Summer Update

My summer got off to a great start when I saw a Triple Crown in person!

My summer got off to a great start when I saw a Triple Crown in person!

I can’t remember the last time I blogged, and that’s kind of embarrassing. I should have had lots of things to say these past few months. So much has happened life-wise. A lot of difficult things and a lot of happy things. I have changed. Reflecting upon my absence here, I’ve wondered if I’ve stopped thinking deeply. For so many years, I relied on this blog to help me think. Instead of posting here about some revelation I’d just experienced, I’d often start blog posts out of confusion and write my way to clarity. But I didn’t think that was it — over the past half year, I’ve done lots of thinking. Lots of growing up. So I wondered if I simply didn’t have anything to say anymore. As a writer, I was scared by that. What kind of writer are you if you don’t have anything more to say? It comforted me that, during this time, I was still writing. I worked on a new novel, wrote more poetry than I have in my entire life, drafted long and convoluted emails to my boyfriend.

I could still write, that I knew.

I’m still not sure what the reason was for my hiatus. I do know that, when it came time to renew my WordPress subscription, I only hesitated briefly before entering my credit card information. I want to keep this blog going. I want to share the experiences over the next few years with all of you. I want this to be an outlet for me when I need to tell the world how I feel. I want this to be a continual public journal of my thoughts.

With that said, I have lots to update you guys about. Although it was challenging, Dan and I made it through his graduation weekend and meeting his parents. Family is not something I do well, because I’m both hungry for the love I never got and scared to ask for it. I didn’t know if we would make it through that weekend, but something in me knew that I didn’t want to lose this. I didn’t want to lose my chance at love, at happiness. Dan and I have been together for five months now. We’re quickly approaching six months. I remember telling my mom that if I ever made it six months in a relationship, it would probably be for forever, because I couldn’t imagine myself lasting that long with someone. Though I said those words half-jokingly and out of pessimism, I feel like they could end up being true. This is the first relationship I’ve been in where I don’t wonder every other week if we should break up. This is the first relationship where I can face my fears without hurting my significant other or myself. Well, most of the time. Sorry Dan!

After an emotionally grueling few weeks, we were off to Asia. First stop was Shanghai. Then, we spent two weeks in Wuhan with my dad and siblings. From there, we flew to Chongqing to visit our good friend Weihao. Finally, we ended the trip in Taiwan. Sounds like a nice, relaxing time, right? Unfortunately for me, and by extension Dan, things are never easy with my family. Besides that, we had to go through a lot of firsts on this trip that were hard for both of us. He’d never even met my dad or siblings before. We’d never spent 24/7 with each other for seven weeks straight. I’d never been deathly ill in a foreign country. I’d never been deathly ill and had to rely on my boyfriend to take care of me.

It wasn't easy playing surrogate parents to my siblings. Figuring out Chinese taxis was one of the many tasks bestowed upon us.

It wasn’t easy playing surrogate parents to my siblings. Figuring out Chinese taxis was one of the many tasks bestowed upon us.

Many things could have gone wrong. Some things did go wrong. When I couldn’t sleep because my throat was hurting so badly I was in tears, we got in a heated argument at 5 in the morning. Ultimately, though, the trip didn’t end terribly. In fact, when I look back, all I see are the happy moments. The ways in which we grew closer. The comfort of knowing that this is the person you will fall asleep next to and wake up to for the next month. The gradual realization that, quite possibly, you will wake up to this person for decades to come.

Since getting back, it’s been both exciting and difficult adjusting back to real life. It felt really good to be back in the states. Being reunited with my kitty was the highlight of coming home. Unexpectedly, I realized how much I do love living here and how much I’ll miss Ann Arbor when I move to New Haven. I think I filled out a bajillion forms for Yale. I had three doctor’s appointments in the span of a week — I’m scurrying to get my vaccinations up-to-date so I can get my health clearance before class registration starts. Apparently, I do not have tuberculosis. This morning, I updated my resume and applied for a teaching fellowship at Yale.

This coming week, we’ll be getting ready for our road trip out west. I’m super excited to channel my inner cowgirl and ride some wild mustangs in Montana. After that, I’ll be moving out east and starting my adventure at law school. I’m planning a new blog series about life at Yale, so stay tuned!

À la prochaine,


P.S. I may have done something new with my hair. What do you think? (Don’t worry, the cat ears are removable.)

Rebecca with New Hair

I’m Meeting My Boyfriend’s Parents

I can't deny I'm my parents' daughter.

I can’t deny I’m my parents’ daughter.

First off, I’m really sorry I haven’t been blogging with more frequency. I’ve really fallen off the social media bandwagon. You can only post so many selfies on Facebook before it gets tiring, right? (Note: the correct answer is “Yes, if you are sane”). In all honesty, I think I haven’t been blogging as much because I haven’t needed to. I blogged the most when I was lonely and bored. Boredom is a great thing, I think, and it’s often the impetus I need to be creative. But lately, life has been busy in mostly wonderful ways. When I have free time, I’ve been reading, writing poetry, and indulging in my favorite guilty pleasure — vicariously living out other couples’ drama in the relationships forum on Reddit. Seriously, try it sometime. It’s like a cross between telenovelas and Judge Judy.

Loneliness is not always such a great thing. There was a time when I couldn’t really talk to the people around me, when I didn’t really have people. And so I wrote, because that was my only voice. There was a time when the people around me kept telling me that I should fit into a certain mold. And so I wrote, because that was my rebellion. There was a time when I didn’t know myself. And so I wrote, because otherwise I would leave nothing of me in this world, not even footprints. Now, I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who listen to me, who accept me, who know me. I am not lonely anymore. I am, however, sorry that I rarely feel the urge to blog anymore. If it’s any consolation to you, my dear reader, I think I will be posting much more regularly in the near future. I just spent a weekend in New Haven, at Yale Law School’s admitted students program, and I have so many thoughts on the Yale experience. I get the feeling that this blog will be the outlet for many revelations and frustrations I’ll encounter as a law student.

But that’s a post for another day. Today, I wanted to make an announcement. I’m not always good at these. I used to get upset with my father, who never tells you anything and lets you find out for yourself. Oh hey, Rebecca, I got myself a wife. Oh right, about that, you have a baby brother on the way. Um, by the way, I’m moving to China. Now that I’m grown, I’ve realized how annoying his behavior is and done the exact opposite nonetheless followed his example. I’m my father’s daughter in so many ways — I can’t deny it.

When I was young and naïve once upon a time, I couldn’t have cared less about my boyfriend’s parents. They could own skyscrapers in Philadelphia, they could be undocumented immigrants working in Chinatown, they could be Mexican drug lords. I didn’t care if they were religious, racist, sexist, Communist. Most importantly, I didn’t care about the relationship my boyfriend had with them. As someone who had less than ideal parents, I couldn’t fault someone for their genealogy. As someone who has considered cutting a parent out of my life, I believed it was one of the hardest decisions and had immense respect for someone who had done so. If anything, I actively judged and despised those who had idyllic parents and childhoods. What did they know about suffering? How could they ever understand me? I envied those who grieved the deaths of their parents. To have loved and lost is always better than to never have loved at all.

After I started university and experienced my first serious relationship, I began to understand that you can never escape the influence of your parents, for better or for worse. Some people manage to lessen the degree of that influence to an almost negligible amount, but it’s always there. Even when teenagers rebel and shun their families, by middle age, they’ve grown into a carbon copy of their parents. Many of your parents’ flaws, you will carry on as your own. And so, I’m cautious now. Barring circumstances where his parents are despicable humans, I’m looking for a boyfriend who shows his parents patience, kindness, respect. He should confide in them, but stand up for his beliefs when they differ from theirs. If he has younger siblings, he should know that his job as Protector is a lifelong duty. He should care enough about his family members to confront them, challenge them, hurt them.

Even when these little munchkins are 50, I'll remind them to brush their teeth.

Even when these little munchkins are 50, I’ll remind them to brush their teeth.

Above all, I’m looking for a boyfriend for whom complacency is not an option, with regard to his personal growth and his relationships with those who matter most. I’m meeting my boyfriend’s parents for the first time this week, and I care. Although I have every confidence that things will go well, I will see both a glimpse into his past and his future. That’s not something I take lightly.

Oh, and did I mention that I have a boyfriend now? I told you I’m bad at announcements.



When Mental Illness Is a Gift

Sometimes, it takes someone who's suffered to recognize beauty.

Happiness is fleeting, but maybe that’s okay.

People have asked why I write about my experience with BPD. My well-meaning mother has wondered aloud if, one day, an insurance company would deny me coverage or a potential Google-savvy employer would not hire me because my “illness” could be a liability. I highly doubt my job interviewers are taking the time to find my blog and read through my post history, but I acknowledge the possibility. Surely, when I applied for a U.S. Department of State security clearance years ago, they were quite thorough. Not exactly accurate though — they asked about my friend Knight from India because they saw on our website that my company was inspired by him. Struggling to keep a straight face, I explained to the officer that Knight was from Dali and I was no longer in contact with him. The officer asked about my history with alcohol, weed, and even men. I’m pretty sure he also asked about my mental health. I don’t recall how I answered him; maybe I lied. But I am sure that I don’t want to keep my mouth shut about mental illness out of fear that I might be denied a career opportunity at some point in the future. Before I am a professional, a soon-to-be lawyer, I am a writer. And before I am a writer, I am a human.

I absolutely loved Julie Holland’s recent op-ed in the New York Times. Too many self-described feminists and progressives are reluctant to admit that there are fundamental differences in the sexes. To ignore those differences is to neglect both the additional struggles that come with being a woman and the advantages of having what Holland calls an increased “emotionality”. Often, that emotionality is also the source of our struggles.

Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power.

She further describes the overmedication of women. Abilify, an antipsychotic, is the bestselling drug in the United States. One in four women takes a psychiatric medication. While some of these women benefit from their chemical regimen, for others it is wholly unnecessary. Holland believes that SSRIs are not necessarily the answer for many; they tend to dull positive emotions as well as negative ones. Users report feeling less in general — less empathy, creativity, sexuality. Her criticism of SSRIs hits home for me. A little over two years ago, I sat in my apartment with a bottle of Zoloft to my left and my laptop to my right. On my laptop was the very thing that was causing all of my stress. The unfinished manuscript of my first novel. I wanted desperately to have a magic pill that would make the crippling terror go away. The problem was that my novel was not only the source of my terror, it was also my purpose in life. If I took that pill, maybe I wouldn’t care if I failed anymore, but then what? If I had stopped caring, stopped berating and threatening myself daily, would I ever have written a novel?

My immediate response to Holland’s editorial was to think about mental health in that context. Those of us with “alternative” responses to emotion and stimuli are frequently considered diseased. What if mental illness was not thought of a sign of disease, but a source of power? After all, the most creative and talented people in human history have been eccentric at the very least; many were severely mentally ill. Did Vivien Leigh, Ernest Hemingway, and John Nash succeed in spite of their mental health or because of it? Could the very thing that provoked their negative emotions also have inspired their positive ones? Who gets to decide which emotions are positive and which are negative, anyway?

I am not ashamed to tell people I have BPD because it has been both the biggest struggle and the best gift of my life. On the bad days, I remind myself that sadness and loss are simply a part of the human spectrum of emotionality. Because I have such a capacity for grief, I am also able to feel the most wonderful bliss. Sometimes, I lie in bed and it’s as if I can feel every emotion I’ve ever felt in my entire life. Sometimes, I feel the weight of the world’s joy and pain on my shoulders. Sometimes, I think that my emotionality is the very thing that makes me who I am. And that, I believe, is the source of my power.

10 Lessons I Learned in 2014

2014I didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. If I had, though, I’m pretty sure I know what they would have been. Get at least 95th percentile on the LSAT, finish my honors thesis, graduate from Michigan, go on a Fulbright or Princeton in Asia Scholarship, get into law school(s), meet the love of my life. I ended up reaching or surpassing some of those tacit goals. Despite not putting in a lot of effort, I did better than I thought I would on my LSAT. My honors thesis received departmental honors and I graduated with highest honors. But I received swift rejections from Fulbright and PiA in the spring. When I started looking for a paralegal position in the nonprofit field, I heard from exactly one organization. It was definitely a humbling experience to realize the dearth of job prospects available to a recent humanities-majoring grad. Fortunately, though, the one place that took a chance on me turned into the best job I could ever have asked for. I’m sure that I’ve gained more at MIRC than I would have in Morocco or China — it’s likely the reason I got into my dream law school and the law school so unattainable it wasn’t even in my dreams.

As for my love life, I certainly didn’t meet the love of my life. If anything, I said goodbye to the love of my life. But I’m okay with that. Because 2014 taught me that not only can I be single, I prefer it for now. Life just got real. We’re not undergrads anymore with so much free time we don’t know what to do with it. With what limited time I have, I know that a relationship will come at the cost of my personal growth and my friendships. That’s not a sacrifice I’m willing to make, unless someone comes along that I’m certain I want to keep for a long time.

Here are some other lessons I learned in 2014:

  1. Cleaning is worth it. I never thought I’d say this, but having my own place has forced me to consider the kind of environment I want to be in. Although I don’t quite like cleaning yet, I love the feeling of having just cleaned. The other day I caught myself on my hands and knees, feeling my hardwood floors for grains of dust, and realized I could become a neat freak. My sister introduced me to Marie Kondo’s cleaning book recently. While I don’t wanna become like Marie (I’m pretty sure she would meet OCD diagnostic criteria), I agree that every object in your home should give you a little joy.
  2. Every person in your life should give you a little joy. I’m talking about net joy here. When you take all the positive things someone does for you and then subtract the negative, you should come out with a nice positive number. It doesn’t have to be things; it can be the way someone makes you feel. In short, I learned that some people just shouldn’t have a place in your life. That no matter how happy someone makes you, the pain isn’t worth it. That some relationships (friendships with exes, friends with benefits, etc.) are more of a headache than they’re worth.

    A friend that helps you clean?! Definitely a keeper.

    A friend that helps you clean?! Definitely a keeper.

  3. The above rule applies to family too. I think you should give family more leeway because there’s a lot more to gain if you can work out the relationship and a lot to lose if you don’t. But, ultimately, the same thing applies. Just because someone gave birth to you and paid for your college education doesn’t mean you have to endure a lifetime of verbal belittling. You have the right to walk away.
  4. Friendships are everything. I’m an only child and an extrovert, so I’m constantly starved for companionship, but everyone needs people. I never believe people when they say that they’re “lone wolves” or “happy hermits”. In my experience, those are the people who need friends the most, but who are too insecure or scared to find them. A good friend is a needle in a haystack; hold onto them with everything you’ve got.
  5. Men and women can be just friends, Harry! So I’ll admit that I used to be on Harry’s side. In every friendship I’ve had with a guy, prior to this year, the “sex part” did get in the way. God, that makes it sound like I slept with all of them. That’s not what I mean. I mean that unreciprocated romantic feelings always fucked things up. Recently, though, one of my guy friends told me, “You’re like my sister. Even if you were naked in my bed, I wouldn’t touch you.” In response, I did a happy dance. Another friend spent the holidays with me in Florida and he felt like a part of my family. Guess what? It turns out all you need to maintain platonic opposite-gender friendships is a little dose of discipline, perspective, and self-confidence.
  6. Your therapist can be your friend too. When my current therapist told me that she hoped to become my friend, I stared at her blankly. I didn’t understand. How can you have a friendship that’s a one-way street? One that you’re paying for? Over the months, my therapist has become one of my closest friends. Although I am paying her, it’s clear that she doesn’t do this for the money. With every high and low of my life, she’s right there with me. When something happens in my life, she’s one the people I want to tell first. If that isn’t a friendship, then what is it?
  7. No romantic relationship is wasted. A few weeks ago, my dad expressed his concern that I might have a commitment problem. I laughed. The truth is that I probably do, but that’s not why I’ve been a bit of a serial dater. The reason is twofold: 1) I used to be terrified of singlehood and 2) I learn by trial and error. People tell you not to date someone more than one zodiac cycle ahead of you, but I didn’t listen — I had to try it for myself. Some people marry their first boyfriends. I don’t know if they are incredibly lucky, self-aware, or unhappy in their marriage. As for me, finding the right guy is a bit like multiple-choice tests. It’s easier to find the wrong ones and use process of elimination. Despite the “failure” of my past relationships, I learned a lot about myself and what I’m looking for. Many of my exes have influenced me so much, I carry them in all that I do.

    Fulfilling your little sister's request to model her Rilakkuma costume? Everybody got time for that.

    Fulfilling your little sister’s request to model her Rilakkuma costume? Everybody got time for that.

  8. Your time is so precious. I don’t mean that in a “oh, life is so short” or “carpe diem” sort of way. Unless you die young, life is actually kind of long. As a 22-year-old, I have a lot of time ahead of me. The problem is that, as you grow older, your time gets swallowed whole by your job, your spouse, your children. Pretty soon, you’ll have one hour of alone time a day right before you go to bed at 9 pm. Value the free time you have now. Choose wisely what you do with it.
  9. The way to conquer your fears is to face them head-on. I was terrified of being alone, so I signed a lease for a studio apartment. I was scared of strangers, so I joined three MeetUp groups. The last time I went rock climbing, I couldn’t even make it up the kid-friendly wall in the middle of a mall. So I let my friend take me out to Planet Rock and belay my ass up to the top. The thought of alcohol makes me feel nauseous, so I downed a bottle of vodka. Just kidding — I’ve accepted that I’ll never be able to drink. Or ride rollercoasters.

    My desk on a busy day.

    My desk on a busy day.

  10. You can change anything about yourself, if you put your mind to it. Now, obviously, I’m referring to interior traits, not exterior. Even then, there’s always plastic surgery for that. In all seriousness, this year was a milestone in a long struggle for me to make myself into someone I could like. I haven’t always liked myself. I used to be selfish, snobby, lazy, judgmental, irresponsible, insecure, jealous, mean. Recently, people have told me that I’m a great friend. My boss commented that my work ethic must have gotten me into law school. They don’t know that I used to be the worst friend and employee. Really, if you don’t like something about yourself, just change it. It won’t be easy or fast, but you can do it. And it’ll be worth it, I can tell you that.

What did you learn in 2014?

Bonne année,


The Ones I’ve Loved

Air BalloonsThis afternoon, my friend Kate and I discussed our love lives over Mapo tofu and bamboo shoots. It’d been a long time since I described my previous relationships in detail, especially to a disinterested party. The last time I talked about my exes, it was with my most recent ex. Today, as I attempted to describe what love meant to me — how I knew I loved and how I knew I was loved — I realized that something had changed in me since the last time I told this story. Perhaps, after having experienced more love, different kinds of love, self-love in these past months, I have learned another dimension of love. Today, when I spoke of people who have long left my life, I realized that I loved each of them in my own way. I realized that the love I had for them never left, never faded. Instead, the person I was when I loved them retained that love and altogether they drifted away like air balloons ascending the sky. Yet the string that ties them to me remains, and if I wish to, I can tug the line and reel the balloon back to me and see our love story encapsulated by inflatable canvas.

Because I wasn’t the girl who cried and watched Netflix and ate ice cream, people thought that breakups didn’t affect me. Because I was always the one who initiated breakups, people thought that I didn’t truly love. Because I stopped talking about my exes, cut them out of my life, people thought that I moved on heartlessly. At a certain point, I believed all of those things about myself. I believed that I was incapable of loving any of my exes as much as they’d loved me. I believed that every “I love you” or “forever and always” I uttered was naïve at best and disingenuous at worst.

Although none of us made it to the end of time, I believe now that my promises were true. I will love all of them forever and always. I believe that there is nothing between now and my deathbed that could change the way I feel about them. As the years pass, they feel more and more distant. Their faces, voices, and touch gradually escape my recollection, but the love I feel for them never grows dull. In the past, whenever I saw elderly people crying as they recounted moments of great loss in their lives, I would be astonished. After so many years and so many retellings, I marveled, how could they still feel so strongly? Now, I’m starting to understand. When I’m old and weary, these are the people who will bring tears to my eyes. Collectively, they taught me what love is. They showed me what unconditional, selfless love looked like when I had rarely glimpsed it before them. They equipped me with the tools to love them back and to love others after them. Together, they gave me the confidence to love myself.

In the past, I also tried to rank the ones I loved — that one I was truly in love with, that one loved me but I didn’t love him back, that one I thought I loved but I didn’t. Now, I know that such an effort is both futile and disrespectful. There is no comparison to be made when it comes to love. After all, it wasn’t the same me that loved each of them. At the time when I said “I love you”, they were the love of my life. There was a time when I considered being with each of them for the rest of my life, if only to bring them happiness. There was a time when their happiness was paramount over mine, and if that isn’t love, then what is it?

How have you loved and been loved?



That Halfway Point

Long Winding RoadJust like that, we’re halfway through November and, by extension, NaNoWriMo. With 66,395 words overall and 26,395 of those written in November, I’m just a hair behind the 1667 words-per-day pace, but I’m not too concerned. I’ll probably catch up this week and I don’t necessarily plan to finish NaNo this year. Unlike my NaNo project last year, which ended up around 120k, I don’t expect this novel to reach 90k like I’d originally planned. This one will be closer to the 80k of my second novel — short and sweet. I can see the finish line now, and that’s always an exciting phase of writing.

I’m also approaching the halfway point on a different goal. About six months ago, I committed myself to singlehood for a year. It was an arbitrary number. What I really wanted was to be single “for a while”, and a year seemed like a good long while. The first month of these past six felt like a year, but the rest has shot by in the blink of an eye. Now, as I stand on the foothill that is the halfway benchmark, I wonder to myself: am I happier? Healthier? Stronger? When I look back, I tend to see my struggles: flying to New York to mourn a relationship that had died a winter ago, hooking up with another ex, rekindling and unfriending my friend-with-benefits, falling for inappropriate guy #1, falling for inappropriate guy #2, finally breaking things off with ex-from-last-winter, sleeping with my best friend. When I look back, I see myself cycling through the same patterns of highs and lows. When I look back, I am blind to my progress.

But the reality is that I have made a lot of progress. Just like my current novel, which has been neglected at times due to work and friends, my journey of self-improvement and healing hasn’t always been steady. At times, my judgment has lapsed. At times, I’ve taken the detour because it was more enticing and I had to take the long route back to the main road. At times, I’ve felt like nothing has changed at all. The same way 1k became 2k and 2k became 20k, though, my mental state has strengthened. Most importantly, I have been true to myself and what I really want. I have lived, certainly, and I have taken plenty of risk, but I have done so within the range of my own boundaries. At the same time, I’ve pushed my boundaries in healthy ways. I joined a Meetup group that I thought would be full of old folks and ended up making the best friends I’ve had in a long time. Last week, we went running in freezing temperatures and I made it all the way around Gallop Park. As I hate running, that was quite a feat. Today, we went climbing at Planet Rock and, despite my self-doubts, I reached the top. Afterwards, we were sure to eat back all the calories we burned in tamales, tortas, and tacos. I’m still full.

Like NaNo, the finish line for my yearlong singlehood is flexible. I won’t hold myself to it, because it’s no longer necessary. Being single now is not a punishment, nor is it unbearable. Now, I have too much to lose, I am too content, and I know too much about pain to give this up for just anyone. The next relationship that I get into will have to knock my socks off, because I’m pretty damn good at knocking my own socks off.

Keep Calm You're Halfway Through

Keep calm, my fellow NaNo writers. You’re halfway through. As for everyone else, I don’t know what personal goals you’re working towards, but I wish you luck in getting there. This too shall pass.

À plus tard,


Fall Update

Rebecca Enjoying Fall

Enjoying the last of fall weather in the Arb.

I figured today was the last day it’d be appropriate to do a fall update (brr weather incoming), so here it goes. I’m feeling much better than when I wrote this post. Things are up and down as always, but I think that a lot of what I’m feeling are the typical symptoms of being a confused, single 20-something with zero job prospects on the horizon. Okay, that’s not quite true. I am gainfully employed part-time as a GRE instructor and I am getting incredible experience as a law clerk at a nonprofit. And as of Halloween, I am officially going to law school. That’s right — got my first acceptance! But it’s a long road still to being financially independent or to starting the kind of career I want. Writing-wise, publication feels so distant that I dare not dream of it. I feel like this is the opposite of the college life. Instead of having all the freedom in the world without the accompanying responsibilities, right now I have all the responsibilities and none of the freedom.

This has been on my mind a lot — the Millennial experience. I’m not sure if it’s simply a youth thing, like teenage angst, that every generation goes through, or if there is something unique about growing up as a Millennial. Other people have given Millennials a bad rap, simultaneously claiming that we are special and somehow we have it harder than those who came before us. If Lena Dunham and Molly Sprayregen are the voices of our generation, then we are nothing more than a passive, whiny, jealous bunch who will point the finger at anyone else but ourselves.

I don’t think that’s true.

While I do think that there are certain struggles we face that our parents didn’t, I don’t think Dunham and “The Brain on 23” identify them correctly. I don’t think Millennials are irresponsible partiers who still suckle at the parental teat well into their 20s. I think the Millennial story is about the skyrocketing cost of education in a world where a college diploma is the obligatory ticket to financial stability, the weight of student loans on top of job-hunting in an increasingly competitive and difficult market, and the fear and desperate need for intimate relationships hindered by the fact that the majority of us come from fractured families. There is one thing that Dunham and Sprayregen got right, though — we all have no idea what the fuck we’re doing. Yet I’m not so sure if that ever changes, no matter your generation or your age.

Coincidentally, I’m writing my fourth novel about just that, us Millennials. I don’t claim to be the voice of my generation or even a voice of my generation. I just want to write about the difficulties that I see myself and many of my friends facing every day. Some of those are the same for people of all ages; some of them are unique to us. I don’t want to creative a narrative or a propaganda piece. I don’t want to beg for sympathy or preferential treatment. I just want to write something that’s true and real, though it may be fiction.

Three films I saw recently spring to mind. The first is Spike Jonze’s Her, the second is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, and the last is David Fincher’s Gone Girl. I loved Her and Boyhood for the same reasons, though they took very different approaches — because they were modest works that didn’t purport to say something about the human experience, but in the process, ended up reflecting the human experience. If an alien landed on earth in his UFO and wanted to know what it was like to be a human on earth in the 2000s, I’d give him Her and Boyhood on a flash drive. What I wouldn’t show him is Gone Girl. Honestly, the only reason I’ve been complaining so much about Gone Girl is because of people’s unexpected response to it. Instead of labeling it as a badly executed psychological thriller, so many insist that it’s a statement on the modern marriage. Someone even said that Rosamund Pike’s character Amy was an accurate portrayal of mental illness. I’ve done my fair share of bitching about this film, so I’ll spare you the details and just say that I disagree.

I want to write a Her or a Boyhood. I’ve always been a character-driven writer, but thus far haven’t found the right characters. This time around, I might have found the sweet spot. Let’s hope so, because I’m already 50,000 words in. My agent and I are equally excited — her because I’ve finally written something with mass appeal and me because I’m writing the book I wish someone would have written for me.

How’s that post-grad life treating you?

À bientôt,


Why Americans Should Care About Hong Kong

Umbrella Revolution

Courtesy Aaron Tam/AFP/Getty Images.

The American media tends to care about terrorists, Ebola, and occasionally an unprecedented stand for democracy. The Hong Kong protests fall into this latter category, and that is why we’ve seen any coverage of it at all. Yet coverage like this tends to die out quickly when there is no more sensation. Americans often become jaded in the aftermath of revolutions such as Occupy Wall Street, the ousting of Saddam Hussein, and the Arab Spring. Three years after the Occupy movement, income inequality is as pervasive as ever in this country. Usurping Saddam only led to a power vacuum that the U.S. failed to fill and eventually vacated to ISIS. The Arab Spring precipitated a game of musical chairs of governments in Egypt. It’s easy to understand why an American might click on an article about the Hong Kong protests, look over a few photos, share it on Facebook, and be done with his duty as a civilian. There is, however, an essential difference that makes Hong Kong particularly relevant to Americans and, frankly, everyone in the world. Unlike ISIS, the People’s Republic of China has the capacity to start a world war.

Now, I’m not saying that a world war is imminent or even probable; I’m saying that it’s possible. The problem is that no one ever expects disaster. Before the Holocaust, Hitler was simply Germany’s democratically elected leader with a funny mustache and poor social skills. Before Pearl Harbor, the U.S. thought Japan wouldn’t dare touch a country that was the newly minted world #1 power. Before 9/11, America had enjoyed nearly 60 years without war on her land, and the attacks seemingly came out of the blue. The truth is that disaster is never random — it always arises from an extremely unlikely combination of resources, motivations, and personalities. Because psychology is not always rational, it is useless to argue logic in the case of Hong Kong v. the PRC. Yes, logically it would disadvantageous for China to antagonize Hong Kong. It would be idiotic to commit a repeat of Tiananmen Square and prompt the international community to implement economic sanctions. It would be suicide to wage war agains the United States.

The PRC, while many things, is not rational. Despite the fact that China is on target to surpass the U.S. as the leading world economy within a year or two, the central Chinese government still views itself as highly vulnerable. In their eyes, China is under the siege of so many existential threats, both internal and external, that the possibility of collapse is inevitable unless it takes extraordinary offensive measures. These offensive measures include amassing as much wealth as possible, playing chicken with the U.S. navy in the surrounding seas, and reintegrating Hong Kong and Taiwan. Most importantly, China does not view the U.S. as a fading world power that is increasingly dependent on the Chinese workforce. On the contrary, in the Chinese worldview, the U.S. is the enemy in a dog-eat-dog world in which only the fittest will survive. Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell write for Foreign Affairs:

Whether they see the United States primarily through a culturalist, Marxist, or realist lens, most Chinese strategists assume that a country as powerful as the United States will use its power to preserve and enhance its privileges and will treat efforts by other countries to protect their interests as threats to its own security. This assumption leads to a pessimistic conclusion: as China rises, the United States will resist.

China is convinced that the U.S. is hellbent on its destruction and that it is more than willing to use weapons of massive destruction in an ideological fight to the death. This is the psychological context in which the Hong Kong protests are taking place. For the PRC, this confrontation with Hong Kong is 1) of critical national importance, in the sense that Beijing must win and 2) a method of testing the water in terms of international reaction. Much like the way the Nazi regime used the Spanish Civil War to test its military strength and call the international community’s bluff, China is now employing Hong Kong as a pawn in its “war” with the United States. So far, the reaction from the Obama administration has been one of deafening silence. While Washington’s silence is no doubt strategic and probably beneficial in the short term, I fear that China will take it as a show of weakness or apathy.

Though the PRC is far from provoking anything on the level of the Spanish Civil War, it certainly possesses the motivations and paranoias that predispose it to heading down that path. In the coming years, as China continues to rise and the U.S. continues its decline, a clash seems inevitable. Whether that clash is on the scale of a Cold War-style proxy war or a full-blown world war remains to be seen. Right now, though, our best litmus test for the future is to carefully follow China’s every move with Hong Kong and Taiwan. If China intends to embark on an imperial quest of world domination, surely it will start with the two territories to which it has the most legitimate claim. As a key player of the international community, and the one China views as singularly important, the United States must not follow in the footsteps of London during the Spanish Civil War; neutrality is not a position we can afford to take.

The Umbrella Revolution of 2014 is only the beginning.

The Things That Matter

Street at NightLast night, somewhere around 1 am, I lay down in the middle of an empty street and listened to the silence of the pavement. The sky was blank. It wasn’t clear enough to see the stars, and light pollution had turned the black into grey. My hair was pressed against the gravel, but I didn’t think about what had been there before me and what would come after me. I gambled my life. The first time a car passed, I stared at my illuminated feet and waited for the light to pass. The second time a car passed, I sat up and looked into the headlights, wondering if perhaps I should be afraid.

I was not afraid.

There are so many things that can go wrong. You can avoid cigarettes, except that one puff when peer pressure overcame your sense of self-preservation, and die in your 30s of lung cancer. You can strip and go skinny-dipping in a pool of water so clear you can count the guppies at the bottom and contract an amoeba that snacks on your brain. You can follow your friend down a snowbank, steeper than you would like, and tumble as your skis snap and mark a trail of death behind you. What is the difference between me and a skydiver or a Nascar driver or a free solo climber? The fact that their pursuit requires a degree of skill, and therefore nobility? I don’t think we’re all that different. In the end, we’re all looking for momentary solace in a world that strips humans of the very thing that defines us.

The heartbeat. The pulse. The multiplication and division of cells. We’re the only species in this world that has long forgotten what it feels like to fear for our lives a dozen times between breakfast and dinner. We’ve forgotten what it means to be alive, because we’ve forgotten what it is to face death. The domestication of humans goes far beyond that of cats and dogs. Did you know that, upon successful intercourse, a female cat writhes and thrashes like an eel out of water? It’s instinctual. Somehow, it helps the sperm meet the egg. Can you imagine what would happen if a woman did that every time post coitus? It would be weird, terrifying even. But they’re not the weird ones; we are. We, who’ve lost the instinct to be human, except perhaps for the Duggars.

These are the things that matter.

No, I don’t mean birthing 19 children, either out of desire to please your lord or manipulate natural selection. I mean maintaining some sort of connection with the most basic human urges, emotions, sensations. We’re not designed for today’s society, one that defines us by our LSAT score, GPA, and salary. In the context of life and death, who the hell cares about what you do for a living? Who cares if you’re Ivy League-smart or Victoria’s Secret-beautiful? Who cares about your idealistic and ultimately selfish passion to change the world? Who, besides your mother, cares that you have three novels in the drawer and you’re the next Virginia Woolf? I know that, if I saw the dark at the end of the tunnel, I would care about what I’d done. I would care if I had felt everything the human experience has to offer. The light and the heavy. The pure and the despicable. The ice and the fire. I would want to have suffered great lost. I would want to have lost great love. I would want to have hated, as evidence that I had loved. I would want to have cried, as evidence that I once laughed.

These are the things that matter.

Last night, as I looked that oncoming mass of metal in the eye, and saw the light that could take me to dark, I knew that I hadn’t lived enough. I wasn’t ready to die. I hadn’t done enough, felt enough, loved enough. I would have been sad to be taken. But you know what? Almost. I’ve almost had enough, if enough even exists. I could have left yesterday without what-ifs and do-overs.

These are the things that matter.

Not A Humble Brag

Rebecca Cao Happy

I wake up and smile.

I haven’t been blogging much these days, and I’m really sorry. There have been times when I thought of something I could write about, but by the time I sat down, I lost the impulse. Part of that has been my extremely busy schedule. After a 9-5 day (okay, more like 9-4), my brain is absolutely fried. I think I need to learn how to take breaks. Now I finally understand the need for all those NSFW tags — it’s because people spend half their workdays on Reddit. I think it’s nearly impossible for anybody to work nonstop at full productivity for 8 hours. I’ve always hated taking breaks because I feel like they’re stop signs in the middle of a highway. After I put on the brakes, it takes so much more gas to accelerate back up to 80 mph. Anyway, so I’ve been working 7ish hours straight every day and I come home and drift in and out of consciousness for a few hours. On a good day, I manage to clean the litter box and wash my dishes. Then, I usually have something to do in the evening like teach GRE, play squash, or hang out with friends.

So yeah, busy’s been part of it. You know what the other part was? I’m simply not angsty enough. Me, not angsty. A foreign idea, right? I’m not angry enough to rant about the injustice of the world. Sometimes, I get mad at arrogant, judgmental people and I almost want to lecture them about their narrow-minded ideas, but my anger quickly dissipates. Eventually, all I want to write about is how well life is going for me. And, well, nobody wants to hear about that. I know that I get annoyed every time someone posts a selfie of herself in Paris for her study abroad program and captions it: “My life is amazingggg OMG!”

I didn’t want to write a humble brag. But I really am inspired now to share a few things with you, so hopefully it doesn’t come off as that way.

I’ve learned more about myself, what I care about, what I want, and what I need in the past few months since my graduation than in my entire college career combined. College is a great time where you’re shielded from responsibility, insulated from the harsh realities of the adult life. I loved all four years of it. But goddamn, I do not want to go back. Recently, I made a new friend who just started her first semester and I love reliving my freshman year through her. I’m so glad, though, that I’ll never have to go back. Adulthood is hard. Adulthood means that everything falls on you, and I’m not just talking about the bills. What I mean is that you have to learn how to take care of yourself, in every sense. It means sticking your hand down the drain to scoop out rotten food. It means doing the dishes within 24 hours because that stuff bothers you now. It means asking your landlord to fix the water pressure in the bathroom. It also means not freaking out when you leave the dishes in the sink too long and fruit flies invade your kitchen.

Yes, adulthood is hard. But it’s also rewarding and liberating. I’ve never given less a shit about absolutely everything, and that’s awesome. I’m not apathetic; I’m still very passionate about my goals and dreams. I’ve just learned to accept and embrace failure. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be the best. I’ve learned that there are hundreds of jobs I could have, hundreds of places I could live, hundreds of people I could befriend…and with any combination of the three, I would be happy. Because I am happy now. I am happy now at what is arguably the most lacking point of my life. I don’t have money; I don’t have a family (as in husband, dog, baby, white-picket fence); I don’t really have a career. And yet I feel like I have so much. I have people who care about me, I have the best job I could have at this moment, I have a beautiful apartment, I have the best kitty.

I have possibility. I just applied to my sixth law school today and I could be hearing back in the next few weeks. I have a very good chance at getting into my dream school, and I’m surer than ever that I would be happy there. I’m ready to move to New York — Big Apple, bring it on. A while ago, I mused about the conundrum of having it all. Was it possible to have it all? Did we already have it all? You know what I think now? I do have it all. I have absolutely no complaints about my life right now. I don’t think I’ve said anything negative about my life to anyone, including myself, for many months. I wake up, I see my cat patiently waiting for her breakfast, and I smile.

Blueberry Being Cute

What does happiness feel like for you?

Au revoir,