There is something beautiful about the congregation of adolescent males. Sure, most of the time something gets broken, the noise level goes through the roof and no one, not even the participants, understand what’s going on. But the camaraderie and jocular affection displayed among teenage boys is an experience worth having.
As I end my time here at OVS, I want to pay tribute to some of The Boys. The next blog posts will each describe one or two individuals who have been important in my time during high school. Some have been great mates in the musical, others on the field, and some by helping me with crosswords. But each lad in one way or another has made the last four years of my life better, so this is my way of saying thank you.
As I walked down the hill, rounding the bend just before reaching the parking lot, a thought ran through my mind, but in an instant, I had expelled it. I had thought to myself, “what if this is the last time I set foot on this campus as a student?” But with stormy weather approaching and a sour mood pervasive through the student body, I didn’t allow myself a moment to linger on the idea, and left swiftly, my stereo silent, with only the mechanic hum of my engine to fill my thoughts. Why was I in such a hurry to leave?
I keep playing that moment back in my head. I didn’t take a moment to say goodbye to anybody, I knew I wasn’t going to see them for at least a month, even a brief farewell would be better than nothing. After all, these are the people I have cultivated strong relationships with the past seven years. But I don’t think I was ready.
Now that the remaining strands of my senior year are confined to a desk and I have much of the day to sit on my bed and think, I try to occupy myself with plans of the future. I committed to my college a month earlier, I’m already searching for roommates, trying to get my ideal housing. But I’m still trapped in that moment.
That one singular instance, an otherwise insignificant instant in time amounting to no more than a single shutter of a hummingbird’s wings, and I’m frozen in it. I stand there, Thermoflask in one hand, lunch bag in the other, backpack on, rounding the corner, staring directly at my car as if that would get me there faster. Why was I in such a hurry to leave?
I’ve never been in such a hurry to leave.
Maybe I knew this would be my last time seeing all my friends together again, and I was only trying to save myself, escaping the flood of memories that was rushing down the hill after me.
Can I complain about the pathetic life that I’m living in recently?
If you don’t mind, keep reading.
I saw the news today: “SAFER AT HOME” ORDER IS ISSUED FOR L.A. COUNTY
Are they actually gonna shut down the city?
I couldn’t believe it, I was totally shocked and thought it was pretty ridiculous when Wuhan city closed off.
Now I felt the same.
An extremely optimistic person, that’s what my friends say about me. I will always stay positive no matter what happens, that’s what I thought.
But… I have to say this now, I just can’t hold it back anymore. MY LIFE IS SO MISERABLE at the current situation.
I thought it would have been a minor thing and stoped in China, and that was it.
But now the WHOLE FUCKING WORLD IS SHUTTING DOWN.
Since the moment I landed in Shanghai, I was surrounded by full-body protective suits. I filled out lots of forms, they took my temperature many times, and other health checks.
It took me six hours to go through all these AFTER TWENTY HOURS FLIGHT.
After I exited from the airport, the government from my hometown Zhejiang Province provided transportation from Shanghai to Zhejiang.
Then my city government picked me up from where the province bus dropped me.
And the local government from my home district drove me to the hotel, where I received more health checks and quarantine.
14 days long quarantine. Alone, in a hotel room. Something I haven’t done before. I even can’t stand the feeling of eating alone.
I expected everything will be fine as soon as I get back home.
But I’m literally trapped here. I didn’t even get a chance to see my mom closely. All I did was wave at her through the metal bars on the windows from the fifth floor.
I was gonna do my homework today. I opened my laptop, went on safari, tried moodle, AP classroom, and Khan Academy.
Then… all showed up on my screen was “Safari Can’t Open the Page.”
For distance learning, we literally use google everything: google docs for editing words, google meet for the virtual class, google drive for sharing videos or slides, Gmail for communication……
However… GOOGLE IS BANNED IN CHINA.
I didn’t realize how serious the problem is until now.
Before all this shit happened, I was on the non-sugar diet with my friends. But now, I have to stop the diet. I really need sugar to paralyze my nerves and slow down the mental break down.
Even before last Friday, my plan was taking SAT on Saturday morning, ice-skating in the evening, brunch and shopping mall on Sunday.
Boom, everything just happened too fast. I hate when I have to say goodbye to the people I loved. I told myself that we will see each other again for sure, but I am not sure when. Maybe in a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, maybe several years, or maybe never.
I woke up at three this morning, got out of bed at six.
I took a shower, got dressed up, did makeup. When I was going to put on my shoes, I suddenly realized that I am going nowhere, I am staying here for the next eleven days. No matter how good the weather is outside, I told myself while looking through the metal bars window.
Not even able to open the door of my room on my own.
Am I really a living bioweapon?
What was also in the news I saw: one positive thing.
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.
I got up early on Sunday, and went to the breakfast table.
We sing songs at the breakfast table: how your day has been, how my day has been, how everybody’s day has been… yes, even on a Sunday morning.
It was one thing that I did, one tiny thing that I mentioned. But then it became all that defined me. I was no longer myself, but the ugly thing at the breakfast table. Imagine the horror of that—losing yourself at a breakfast table.
Jake, way to impress the breakfast table, I thought. Now I walk with a label. It’s going to expand with delicious rumors while my bones crumble and unravel.
In a way, it was a relief. The breakfast table only found out about this nasty side of me. Even when aristocrats at the table are disgusted by the sight of me, it’s ok. It’s alright because if my character is defined by a tiny mishap, they won’t discover the real fault of me.
I left the breakfast table a long time ago, and aristocracy means nothing to me. But days like today I find my bright side wondering, did the breakfast kill me? My respect for the breakfast table has crumbled, but just like before, I’m still idle. Have you ever been to the breakfast table?
the pool, hot on a september slab of concrete. a speaker singing a distinctly weekend song, listing back towards the heat of summer struggling against the onset of school. but we just repeatedly submerged ourselves and lie on hot things in the sun roasting to save a bit of heat, sort of fattening up for the winter. Peter was ripped of course, how could he not have a six pack at 16, he’s just that kinda guy. strong silent type, super cool, badass; also relentlessly nerdy, shy as can be, and definitely one of the guys you have to know well to know at all. he’s perched like a lizard on the high dive rolling over to toast each side, occasionally and jarringly rolling off the diving board upsetting the water 10 feet below and the less fit, less shy, me on the low dive (because heights aren’t my thing.)
you feel like the sun is shining through you when you lay on a black diving board like that, the surface burns your skin and the sun does its worst on the other side, you lie there. the closest we will ever feel to a cold blooded animal, or a zucchini in the midst of the broiling of a lifetime. we just lie there thinking that maybe if we didn’t move time might pass us by and leave us happily stranded in constant farewell to the pregnant bliss of the weekend. and teal, blues in abundance like a brochure to mykonos, both the sky and the water both are cloudless and still moving.
in those peaceful hours i saw fleetingly like a stag in your peripheral, the adolescence people tell you to hold onto. we did. we savored it. an experience we never talked about partly because it might seem gay and partly because what would we say. in a way it was my connection to the schoolboys i see in black and white, with my white gloves flipping through ancient yearbooks. content to lie on a hot rock by the creek with a friend you have been through hell and back with. i saw a glimpse in that moment, a glimpse of the school we would’ve attended had we been born in 1900.
Peter never chose me. he was content with the friends he had, i wasn’t cool, and i idolized him. terrible way to make a friend. but i just kinda showed up, next door, and i would just come and sit with him, uncomfortable as all hell at first, but within days we became happy to distract one another and would spend study hall sneaking back and forth between our rooms talking about rock climbing season and expensive climbing shoes. like two freshman boys did in a hundred years prior, one running into the others room discussing the intricacies of a new radio. wasting a two hour study period and leaving homework for 5 am the next morning before we went to muck their horses. and tomorrow we’d plan to sleep through study hall as a result of our long day but instead chose to scour ebay for deals on aforementioned climbing shoes.
we weren’t fast friends, but when we needed to study we could sit in silence and study and that was comfortable. also wasting our time nerding out over lame climbing equipment, but both were necessary evils and a part of our lives. for me silence was always the enemy of friendship because good friends always had something to talk or argue about. but Peter liked to listen, to say nothing, to test if it would be awkward, sometimes it was, most of the time it wasn’t. but now when i see him once a month silence is my enemy again. i want him to tell me everything, tell me the gossip, what’s happened since i left, who’s with who, who hates who, funny stories. and Peter just wants to be with his friend and sit and eat obscene quantities of brie and just exist and pretend nothing happened.
Kindness is a virtue, but some people use it as a weakness.
I try to be kind to people.
Sometimes I stay up late doing work for others so then they’ll be happy.
Sometimes I do things for people that will get me in trouble, but I do it anyway because they asked me to and I don’t want to say no.
Sometimes I don’t say what I feel when I really should because I want to focus on them. People like talking about themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, being and kind and helping people is something I love. But sometimes people abuse it; I don’t know how to say no. It leaves me broke, busy, and feeling used.
Hey can you drive me to Ventura? sure
Could you run to Von’s and grab me some chips? sure
I’m not allowed to have him in my room if it’s just us two, want to come over and hang with us? sure
Could you grab me some water? sure
Could I borrow your shirt? I “swear” I’ll give it back. sure
Hey could you send me the Physics? sure
I like helping people a lot. But there’s a balance. I can usually tell when I’m being used, when someone is kind to me because they want me to help them with their homework or give them rides places. But I usually let that slide; I like it when people are nice to me, it feels nice to think someone cares. But I’m starting to draw a line, if you are going to be mean to me, don’t expect me do your shit. I don’t like being used and most definitely not abused.
If you abuse me, no way you’re using me anymore.
Think before you yell at me and accuse me of things, because I have to draw the line somewhere, so have fun doing things for yourself.
How can someone stay happy all the time? Physiologically, it’s due to chemicals like dopamine. They get released and you feel great. A single smile can lift your mood, some might say. I too agree with the “smiling effect.”
However, I am moody in many scenarios. In those situations, I find it hard to smile—I can’t smile when people let me down. When someone has messed something up for you and you’re in a position with the power to either forgive that person or not because of the gravity of the situation, you won’t find yourself smiling.
Okay, you might be wondering why I’m explaining where your negativity comes from. But sometimes, you’ll have to lower your expectations in people in order to be happy. Once I asked a friend of mine about why he felt depressed, he told me it was because the people around him were all letting him down.
When he said that, he wasn’t smiling. His expectations in others were too high to achieve. If anything went wrong, he felt let down. Oftentimes he was in the shoes of either forgiving someone or not. That someone would apologize to him because of the stiffness of his face—that he wasn’t smiling.
However heavy the gravity of the messy-situation, the position to choose either going against our own impulses to forgive or indulging them by attacking that someone can be even heavier. With all that weight on his shoulders, my friend couldn’t smile. So we need to lower our expectations in people to feel happy, it’s not the end of the world. Say if your friend has forgotten to return your text messages and you feel undeserving for it, you should lower your expectations, smile and think that he/she might just be in the middle of something—and in most cases, that is the reason why they’re not replying. No one is failing you because they want to, and they’re not really failing you, because in my opinion, standards that are too high can bring nothing but frustration.
So, how can we feel happy and deserving? When lowering your expectations for happiness seems to be too much to ask, start by giving your friend a smile.
After three months wandering around back home, we went back to campus for a brand new school year.
After more than one year recovering from the Thomas fire, we finally had an all-school camping trip in the first week.
After the protracted and exhausting travel from the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the busy packing unpacking and packing back, putting everything in order, meeting new people, I got so tired but still tried to make myself look energetic.
An opportunity came up, a chance I could escape from all of this.
Then I was on the bus with my day pack which had my lunch sandwich in it sitting beside me, my huge camping bag with a sleeping pad, bag, clothes and almost everything I need sitting under me in the luggage hold.
3 days without my phone, what a challenge. My phone became a part of me, like an external organ, it stayed with me every single moment during the summertime.
“I will be fine,” I kept telling myself before we departed.
But as it turned out, I was really more than fine without it. I really enjoyed the time spent with my friends. We played card games, went to the tide pools, played volleyball on the beach, watched the sunset, ate s’ mores, brushed our teeth in the dark and so on.
These days, with no phone, feeling isolated from the rest of the world, but closer to what is really around me.