Nostalgic Pride

I like divulging stories and experiences from my childhood so I think I’ll do that again.
 
5th grade was an interesting year for me. I spent the whole year knowing it was my final year in China, that I would soon be moving to the promised land that I had only know as Hollywood from movies and the few visits I had made to the southern coast of California. I fostered friendships I knew wouldn’t last, I got moved up to the highest reading group, and I ALMOST kissed a girl. All the subdued craziness afforded to an awkward twelve year old was incredibly liberating, however at the same time, it was shrouded in the despair of having to leave behind everything I knew.
 
Aside from all that depressing stuff, my fifth-grade year was the perfect culmination of all the time I had spent in China. My friends and I released more videos in a single year than we ever had before, under the name of our production company, “Yovodka United.” My homeroom class won the elementary school dodgeball tournament, even defeating the teachers somehow, making for one glorious pizza party. I finally read the final book of the TinTin series from the library, after waiting nearly two years for someone to return it, and I gave my final goodbyes to the friends, the school, the city, that had raised me and taught me so much, walking off stage, throwing glow sticks into the audience, after our heartfelt class song.
 
The Skype calls that seemed to go nowhere but made hours fly by in minutes. The new era of pop music, Maroon V, Imagine Dragons, Taylor Swift, The Script, and Gotye, creating a perfect soundtrack that could encapsulate my memories into a single playlist. The Minecraft LAN parties that involved poor WiFi, pizza bagels, and lots of griefing. I don’t know if I can ever recreate a year as packed with mixed emotions and shameless exuberance as my fifth-grade year, but I only hope I can one day look back on my high school experience, my senior year even, with the same kind of nostalgic pride.

Rekindled

I ran 17 laps over the course of two hours, I was winded, but hardly exhausted. These were the days I lived for. I was in first grade when I first participated in the Terry Fox run, an annual international charity track event meant to raise funds for cancer research in honor of Canadian hero, Terry Fox. This event is where I believe my relationship with sports or athletics in general really began, racing my friends across the long stretches of the track until we collapsed on the grassy ditch to catch our breath, just to do it again countless times.
 
For the next three years, my passion for sports grew even further. At school I participated in badminton, dodgeball, fitness, swimming, everything they had to offer. I was by no means a stellar student-athlete; outside of school my childhood consisted of next to no physical activity, having busy parents, no siblings, and neighbors I was unfamiliar with, my outdoor activities consisted solely of digging holes in the backyard. All of that aside, I still loved physical activity, making sure to fill my recess with as much tag and soccer as I possibly could.
 
In fourth grade, however, I found that my affinity to athletics had shifted towards food instead, and as I slowly gained an appreciation for eating, I slowly lost interest and ability to participate in sports. I began an exponential weight gain that lasted, thankfully, only five years, but took a tremendous toll on my body. At my peak in seventh grade, I would strain myself climbing the stairs, I’d wear shirts two sizes too big to conceal everything I could, and I was eating a family-sized bag of chips every day. So to sum things up, things weren’t looking too hot for me. In those five years, my relationship with athletics had become estranged and I intentionally belittled sports as primitive to somehow justify to myself my current condition. However, being the aspiring hypocrite that I was, I still tried desperately to get onto every sports team offered at my school, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, whatever team sport that would have me, but unsurprisingly, every time, I was nowhere to be seen on the lists.
 
Even after I got my weight problem under control and ended up going too far in the other direction I found the same issues with sports. I had no strength, no energy, no agility to participate in any activity apart from golf, but I was awful at golf so that was out of the question for me anyway. In the last four years, I’m proud to say I’ve finally gotten my weight under control, I no longer count every calorie that enters my body out of fear of losing control again. I know what went wrong and how to avoid those same mistakes.
 
Basketball is where I’ve been able to express this change the most. My freshman year I had 12 minutes of playing time the entire season. I can’t blame my coach for any of that, I was 6’4 inches of skin and bone, I didn’t have the strength to shoot a basketball from the free-throw line, and I could jump maybe a foot off the ground. The past few years, I’ve grown taller and stronger and I’ve trained relentlessly. I’m by no means the MVP I had hoped I would be. But now being one of the main contributors to my basketball team after my tenuous past with sports, I can finally look back and feel proud about my athletic ability, something that once meant so much to me, for the first time in nearly 10 years.

Indisposable Disposition

I try to stay cheery as much as I can. I avoid being serious as much as I can, and even when presented with attacks on my character I often try to disregard them or make jokes. This often has the unintentional effect of making me seem weak, oblivious, or daft, but I allow it and move on with my day. It’s not that I fear confrontation, that I can’t stand up for myself, but because I’ve found that by making this change, I’ve created a very friendly environment, at least in my own headspace.

I like acting unaware sometimes because it detaches me from the monotony of everyday life. During finals, college applications, or other stressful moments in my life, I find that I myself am never as stressed as my peers, often they go on about how late they stayed up studying and how stressed they are, and I’ll chime in occasionally, but all-in-all I don’t contribute much because it isn’t the case for me. I feel as though my seemingly carefree attitude has translated into the parts of my academic life that don’t affect my performance, thankfully.

But I stray from the main idea of my post – I don’t like to take myself too seriously. I like being able to laugh at things that some friends would otherwise correct me for, trying to change me for whatever reason. Because of those little things, the incoherent gibber-jabber I have with myself walking down the stairs from lunch, the little dance I do on the curb by the hill of the English classroom, all these things keep me sane during the most stressful time I have ever been through in my life.

This method always works perfectly well until it doesn’t. It could be a few simple things throughout the day. I get blamed for the failure of something that I did for a group, I get called out for something I have to defend myself for, something that forces me to drop my jokes and get angry, that’s when it all comes flooding in, the test scores, the admissions calls, the loaded commitments. It’s moments like these I have to pull over on the side of the mountain road leaving school, I have to roll my window down and watch the sunset as the lights turn on over Ojai Ave. as the road clogs with headlights of every vehicle in town, and call my parents. My parents taught me to live my life embracing the positives, they reflected this idea in their own lives, making jokes and keeping me calm throughout all the hardships that they encountered when I was a child. After a few minutes of this, I hang up the phone, roll up my window, turn my music back on, and I’m ready to keep on chugging along.

Dreams from my Childhood

Before I was proficient, understanding language, my dreams would be primarily in symbols (I wasn’t a very verbal child). Now I’ve never written this down or spent much time reflecting on it, but from around the time I was 3 to the time I was 9 or 10 I would have very odd, indescribable dreams; a single, short line, accompanied by a circle and a square I believe would race around the room I would sleep in while remaining totally silent. And at moments I would hear a deep buzzing that I could not describe, the racing became more intense and increasingly antagonizing while appearing exactly the same. An unnerving simplicity that I didn’t understand frightened me beyond my greatest beliefs and I couldn’t describe them to my family for the life of me, haunting me for years after I stopped having them.
I used to live in a three-story house. To be fair it was a house divided down the middle with a wall so it could house two families, but regardless it felt large to the small child that I was. My house had an area where the stairs, which were all right above each other, and near the basement, there was an entrance to my dad’s office which was leveled slightly below the ground floor of the house but still sheltered slightly from the basement. And in the mornings or late afternoons when things were dark, but not enough to turn lights on, that area would have a shadowy appearance that terrified me. So sometimes, I dreamt that I was standing there, alone, in the early morning, when my parents were still in bed an eternity away on the third floor of my house, I would be frozen on that landing, surrounded by shadows and uncertainty, where I would hear a despaired howling, like one would hear on the Alaskan tundra on a cold winter night, but unnervingly human. And I would be unable to escape that desperate gale-forced cry, and then it would just end.
Photo Credit: Mechanics of Being

Spooky

Last year, something horribly tragic occurred on a large road about a quarter mile away from my house. In the early morning, around 4am a car crashed into a tree carrying four teens, three of them dying on impact. It was horrific, I didn’t learn about it until later that day. However, the night of the accident I had a horribly lucid dream in which I woke up in my bed and it was pitch black. The only reason I could see anything was because of the pale blue tint to the pitch black night, my windows were open and I could see out into my street. All of the sudden a shuddering scream arose in the distance, so prominently loud, accompanied by millions of other screams; the world was crying around me, falling into indescribable chaos. I was confused to begin with, until I could feel the feel screams shift as if they were a wave, the amplitude approaching my street, and it was in that moment that I completely froze. It felt as if every soul, petrified in doom, burst out in a thunderous cacophony of deafening terror, a vocal representation of the gothic interpretation of hell. I was unable to move. It felt as if the screams were searching, surveying the world for a single living thing, for me, and any movement I made would lead them straight to me. So I waited, I sat there and waited as the apex of noise approached, peaked, and as it passed I simply awoke. I checked the time to see if I could return to sleep and I saw that it was only 4:30 in the morning so I could get back to sleep, it took a while but I returned to sleep peacefully, although still bothered by the dream I just had. I woke up that morning with the dream lingering in the back of my mind but without much worry attached to it, so I went about my day as if nothing had happened, because to me, nothing had. We went out to lunch, on a different road from the wreck, and when we returned we came down that road where my father told me about the conversation he had with one of our neighbors earlier about the wreck and how it had happened there early in the morning yesterday. And as the words left his mouth the feeling of dread became so strong that I couldn’t speak. I just sat there dumbfounded as we approached the site of the crash where a candlelight vigil was being prepared.

Photo Credit; Depositphotos

Noodles

Recently I had a dream no different from most, I was at a grocery store with an old friend of mine. It used lightbulbs that just made the store appear sickly (obviously not LED), the flickery hospital lighting that evokes the smell of latex gloves from nowhere. Anyways, apart from the lights that bothered me a lot, the shelves were only partially stocked, but they were all stocked wrong and without any tags. This made it especially difficult to find the ramen that my friend and I had gone in there looking for. After wandering through rows of of tall, black, and poorly built shelves with pretty much anything thrown on them, we finally came upon the milk section. Now this was a bit of a problem because we had gone in there looking for ramen, and I was now browsing cartons of milk that looked as though they smelled like goat urine. After my brain had somehow remembered that the dream had begun with the task of looking for ramen, we began to move away from the milk and towards the rest of the store.

Now, personally I do not know why I so vividly remember this dream. I can only attribute it to me having had a boring day, and the dream being the only interesting thing that had happened to me since the morning.

When we finally came across the ramen, it was behind some boxes of Chinese snacks that I can only describe as milky bread sticks. The ramen was also sub-par because it was the off-brand Korean kind that was made to burn your eyebrows off that once made me sneeze chili powder. I was upset but still willing to take it, because after an extended period of time in a poorly managed grocery store that I have dreamt about many times before, I was getting fairly irritable. However, this is when my hulking, pigmy of a friend decided to grab it and run off.

I was furious, I had just wasted so much time staring at milk, wandering through aisles of nothing, and putting up with stress-inducing incandescent lighting, all to have my crappy ramen stolen away from me. Normally, this is where I would wake up, barge downstairs, and make myself food, but my dream-self was feeling particularly determined tonight. I continued searching for ramen, I spent hours searching the shelves of the store, running into half-asleep janitors, and many soulless patrons, destined with the same fate as I was.

After my search of the store came up empty, I somehow stormed myself to the loading dock in the back of the store that for some reason was also the location of the dumpster. It was beside this dumpster that I had found almost exactly what I was looking for, garbage bags full of contaminated ramen noodles. I do not know why I thought to look in the trash bags, I do not know how I knew they were contaminated, and I also do not know why I eventually took two bags home, but I do know that the story did not end well for me.

I don’t remember exactly how the dream ended, I eventually woke up, and I remember being fairly put off by the end, but as is common with dreams, I quickly forgot it. I didn’t find much meaning behind this dream. This is by no means the first dream I have had about grocery shopping, those have always been quite common for me. I didn’t think about the dream again until I came home that day from school, and saw that among some of the things my mother had bought from the grocery store was a few packets of ramen. Needless to say, I did not eat the ramen. That was the night I discovered that perhaps store bought ramen wasn’t for me, that was also the night that I discovered I was clairvoyant. So if there’s anything you should take away from this experience, and I seriously doubt there is, I’d say it’s probably to use LED bulbs, because they won’t cause irrational and dangerous decision making like incandescent bulbs do.

Photo Credit: Imgur.com

Lost In Translation

Being someone who considers themselves a second language speaker, I have always found that my native-language of Mandarin (although no longer as good as my English), holds a few words or phrases that I realized couldn’t translate into English. I say this not because there weren’t words for them in the English dictionary, because there were plenty, but because of the meaning that is lost in translating them into another language.
Mandarin has roots that trace back 3,000 years to the origin of the Chinese language, more recently becoming the common language of China over 700 years ago. Because of this, over the centuries, Chinese characters have gone from simply representing ideas or objects, to imbedding themselves into the deeper meaning of these ideas, becoming symbolic of what they represented.
I really don’t know if that would make sense to anyone who doesn’t have a non-English language where they can find an example of this. But essentially, what I’m trying to say, is as time as progressed, these words have solidified themselves as the sole-identifier for these ideas, meaning that the word in itself evokes instant imagery and clarity on whatever is being conveyed, it is the ultimate adjective, noun, verb, it requires no follow up, the word is a definition in itself just from the emotions it lets off.
Below I have jotted down a few that I’ve heard over the past several weeks that I don’t believe could ever be translated into another language and hold the same significance that it does in Mandarin.
香- xiang, like very good taste, smell, just feels right on the palate
哎哟,你做的饭好香啊
aīyō,nǐzuò dèfànhǎoxiāng a!
Oh my, this food that you made is so savory!
(Personally when I use this word, it evokes an image of that scene from Ratatouille when Remi takes a bite of the cheese and strawberry together and colors begin to swirl together on screen as he’s just in ecstasy. Just to give an example of what I mean by evocative)
情 qing, like very caring of, adoring, affection, lovey-dovey
转盼多情
Zhuǎn pàn duōqíng
a loving (or soulful) glance
辛苦- xin ku, working very hard, deserving of praise, worked to exhaustion, withstanding bitter hardships
路上辛苦了。
Lùshang xīnkǔ le.
You must have had a tiring journey.
脑海- nao hai, mind, same symbolic connotation as a heart that just doesn’t exist in English
你存在我深深的脑海里。
nǐ cúnzaì wǒ shēnshēn dè nǎohǎi lí
You exist, deep in my mind
存- cun, to exist, to protect it, cherish, withstand the test of time
爱长存。
aì chángcún.
Love will last forever
轻- qing, weightless, gentle, worry-free, relaxing
她走路脚步轻。
Tā zǒulù jiǎobù qīng.
She walks with a light, carefree step.
Source: AsiaSociety.org