The Smallest Things

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“Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether it is worth living is whether you have had enough of it.”

~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I learned a very important lesson over this winter break: when all else fails, it’s the smallest things that make life amazing. Sure, sure, it’s been said before and more than a little bit cliche for my taste but I can’t help it if it’s true.

This is my first winter break in college. The nice–and quite surprising–part is I get 6 weeks off before going back to the daily grind. Finals week, for me, was Hell. Like the typical Freshman I had overloaded myself with 7 classes, a total of 17 units, this semester.

When I got home life was just as chaotic as school was. It wasn’t until I started noticing and doing the “little things” that everything (internally at least) started calming down.

I found little pockets of time for me to attend to myself. I grabbed lunch with my friends, finally sat down and read that book I’d been meaning to since September, I bought a cute dress…. Hell, at one point I rented and rode shotgun in a cherry red ’57 Bel Air for awhile.

 

A shot I took while we were driving into the city.

A shot I took of the Bel Air while we were driving back into the city.

Slowly, over the course of 5 weeks, I slowly began to relax. Now the final week of my break is coming to an end and I just wanted to take time to reflect. It’s been a good 5 weeks, even with the craziness of it all.

I also just wanted to share a few of the little things that made my break just that much better.

1. This untitled song (by Will Currie and the Country French)

Originally made for “The Depressing Episode” on the The Cyanide & Happiness Show this song goes with a short animation about a man with cancer and his pregnant wife. This song, when taken out of context, is absolutely beautiful (instead of just plain heartbreaking). The combination of what seems like soft yearning and rawness in the singer’s voice with the slow piano melody transports me to somewhere… Happy. According to the singer’s Twitter account, the song was never meant to be more than a mood setter for the episode but may be releasing a iTunes version some time in the not too distant future.

2. These quotes/poems

3. This comedian (Bo Burnham)

He’s a different type of comedian. The combination of his humor and music makes for a refreshing type of stand up comedy that I really enjoy.

4. This awesome craft (that I will hopefully complete some time this Sunday)

I’ve always been a creative person so when I saw this on Pintrest it pretty much called to me. I recently got into card making–which helps my creative side break from the monotony of school–but this looked completely different, this looked…. Wicked awesome!

A birthday card I made for a classmate last month.

A birthday card I made by hand for a classmate last month.

5. This book (We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas)

WeAreNotOurselves

This book was quite a read, I only have about 10 more chapters to go. Without giving away anything, I can say that it’s one hell of a captivating story about a family in the 20th century. I highly suggest it.

 

So laughter, imagination, and inspiration… That’s whats been keeping me relaxed through the turbulence of life. I hope that these things can create a little pocket of happiness in your life too. Remember, take one day at a time and enjoy life.

 

It’s the little things that make life worth living for.

Bon Voyage

 

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”

~John Steinbeck

 

 

So there’s something that keeps cropping up in my conversations…

Traveling abroad.

I’ve talked to a lot of students and adults alike. I constantly hear “It costs too much money.” “I don’t have a passport.” “What if I don’t speak the language?” as a cover on why they can’t go.

Look. I get it. Traveling can be a scary experience. You’re in a different country, continent, culture… It’s not what you’re use to and lord what are they eating? Is that snake?

But back to my point: don’t hide behind excuses. An adult US passport costs about $150 give or take (processing fees included) and a little bit of your time. But even better, you can grab a US passport card which allows you to travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda all for the low price of about $60-$70. I especially recommend this to first-time travelers who are just looking to try something safe but new.

There’s not much I can do about it if you’re really strapped for cash, but (excluding air fair) you can travel around almost anywhere outside of Europe (and other places with a strong dollar) for relatively cheap. I suggest Asia. Take it from someone who lived there for a decade, as long as you stay out of big cities food, clothing, attractions, hotels, etc. are pretty damn cheap. You just have to be smart about it. For example, $20USD translates to about 900 Philippine pesos which could buy meals for around 18 people (though it really depends on where you’re eating).

And as for airplane costs… There’s always a way to get great deals. Here’s my advice:

1) Get tickets way in advance.

I learned from the best: my mom and dad. Getting tickets 8-12 months in advance gets you the cheapest tickets possible.

2) Get credit cards that are partnered with airlines.

Some cards offer 40,000 to 60,000+ miles. Just wait until the opportune moment and open accounts when they are offering these mileage point deals. In some cases, this can get you a nearly free flight if it’s to a place that’s close.

3) Look for alternatives.

Flights with layovers are almost always cheaper than flights without them. Redeyes are sometimes worth the 3 am boarding time. If there are two airports close to each other (like JFK airport in New York and EWR airport in New Jersey or the Macau airport and Hong Kong airport) sometimes the prices are vastly different. And all it takes is a cheap taxi or boat ride to make up the distance.

As far as language goes… Go with someone who you know can speak the language. Or, you can always hire a local for translation. I’ve been to all 6 of the inhabited continents (though Antarctica is still on my list of places to go). I didn’t do that by speaking English alone. I’m lucky, my mom happens to speak not only English fluently, but Mandarin and Spanish as well. These languages probably cover over 40% of the world (though don’t hold me to that). However, when we went to places like Morocco we’d hire people… It’s worked like a charm.

But I know what you’re thinking. “But what about everything else? What about robbers and pickpockets and my safety? What happens if something goes wrong? What about… What if… What when… What then…”

Look, I can’t answer every question, it’s just not possible. The fun part about traveling is that you actually get to go out and have crazy adventures and experiences. Sometimes disasters spawn the best disasters and stories you could imagine. And the great part about being an American citizen is that we probably have more US consulates than anywhere else. That means if you do get into trouble, or get sick, or lost, or robbed, or something to that degree… There’s a sanctuary that you will have access too. They will help you get a new passport, or medical care, or a place to stay until you work things out.

So stop hiding behind your excuses as reasons to not travel.

As a student who attends a college that requires a semester abroad I’m absolutely ecstatic to get going. I know not everyone shares my excitement however. All I can say is this: if you ever take the time to talk to the elderly, one of the things they regret the most is not taking the chance to travel. It’s an experience of a lifetime. As a student, a semester abroad isn’t just so you can pad your resume. It’s a way to help you get a fuller education, become a well rounded person, and it will let you learn things you can’t learn in a classroom.

It’s worth it.

 

Button Poetry

I know I’ve talked about spoken word before but this morning I found the “Button Poetry” Youtube page. I’m not addicted, I swear.

I think I may have posted a couple of their videos on here before but this one is exclusively from them. Enjoy.

 

Alex Dang – “What Kind of Asian Are You?”

Dylan Garity – “Rigged Game”

Denice Frohman – Accents

Patrick Roche – “21”

Kevin Yang – “Srirachapocalypse”

Denice Frohman – “Dear Straight People”

Talia Young – “The Virgin’s Lament”

Jenesis Fonseca – “The Way to a Woman’s Heart”

 Ebony Stewart – “Box”

Anna Binkovitz – “Asking For It”

“Dave Harris – “Sweet Tea”

Patrick Roche – “Siri: A Coping Mechanism”

Ariana Brown – “Volver, Volver”

Ollie Renee Schminkey & Wyatt Kat Fleckenstein – “Small Towns”

 

Extra (not by Button Poetry):

Mike Rosen “When God Happens”

College Advice from a College Freshman

A friend of mine was asking for advice on Facebook about college so I wrote her this. I’m posting this here because I think it’s useful for all the Seniors freaking the hell out about college. Sorry for the language but if you want my advice you’ll have to suffer through the profanity.

Here’s my advice:
Get it done, get it done now (in regards to college apps). You have a light work load at the start of the year and you don’t want to wait. My friend didn’t get into ANY colleges she wanted because she procrastinated too long. College apps are boring as hell. They’re actually not that hard (except the essay) but they’re fucking tedious. Put on some good music and just do them. Even if you really don’t want to.

Get someone to read over your essay. Seriously, I can read it over for you if you need me to. Never ever send in your first draft. Try getting a parent or teacher to help you edit it. Also, always tell a sob story. If you have a disability, are part of a minority, broken home/divorce, etc. tell whoever is reading how you overcame that obstacle in your life. THEY EAT THAT SHIT UP. Make sure your writing doesn’t put you in a bad light or make you seem uncertain (even if you are undeclared you can still be confidant). Never write the minimum. Good traits to mention if you can fit it in somehow:

– Equality and Diversity
– Flexibility and Openness
– Imagination and Curiosity
– Integrity and Persistence
– Compassion and Courage
– Excellence and Accountability
– Generosity and Engagement
– Teamwork and Collaboration

When filling out your common app (which I highly suggest) it’s okay to do half-truths. Only speak a smidge of Chinese? Say you can’t write or read it but can speak it. It’s okay, technically your true (don’t do this for more than 1 language, 2 if you are actually kinda proficient). Not actually gay? Say you are if you think you might even be as little as 10% gay. Only participate at that school club for 1 hour a week? Say you participate 1.5 hours a week instead. Those few extra minutes you spend talking to your friends count. Make sure you fill up all 10 of those extracurricular on the common app. How badly do you want to get into college?

Ask your teachers for letters of rec RIGHT NOW. In a couple of months they’ll be swamped with writing letters for everyone. Even if they ask you to ask them in a couple of months, you’ll be on the top of their lists because you’ve already asked. GIVE THEM A BRAG LIST of your achievements. Put any philanthropic work, jobs, school activities, hobbies, awards, publications, etc. on there. Write a few bullet points with things such as: 3 words to describe you, what you aim to achieve in college (ALWAYS say you want a PHD in whatever you want to major in. Doesn’t even matter if you’re undeclared, just say it), etc. THIS IS NOT A TIME TO BE MODEST.

Actually research your schools. Imagine my surprise when I learned that all UC schools didn’t have my very common major of International Business for undergrads. That would have been $45 a school of wasted money if I hadn’t checked. Call the school, tell them you are a prospective student, and ask them what programs they offer. ALWAYS LOOK FOR HONORS PROGRAMS. They are normally free programs and come with a butt ton of good things that other people don’t get. You do have to do more for the college app if you decide to apply, but it’s totally worth it. Some community colleges have the honors program too.

LOOK FOR SCHOLARSHIPS LIKE YESTERDAY. The best scholarships are due by December. I don’t have access to the links right now, but go to your career center at your school and they should have some for you. If not, try your local community centers. Even if the scholarship seems way out of your league, do it. You never know.

Fill out your FASFA now. Don’t wait for another 6 months when you’re tired of school and you don’t give two shits anymore. Just do it now, sometimes you get free cash.

And finally, don’t fucking stress.

Yeah yeah yeah… College is hard, blah blah blah. What if I don’t get into the right one? What if I hate it? What if it’s too hard?

Look: the nice thing about college is that it’s a time in your life when you can finally have some control. You can choose to take a gap year, or go part time, or go to two years of community college first (which is a smart thing to do on the financial and stress side). You get to choose to go far away or stay close at home. Stressing isn’t going to do anything but make you miserable. I ended having a 100% acceptance rate, I got lucky. I still turned down the private school and $11,000 scholarship they were offering in lieu of going to a state college. I’ve never been happier. Relax, you’ll end up in the right place eventually. You don’t need to be a perfectionist, you don’t have to get it right on the first try. SOMETIMES THAT’S HOW LIFE WORKS.

And I’m not going to lie, you’re probably going to ignore 70% of this post. I know I did. Then next year when you’re a Freshman in college, you’ll tell people the exact same thing.

 

So that’s my advice on college. It’s informal, it’s unorganized, it has profanity, it probably has grammar/spelling mistakes. But it’s truthful. It’s raw and honest and I don’t give any BS.

I hope this helps someone out there. Good luck Seniors.

The Secret Life of Flowers

“Earth laughs in flowers”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson 

index

I’ve made a few posts about writing: different forms (such as poetry), interesting words you could use, and even writing exercises. Well, here’s another one.

I’ve talked quite often on Juniper and all the different things I learned there. One of the last days I was there, a girl in our group, Chloe, presented a piece of her writing. It was absolutely beautiful and I hope she gets published someday, but that’s besides the point, that’s not what I learned. Our instructor, Zoe, pointed something out. Chloe had a reoccurring theme of tulips and other types of flowers in her story. No one knew what tulips actually represented: death, happiness, serenity, etc. and we were told to go get a flower dictionary.

Normally I wouldn’t bring this up, but I was reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin and I realized that the last paragraph (almost always one of the most important paragraphs in any book) was telling us more than most people perceive. It was all about the flowers.

This is the last paragraph:

“She looked into the distance, and the old terror flamed up for an instant, then sank again. Edna heard her father’s voice and her sister Margaret’s. She heard the barking of an old dog that was chained to the sycamore tree. The spurs of the cavalry officer clanged as he walked across the porch. There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air.”

Most people don’t know this, but the sycamore tree represents curiosity while pinks represent pure love. For those of you who haven’t read The Awakening, this story is about self discovery. I can’t say too much without spoiling the end, but what I can say is that knowing that the symbols for curiosity and pure love is in that final scene really help solidify my theory of what happens (it’s an open ended book).

My point is this: every person who is an writer, in an AP, or in a college class needs to have a dictionary of flowers. So, here you go: Language of Flowers by Charlotte de Latour.

It’s actually a pretty interesting read, well, to me at least. Because I’m a giant nerd. But, for those of you who want the most popular flowers, I’ll provide a list below. Enjoy!

Rose (red)-Love

Daffodil-Self love

Cherry tree-Educated

Cypress-Mourning

Daisy-Innocence

Ivy-Friendship

Poplar (black)-Courage

Sunflower-False riches

Sycamore-Curiosity

Violet-Modesty

 

“By all those token Flowers that tell

What words can never speak so well.”

~Byron

5 Examples of Innovation

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

~Steve Jobs 

Maiden Voyage

Maiden Voyage

So this week I found a few  great examples of innovation. Ranging from photography to face painting and business cards, these things will blow you away.

 

1. Dreamscape photos

These amazing photos by Jee Young Lee are a part of the “State of Mind” exhibit. I think the most impressive part of these self portraits are that they are photoshop free.

2. Creative Business Cards

These creative business cards are pretty fun or useful. I’m not sure how safe the dried meat business card is to eat, but hey, I guess if you’re in a bind…

3. Face Painting

It’s amazing how the artiest, Christy Lewis, can transform these kid’s faces into these amazing pieces of art. From cartoon characters to a Dia de Los Muertos girl, these designs will be sure to astound you.

4. Watch part Insects

These cool sculptures by Justin Gershenson-Gates are a part of the “A Mechanical Mind” series. Each and every one of these little creatures are made out of used watch parts!

5. The Miniature World Of Snails

These cute pictures of these snails are taken by Vyacheslav Mishchenko. Each one of these great pictures are the result of patience and being in the right place at the right time, which I think is pretty cool!

 

I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did! You can find more here:

1. http://www.boredpanda.com/stage-of-mind-surreal-photography-jee-young-lee/

2. http://www.boredpanda.com/creative-business-card-designs/

3. http://www.boredpanda.org/daizy-design-kids-face-painting/

4. http://www.boredpanda.org/artist-constructs-spine-chilling-insects-and-spiders-from-recycled-watch-parts/

5. http://www.boredpanda.com/snail-macro-photography-vyacheslav-mishchenko/