ungraceful, socially inept self completely, but Glorby is top of the list.

I don't know if anything I can write here will amount to the ever so lovely post you wrote for my 18th, but I can try my best. 
Say all you want you're tanner... we're both ridiculously pale

The initial years of our friendship was interesting. You were probably the absolute most stubborn person I knew back in the day, in Mrs. J's class when many an argument cropped up, whether it revolved around the merits of dogs or your skipping preschool. Nevertheless, we frequented at each other's house and hid from our parents when it was time to say good night. I think, after we realized that hiding under the dining room table wasn't exactly a covert spot, my sister introduced to me and I introduced to you the excellent dark corner of her closet space, which was blocked by a number of winter clothes boxes. 

I don't think we ever got punished more than we should have been for dragging out the long hours of the night... (at like, 8 pm.)

We even roped your Bobo into playing our ridiculous pretend games. Well... I suppose most of them were my ridiculous pretend games (who came up with the Little King??). You entertained my self-indulgent storylines like a truly good friend; you would be Milo during Atlantis reenactments while I would always be Kida (sorry), and I would make you act out scenarios where I would move away and you would be moping around mourning my absence. 

That sounds terrible. 

Well. Moving along... 

You stepped into the shoes of the much-coveted role of Pluto in our third grade play "Vacation to Mars" (remember your furry white muffler? Actually I don't know if it was actually a muffler since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Fleur was "wearing" a muffler, I think on her head, and your muffler was like... arm sleeves or something), and later in the year I was the frog who wanted to see the tops of the trees in "Rumpus of the Rainforest." 

In fourth grade we got in trouble with Mr. Lyon for saying "Yesssssssssss!" (dragging out the 's', yep) in his absence. It was strictly forbidden. 

Actually I think I got the class in trouble... oops.

In fifth grade we were in separate classes, and well... many things came to a head that year. We tried to shake off a harmless girl who wanted to hang out with us by engaging in several ridiculous schemes. We trailed rose petals as a "false" path, and then hid in a janky staircase probably leading to the janitor's storage room while said girl was probably looking for us. You were ashamed. At the time, I was not. 

And then later that year, I took you for granted. Because of our many inane arguments about the the behavior of seagulls and whatnot, I decided I didn't need the "unnecessary drama." You are a very persistent fellow, however, and insisted on worming your way back into my life–you dropped silly notes on my desk (with drawings of Calvin and Hobbes), brought me candies from Powell's, etc. Basically, it was something akin to Phoebe's attempt to 'cut out' Monica (in Friends). 
The dark days. Actually, you look pretty nice!

We've changed quite a bit since elementary school, obviously, and you still love to pick arguments with me every so often because you find it fun, but it's all in a light-hearted manner. In a way, I think it kind of shows how we really were meant to be friends, and how I now realize how much you really mean to me and how glad I am that you decided I was worth it to expend all that effort.

I probably would've given up in that situation. 

But then again, opposites attract. If you had been me, and had given up, we would not have spawned the brilliant "Saratoga Tales." We would not have ever found ourselves in Edith and Gladys, nor Helmut and Günter (our Navajo identities continue to escape me, unfortunately). We would never have discovered our affinity for the Swiss Alps, nor our desire to form makeshift house-elves. We would not have formulated a magnificent house plan (no stairs!!!) complete with an electric dam and a lab for Edith's animal behavioral science experiments. 

Anyway... thanks for being my holly bush. I couldn't ask for a better, more enduring, more beautiful companion. I wish we could be together for each other's birthdays. Alas, we are not a train's ride away from each other as you'd hoped. I remember when I read that in the yearbook (for we had not read each other's answers to the "best friends since childhood" section prior to receiving the official final draft from the journalism department), I teared up. Like for reals. I'm not trying to be cliché or dramatic or anything, even though it really sounds like that. 

You're special. Who else would let me call you every week amidst endless midterms and papers and berating professors, amongst woes of threatening Bs and scary news editors? Every time people ask me whom I've stayed in touch with back home, and I say that we try to call each other every week, I am met with an expression of impressed wonderment. 

Yeah. That's us. We make long-distance work! (I will refrain from using any expletives, for your benefit.)
Fellow munchers

Thank you for many things–for being my fellow indulger of aphasia (I just spent 2 minutes Googling that word), for being a great storyteller, for coaxing out that weirdo I am meant to be, for being a buddy in floor flubbing, for showing me the glory of OPO, for keeping me grounded, for being the voice of reason and goodness (for what, 12 years of my life?), for you know... just being. You are great, and kind, and golden. I love you and your love of egg-yolk yellow and eccentric (sometimes ugly) clothing (like that pillbug jacket and the fluffy brown and pink parka that actually looks quite nice on Cherry), your ability to thunder up the stairs on all fours, your sliding down the winding banister (while I was anxiously biting my nails), your halo of crazy baby hair, your bizarre eating habits (like digging away at the center of soggy sandwich bread and then leaving a whole bunch of crumbs on my couch), and... well, the list goes on and on. 

We've survived the sister code, my friend! Actually–we've beaten it! We both liked the same boy (whey-hey!), applied for some of the same colleges, got in a major tussle at one point in history, shared grades and GPAs with each other, and here we are. (I  mean, just last week you were the first person I confessed my first semester grades to.) 

Well, there are drunk people outside my door, on my first night back at college after Christmas break, and I hate to make excuses, but they do interrupt my sentimental trains of thought. 

You are nice. Enjoy your final year as a technical teenager, my dearest :) Don't listen to Beyoncé (just this once!!!). You are irreplaceable, and my bridge over troubled water!

I hope you will continue to be my life dance partner!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

(Belated) Obligatory New Year's Post

Every new year, my sister asks her friends and family (so that would include me, ha ha) to list their top 3 memories of the past year.

Last year, every "top" memory of mine involved food... Luckily, 2014 had a little more variety!

March 24, 2014: I got into Rice. What a feeling, what a feeling. I don't know if I can duplicate that mixture of surprise, elation, and gratitude.
View from the academic quad on a lovely September day 
Hawaii with Jennifer (8/5/14-8/12/14): My sister gifted me with a trip to Hawaii for my graduation/18th birthday present–all paid for by her (perks of having a sibling who works?). It was a true vacation, and quite the bonding experience!
View from Diamondhead  
Rice University, October-ish/November-ish: Settling into college can be disconcerting, but getting into the groove of things is incredibly gratifying and elating. I think this was around the time my roommate and I really became closer (then again, I'm pretty terrible at estimating time), which was an integral part of my first semester. It helped a lot that the weather began to level out and lose that awful humidity characteristic of the Texas summer. 

Coming home was a lovely feeling, though :) I really appreciate NorCal for what it is! 

Happy New Year!