This is a long one.

I wish I were a junior.

That way, if we do miss school after break is over, there’s not the danger of missing prom, graduation, and oh, I don’t know, your last few weeks of high school ever? Because I am that one sentimental person in the senior class who feels sad about leaving high school. If that was/is you, too, let’s be friends.

As everybody knows, the coronavirus has spread to St. Louis. A girl returning from Italy tested positive, and then her younger sister attended school and went to a dance as well.

When I initially heard about the story, all I can recall feeling at first was anger, and then resentment. Sure, none of them knew about the diagnoses at first, but it is common sense to self-quarantine yourself and your family if you know you’ve just come back from a region so hard hit from the virus. It is highly contagious, after all. The fact that the younger sister of this woman attended a dance just adds a cherry on top. I understand that with the level of contagiousness of this virus, St. Louis likely would’ve gotten infected sooner or later, but I think this family took one of the biggest wrong turns possible.

St. Louis has declared a state of emergency. So far that hasn’t included the closing of schools, and I suppose Spring Break helps the case a little by not containing all of us in a single building, but I fear schools in the region will begin to shut down soon, especially after people start coming back from Spring Break. Are some of you still going on vacation? And to where? I have a friend who has a scheduled cruise in Mexico, and the last time I checked she wasn’t planning on cancelling. Trump already imposed that 30-day travel ban to Europe (minus the UK, somehow, even though they have over 700 cases), right? Does that mean nobody from the US can fly there anymore, at all? If not… I honestly don’t know why you’d go to Europe for a vacation at a time like this, but if you do, I wish you the best and hopefully you don’t get quarantined coming back~!

All around the nation college students are having to leave their dorms. It sounds crazy. Just over a month ago I remember reading on the news that the coronavirus isn’t a threat to the people of the United States at this time, so there’s no need to panic. Now, one just needs to visit Google to find out how their state and others are faring. (Probably not well.)

The last day of school, March 12th, felt like a blur. It felt unreal, like it was the tipping point before the entire world erupted into chaos. Being in school with all my peers felt… normal, and comfortable, despite some bumps. It was a regular school day. And then I went home, Spring Break started, and my happiness faded away.

At lunch two days ago I spotted a lovely classmate of mine wearing a full-body white hazmat suit. Yes, it covered every inch of his body, including his face. I instantly didn’t like what I saw. Was he trying to make a joke? Was he being serious? Was he a germaphobe? WHO KNOWS (though I’m willing to bet on the first option). Needless to say, I wasn’t amused. People like that are simply spreading the panic faster. Reminding people that their lives are now dominated by this virus when in reality, it shouldn’t be.

Another… darling classmate I saw in the hall was wearing a face mask. Once again, I didn’t feel good. Wearing face masks are useless unless you’re sick.

Neither of the students mentioned above were Asian. When I do see an Asian wearing a face mask, here, in St. Louis, I feel like it’s my duty to tell them off. Give them a scolding and say that they shouldn’t be spreading the stigma around Asians and making people think that we all have the virus.

Everybody is spreading something around these days…

When people are freaked out, they are willing to believe just any information they come across. People in Romania have recently been sharing a message from a doctor from a nonexistent school in China saying that lemons kill the virus. THIS IS NOT TRUE, and neither are many other claims made by people online. Please do thorough research and do not believe just anything you come across.

My mindset about this coronavirus has gradually shifted over these last two months. At first, I didn’t think I would be affected by the racism it would inevitably encourage, and I treated it almost as a joke. I thought it was amusing to walk into a store and have people look at me like I was dangerous- like a “I’m Asian, I have the coronavirus! I’m so scary!” kind of thing. Now, slowly I realize it’s catching up to me. I no longer find it funny, whatever I found funny before. I went out alone for a bike ride along the road yesterday, and the entire time I had half a mind to think somebody would yell out their open window a racist remark. Now I’m on guard and constantly feel defensive, like I have to protect myself from any possible discrimination I might face. Friends of mine have been complaining of insults and hurtful remarks thrown their way, but the thing is, they don’t do anything back. They don’t defend themselves, and instead just say, “I’m sorry.” I haven’t experienced any discrimination lately, but I almost wish I did, so I could teach some people a lesson. It’s like I’m itching for a confrontation just so I can say things my friends are too scared to say. People should understand that Asians didn’t all automatically get a software upgrade the second the virus erupted in China… and yet reports of acts of violence and prejudice against Asians have sprang up around the US and overseas, and it’s scary. It’s scary to think that I could get yelled at, or beaten up for looking the way I am. If a virus sprang up in the United States, would everybody go around punching others? People would probably gang up on those from the state the virus emerged from, I suppose… but it’s not likely. There would be no hard blame, “Damn those people of California for starting this sickness! They’re all so dirty, don’t go near anyone from that state!” It would be so hard to blame anybody if a sickness started up in the US, because we all look different. With this coronavirus, an Asian is an Asian, and spotting one on the road is enough reason to heckle them, I guess.

As of right now, Italy is the second most infected country after China. Are people now going to discriminate against Italians, too? I don’t think so. And before people defend themselves saying, “Well, the country of origin…” it doesn’t matter the country of origin anymore. Countless countries are now infected, and while China undoubtedly played a major role in the spreading of the sickness, blaming every single Asian person in the world makes no sense. Blaming everybody in China makes no sense, either. If people want so desperately to point fingers at somebody, blame the Chinese government, not the Chinese people. They quashed claims of the emerging virus back in December and thus didn’t spread enough awareness fast enough. Now nobody really trusts their word. Recently China has claimed that the worst of the virus is over. But I don’t trust that completely. Nobody does.

I try not to think about the consequences this virus might have for China. By now everybody should know that the country messed up, and we messed up… really bad. I’ve always been more protective of China than I have of the US. I will jump quicker to defend my mother country than my birth country, and I will more likely refer to China and I as “us”. With this new incident, my loyalties are divided. I don’t know how I should feel towards China anymore, or how I feel about people from the US harboring newfound hate toward China. Will other nations even want to support us, anymore? Either the world will rally to combat this virus together, or they will blame China for the deaths of their citizens.

The coronavirus is probably going to be talked about decades from now, “remember that pandemic back in 2020…” It’ll go down in history books! But, like those who went through other historic catastrophes, it’s no fun for the people actually living through it. Heads high, everyone! We can do it.

To give pity… or not to?

If I told you I ever felt sorry for Hitler, would you believe me?

Even if that pity was only for a moment, would you believe me?

Let me explain.

I’m a sensitive person. Always have been, probably always will be. I like to give off a tough exterior- I rarely smile in the hallways, I tend to talk very bluntly, I probably look like I’m irritated with you most of the time.

But I am also somebody who cries at the flip of the coin. Almost anything can set me off. It’s… debilitating. But the point I’m trying to make is that I respond very acutely to emotion directed at me or emotion I observe around me. And sometimes, that can make me look like the bad guy.

Hitler is one of history’s most notable bad guys. Nobody can argue. Those who try to have evidence they’ve pulled out of a donkey’s ass. And yet I somehow found it in me to give Hitler an ounce of my pity, even for a second. How?

A picture.

Taken just 4 days before his suicide, the picture shows Hitler decorating members of his Nazi youth organization with a smile on his face. More background shows that Hitler had already given up at that point, but still emerged from his underground bunker to meet with these youth and congratulate them on… whatever support and work they’ve done.

He also met with them to assure them that everything was going to be fine, that the war was going great, and that there was nothing to worry about. And then he retreated back into his bunker.

Does this, at all, justify what and to whom Adolf Hitler inflicted in WWII? Does this call for new sympathy for the man?

Never.

But as soon as I saw that picture, followed by a short clip, in a documentary, I couldn’t help but murmur out loud, in surprise, in shock, in pity? I saw Hitler’s smile, probably a smile he wore on his face as he moved to crush Germany’s enemies, the smile he wore for the youth that he believed was the face of his new Reich. I saw the man who would go on to kill himself four days later, four days after he told those kids that the war was favorable and that there was nothing to worry about. Had it not been for that last fact, I might not have felt so bad for him. But at that moment, as I peered at that video showing Hitler meeting with his youth, telling them what he did, I felt pity.

I almost wanted to cry. If I took Hitler out of that body and instead simply saw a broken man reassuring kids that they were right in supporting him, that they would be victorious, that everything was going to be okay, I would have found myself in tears.

Another war leader, another man whose had much blood shed on his hands- Hernan Cortes. (Sorry it’s random, but we’re learning about him in my Spanish class and he seemed perfect for this…) He was a Spanish conquistador who more or less caused the fall of the Aztecs. A real bad dude, in other words. He was ringleader of so many murders and massacres and yet, one day, I felt a shred of pity for him despite feeling enraged at what the Spanish did to the indigenous population just minutes before. The particular event I was reading about that day was the murder of the Aztec king, Montezuma. Right after he was killed- (read: why I was irate at the Spaniards!)- Cortes ordered his men to pilfer as much gold as they could possibly hold and then RUN. Run from the Aztecs. Run from the giant lake they called home. Run. And they did, though now burdened with so much gold they couldn’t even fight back when the Aztecs caught up to them. (This I found hysterical but also surprisingly sad, and yes, this was also when I started feeling bad for the Spaniards.) After the Aztecs… mauled them, Spanish troops lay in the water, dying, dead, and 90% of their gold had sunk down deep in the lake. And Hernan Cortes cried. The man broke down and cried. If you’ve caught onto anything, at this point you know that I also feel very, very bad for him. Have my prior feelings toward Cortes changed at all? Nope. But reading about him so vulnerable in that moment, I wondered if it was wrong to cry for him.

With the 2020 elections looming, I find myself roped into the same situation. “Never trust politicians,” people say.

Truth? I’m not as educated in that department so I can’t say for sure. But it’s certain that politicians get a lot of flack for what they do. They get insulted for almost anything. Don’t worry, I won’t get political. But one Democrat has caught my eye lately in the news.

There’s a meme circulating around on the Internet about Bernie Sanders. The context? Bernie recently tweeted out a video asking people for donations to his campaign. In it, he says, “I am once again asking for your financial support.” And people thought it would be funny to make it into a meme, given that a presidential candidate was begging for their money. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are funny, and I understand that they aren’t necessarily poking fun at Bernie himself. But where I’m supposed to feel amused, I only feel uncomfortable. I can’t join in the festivities.

(Maybe I’m just not a humorous person. I’ve definitely gotten that before.)

Donald J. Trump! Let’s talk about him, and basically every politician that’s gotten criticsed before.

Let’s talk about every politician to grace the stage, then.

Donald Trump is far from the perfect president. I don’t find it hard to criticise him, myself.

But I hate it when he’s mocked. I hate it when anybody is mocked, going along with my little Bernie rant above. Yes, this may seem superficial when put next to genuine complaints people have of Trump. But despite all that, I cannot laugh when people mock him.

Once again- this may seem superficial, like I’m readily taking a single picture and overriding pages of facts and evidence. But I recently saw a picture of… Trump’s hair. It has a mind of its own. In this photo, it was flying upwards in the wind, seemingly wanting to escape our dear president’s head. He looked ridiculous, unfortunately.

Of COURSE, people jumped right in ruthlessly. But I couldn’t laugh. I couldn’t even smile. I could only frown and then smile awkwardly.

“But look at everything he’s done to our country! It’s so easy for us to insult him!”

Like I said, sometimes I look like the bad guy… siding with the bad guys because of one little display of vulnerability. I seemingly look right past their darker selves, Hitler, Cortes, Trump, Bernie (politicians can’t be trusted…) and find a way to be on their side just by one little expression or one little photo.

Does that make me the bad guy? Does that make me the sympathizer? Nobody’s ever accused me of that, though I have garnered some weird looks when I expressed the sentiments above.

So there you have it. I’m ready to defend a flawed politician, ready to cry for a murderer. Well… not exactly, but you get the point. Just don’t start crying in front of me, okay? I don’t want you to turn out to be a murderer after I’ve cried along with you.

Breaking News…

China messed up.

I’m not a doctor. I’m not as educated in this virus outbreak as I’d like to be. But I know that China has likely made the situation worse for themselves.

Ever since the first sightings of the outbreak in late December 2019, China has done nothing but cover it up and assure people that there’s nothing to worry about. This has snowballed disastrously. There’s been up to 1,000 deaths already, far outnumbering the SARS virus deaths, and more than 34,000 people have been infected around the world.

Chinese officials, at the start, lied to the public when closing down an infected marketplace, telling them that it was due to renovations. A Chinese doctor, who has since died from the virus (Some suspect the hospital didn’t try hard enough to save him because he was a whistleblower), was arrested for lying and spreading fake news. Now, China has yet to accept help from the C.D.C.

People fear China. People are disgusted by China. People are making fun of China.

Media reports have accused China of “artificially creating” the virus. People have been avoiding all Asians no matter where they are.

And despite all this, because I am Chinese, a part of me believes that this new sickness is just one more thing to give China a bad rap.

China has never really been seen in a favorable light by Westerners. It’s plain in media and everyday talk. Compared to its younger counterparts like Japan or Korea, China is seen as the old man, not quite as flashy, open or welcoming, having nothing to offer the West but cheap products and good food, and refusing to bow down to Western standards, especially in government. Chinese people are generally seen as rude, loud, annoying, and cheaters. Of course, this is and can be supported- but like all countries, there is the good and the bad. With China, the bad is so bad, I suppose, the good is hard to spot.

Take a perfectly normal situation, put it in China, and suddenly people will find things to criticize about. I first stumbled upon a video of a mother recording herself pushing her blonde baby girl around in a stroller in Japan. By the way, Eastern countries fawn over people who don’t look like them- i.e. a different skin color or hair that’s not black or brown. As expected, many people this mother passed on the street stopped, stared, pointed, gathered around, or even took pictures on their phones. The comments under the video were lovely: “It’s really cute that Japanese people are so curious about blonde hair!” “Look, she’s even taking a video of the baby!” “Japanese people are so friendly.”

I then stumbled upon another video, this time of a black man in China recording a passerby recording him. Same deal, right? Somebody who looks different is in an inquisitive country, people are stopping, staring, maybe even taking a photo.

“So rude, recording somebody just because they look different!” “I get that he looks different but do they really have to stare like that…” “This is what I have to deal with every time I go to China.”

Am I… am I missing something here? Is it because the first video was of a baby girl and not an adult male? Is it because the first setting was along a path in a serene park, and not on a city street? Am I too narrow-minded and only focus on and amplify backlash against my own country?

Often, I like to imagine how I’d see things if I were not Chinese. Would I still be so hasty to defend the country? Or would I likely be more drawn to countries like Japan and Korea, both highly popular here in the US?

Sometimes, I am ashamed to be Chinese. I am envious of those who call themselves Japanese or Koreans, because I have been forced to think that way. After this virus outbreak, I almost feel like I should apologize, especially to other Asian countries, for the illness and chaos China has created. I should apologize to people who look like me who get blamed for the virus, even if they aren’t Chinese. I know that if I had a choice, I would not be in such a hurry to pick China as my country, even before this coronavirus. Then, my nationalism worms its way through and makes me feel guilty for ever not being proud of my heritage.

The thing is, not everybody who is Chinese or who lives in China is a stereotype. And not everybody in the West thinks of China that way. Actually, most people, I daresay, don’t think that way. But the sheer amount that do stand out. To me, at least. They stand out a lot.

This weekend, I was playing tennis with my brother. And I coughed a little. No big deal. People cough all the time and they aren’t sick.

Somebody’s ball rolls onto our court from three courts away. Still, no big deal. I go to pick it up for them, only to have the lady bolt over to me and tell me, with a funny little lilting tone, “I heard you coughing. I don’t want what you have!”

Snatched up her ball, smiled, and ran away. Honestly, that was the first bit of racism I’d ever come close to. And yet I didn’t react at all.

I, too, smiled, and walked away.

College thoughts

Can you imagine that somebody born at this very second will go on in 18 years to be accepted to Harvard?

I’ve been feeling really discouraged lately. And regretful. Really really regretful. My thought process pretty much every day is, “How could you have been so stupid [insert freshman/sophomore/junior] year? You had the chance for [insert opportunity here] back then and you didn’t take it.”

And I’ve been doing a lot of wishing for a time machine. I’m only half joking. I want a time machine to take me back to sophomore year. Or better, junior year. Then, with my senior brain, I could do everything the way my senior self now wants my junior self to do a year ago. No opportunities missed. No regret a year later. No beating myself up because I’m the one going to Stanford, not my peer. Congratulations by the way, Nikhil. You deserve it, I’m sure.

I don’t know if I’m downgrading myself, if I’m underestimating myself. I sure hope I am. Feeling the way I do isn’t really pleasant. I get irritated quickly, and I blank out quite a lot.

I’m even blanking out now, forgetting what I wanted to put on here.

Ever since school started this year I’ve been struggling with toxic thoughts about myself. Maybe “toxic” is too strong of a word, but I’ve been doubting myself a lot. Sometimes I’m on a high and I think I’m a strong, smart, capable girl. Other times- most times- well…

I’m not trying to toot my own class’s horn here, nor am I trying to excuse my own shortcomings, but I feel like the class of 2020 has some really strong competitors, driven, bright people. People who make studying and achieving high look easy and effortless. People I wish I were. I know of several who have applied to Ivies, and top colleges like Stanford and Vanderbilt. Myself, the best school I applied to was WashU, right here at home. But even WashU is a stretch for me, and it’s not competition for MIT, like my friend Rachel is applying to. A few of my friends have also applied to WashU, and if they get in and I don’t, well, heartbroken will be the lightest description of how I’d feel.

But I shouldn’t be complaining, should I? They’ve worked hard and I want to think I have to, except I think they’ve worked just a little bit harder.

Am I a disappointment to my family, my friends, myself, if I can’t make it into a top college like so many students across the US do every year? I’m Asian. I’m supposed to be good at this. And yet I know my parents have given up on me, in a sense. They try not to hurt my feelings but sometimes when they talk to my younger brother, they say, “I’m counting on you now to get a 36 on the ACT, okay? You can be the one in our family to go to Harvard!” And that breaks me, little by little. Every time I’m reminded of my own failure to be the perfect student, I want to cry, I want to scream at my younger self to be more driven and focused on my studies and not to be so stupid and lax until it was too late. Even now, I sound like an ungrateful little whiner writing about how pitiful she feels.

I’ve lost my chance. How’s that feel, huh?

100 random things I love.

  1. writing
  2. making people smile
  3. miniatures
  4. stuffed animals
  5. train rides
  6. swimming
  7. tennis
  8. the Home Depot melody
  9. my cats
  10. C days
  11. successfully solving a math problem
  12. praise
  13. erasers
  14. ice skating
  15. typing
  16. ramen
  17. rice
  18. chicken noodle soup
  19. giving people gifts
  20. dogs
  21. spicy food
  22. reading
  23. music I can dance to
  24. college acceptance letters
  25. Minecraft
  26. drawing
  27. memes
  28. snow
  29. Hawaii
  30. sad songs
  31. nature
  32. ice cubes
  33. love
  34. sand between my toes
  35. crying
  36. hair ties
  37. whoever will be my special someone
  38. Amazon.com
  39. the Amazon rainforest
  40. the ocean
  41. the effort administrators put in despite rowdy teenagers trying to get the best of them
  42. Hetalia
  43. skirts
  44. my first kiss
  45. badminton
  46. cuddling
  47. the color black
  48. Buzzfeed Unsolved
  49. dancing
  50. sunlight
  51. hiking
  52. dressing up
  53. feeling confident
  54. winning a game
  55. hot pot
  56. looking pretty
  57. thunderstorms
  58. Swedish fish
  59. Buzzfeed quizzes
  60. work days in class
  61. coloring
  62. rollerblading
  63. the zoo
  64. warm freshly printed paper
  65. my blanket
  66. summertime
  67. resin
  68. dolphins
  69. vinegar with rice
  70. lotion
  71. exercise
  72. hot chocolate
  73. not being a disappointment
  74. peace
  75. cake
  76. presents
  77. hearts
  78. earbuds
  79. laughing
  80. tissues
  81. bantering
  82. non-frizzy hair
  83. rice
  84. showing off
  85. ribbons
  86. the smell of rain
  87. horseback riding
  88. dancing when nobody’s watching
  89. hot baths
  90. the National Mall
  91. playing piano
  92. putting people in their place
  93. mochi
  94. baton twirling
  95. animal ears
  96. having something to do
  97. different cultures
  98. museums
  99. you
  100. and me 🙂

Let’s talk murder.

I love a good murder book. In fact, as the school year began I found myself repeatedly going to the bookshelves to look for murder novels. So far, most of them have been good reads. I sped through them so fast sometimes I checked out a book in the morning and returned it by FLEX time.

But then, I began noticing a… pattern, if you will. A staple that almost all YA murder mysteries seem to have.

No matter what the plot was before, almost all of these books end with the hero or heroine coming face to face with the murderer and, after a fight, black out and then wake up in a hospital, the killer either in police custody or dead.

Am I right or am I right?

Yep, I bet now you’re thinking back to all the murder books you’ve read (unless you chose to stay away from YA, which I kinda understand) and you’re seeing the connection. There’s… nothing wrong with this type of ending. It makes for a good, satisfying finish- the main character is safe and the killer has been stopped! But to me, I also have some qualms with it.

First of all, basically every YA murder novel implements it. I found myself reading the same plot written different times over and over, and soon, I was expecting it. That is not good writing, I think. Imagine how great it would be if you read a book that surprised you with a different ending! I’d be delighted.

Second of all, the ending is cliche and gives me the impression that the author wanted the easy way out. Imagine it: it’s nighttime, the big climax, where the main character is face to face with the killer who has a machete raised high in the air about to kill him or her.

The machete comes down.

Next thing you know, the hero/heroine is waking up groggily with their best friend who pulled an all-nighter asleep in the next room. After a few moments the policeman who magically knew when the hero/heroine would wake up comes in and tells him/her what happened last night.

It seems like the easy way out, doesn’t it?

To me it does. I mean, the author completely bypassed showing the night in the main character’s eyes. No raw emotion or reactions or thoughts or dialogue. Nothing. All we know is that somehow the killer, who’s managed to kill so many people before, failed to chop the main character’s head off with a machete.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a major flaw in the novel. I’d still happily read a book with this ending and deem it a good book.

It’s just that… too many books end that way. And that is what makes it so old.

Perhaps I should move away from YA readings?

Ugh, STEM majors…

I hold jealousy, fascination, admiration and annoyance toward STEM majors.

I want to become a STEM major. Their minds are quick, sharp and precise, and they’re also really smart. It doesn’t hurt to mention that they make big bucks, too. But my mind doesn’t work the way a STEM-oriented person’s mind does. I’m not big on numbers or calculations or laboratory experiments or technology. I wish I was. But I’m not.

I’ve chosen, for the time being, to major in Psychology.

And if you’re like almost any other person I’ve told this to, you’re going to point out, as if I haven’t heard this before, that psychology is useless.

Fine. I get it. I’ve been so affected by your words that I’ve debated changing my major before I even experimented in it.

To me, psychology isn’t a blow-off major. I’m genuinely interested in learning about the human mind, and I guess I’ve always been predisposed to being curious about it from my observing tendencies to my uncanny ability to read people like a book.

I want to become either a forensic, clinical, or I-O psychologist. Sounds fun, right?

My goal is to, if I do stick with psychology as a major, excel in it and go on to become a world-renowned psychologist. Then I can prove everybody wrong. Is that a childish goal? I really hope not. I’ve had my heart set on it for a while, now.

My dad, a STEM major, jokes to me that people should put more focus on the humanities and arts and science careers more because pretty soon robots are going to take over technology and be able to do calculations that STEM majors do now, thus stealing their jobs. He told me that robots can’t think like humans do, however, so the “soft skilled” careers are safe.

Isn’t that funny?

Engineering and computer science are the top paying majors currently. There are literally so many types of engineering it makes my head swim. Sure, robots are possibly poised to take over the world and sure, robots are terrifyingly good at computations. But I don’t think in our lifetime will robots take over the job field for STEM majors. If anything, I predict that career field will actually grow with the help of robots.

Ugh. STEM people always brag about how they’re supposedly smarter than the rest of us. They look down at the other majors because… well, they are smart. Maybe you need to be smarter for a STEM major than a humanities major? But really, is that true? In some ways, STEM is easier, because all you really need is a focused memory and a calculator. In soft skill majors, you actually need to use your head to think through concepts or write a paper.

There’ll always be the undeniable tug of jealousy whenever somebody declares they are a STEM major through and through, and there will always be the undeniable flash of embarrassment when you admit you are a liberal arts major. For me, anyway. The hype around STEM majors is real. If I could choose which side to be on, I’d choose the STEM side.

Just so I can brag about how good I am with a calculator.