May 3, 2017

UPDATE! || On Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Hello, hello! It's been a minute hasn't it?

I know blogposts are published pretty regularly (Wed/Sun if you didn't know!), but most of them have been pre-scheduled, so it's been a while since I sat down to really write in the present. Writing is so therapeutic for me, and it's my preferred method of communication; I've carved out some time to update you (my lovely reader!) on what I've been up to - let's catch up!

For the record, I'm writing from a stream of consciousness. It's all just flowing out, as raw and real as can be ;), so forgive me if there are spelling/grammar mistakes here and there!

A morning hike to a beautiful gorge just 15 minutes from my dorm. (Needed a breather!)
Completed my last chemistry experiment (in a lab) yesterday! Words can't begin to describe how refreshing it is to have a wonderful hoodmate, classmates, and TA who made this class bearable (to the point where I didn't dread going to lab for once in my life!)

On Life:

School: This semester, I'm taking 5 science classes and 1 independent study experience for credit: organic chemistry, organic chemistry lab, human anatomy and physiology, human anatomy and physiology lab, nutrition through the life cycle, and shadowing a (very awesome and wonderful) registered dietitian who works at a longterm care center. 

It's hard to convey just how much work these classes demand; I think all college students, everywhere, no matter what you study and what major you study, have a decent load of work cut out for them, but I also think that the sciences are some of the hardest and most time-consuming, particularly because of the labs! (I'll share in detail what it's like to be a nutrition student at Cornell in a future blogpost, I promise!) 

At the same time, it's incredibly cool to see the material in all of my classes intertwine so beautifully. For example, we learned about the structure of hemoglobin as a real-world example of some orgo concept (you can tell I've got a lot of studying to do for the final) when we learned about iron regulation and homeostasis in anatomy/phys and learned about the different types of nutritional deficiencies that contribute to specific types of anemia. Am I nerding out too much right now?

Bottom line is, classes are wonderful but oh-so-demanding and mentally exhausting. Weekdays and weeknights are constant cycles of waking up, studying, eating, studying, running, studying, eating, studying some more, sleeping. I hope that, to a degree, explains for my reduced presence on social media and this blog.

Friendships: I've been at Cornell for nearly a full academic year now; this time last year, I was just about to move out of Emory (I'll be in Ithaca for a few more weeks). Last semester, I tried my best to intimately convey how emotionally torn I had felt. The semester ended and the next began in a very lonely place; loneliness not in the sense that I'm abandoned and have no one to talk to, but loneliness in the way that there was a lack of connection, any at all, in spite of being surrounded by people...recently, I found out that I wasn't the only transfer feeling this way! In one weekend, I met two other transfers who confided in me exactly how I had felt during this lonely period - our experiences really aren't as isolated and rare as we make them out to be! 

Anyways, during the latter part of this semester, I slowly learned to adopt a new attitude. It took quite some time, and I'll consider sharing more in the future, but in short, I learned to place even greater value in the little, daily interactions with classmates, TAs, coworkers, my house's staff. I'm going to dedicate another blogpost about some of these people, but I'll preview it and say that I don't think I've ever had more pleasant lab groups in my entire life - thank you, Cornell! 

Theme: a prominent theme in my life for the past year has been asking God for confidence in who I am right now and not comparing myself. I genuinely believe that one of my fatal flaws (shoutout to those Rick Riordan/Lightning Thief fans out there) is my horrible, innate sense of competition. It's quite self-consuming, to the point where I can feel defensive and terribly insecure - it's not pretty. This one article really helped me put things into perspective during a low point of insecurity; you can read it here

Sure, it's always going to be frustrating to see other people grow to success when you put in a lot of effort and time and don't see results of the same magnitude, but remember - God's working all things for your good (Romans 8:28)! So I'm continuing to remind myself that it's okay to be selfish in this regard; to only focus on what I'm doing, not on what other people are doing :)

Current Obsessions: 
  • Dinner Party Tonight - I listen to these videos as I prep my lab notebook weekly (a very tedious, unfruitful task of handcopying procedures). Randy is wonderfully entertaining and talented. In my opinion, she's a true chef - one who is in touch with the origins of her food and respectful in the way she treats animal derived products. 
  • Hailey and Brad Devine's travel videos - I'm a long-time viewer of their videos; they're so talented at crafting narratives within their short, professional videos. With the new camera I saved up for and this past winter's adventure to Spain, I've been rewatching their travel videos over and over again, trying to soak up every little detail and learn videography skills through observation. Stay tuned for more content, especially some related to an upcoming adventure that I just can't stop thinking about ;)!
  • Bullet Journals - I have several notebooks and an agenda in which I use religiously, so it might not seem like introducing another journal is necessary. On the contrary, my agenda goes from June 2016 to June 2017, so I'll be on the market for a new one soon. I'm trying to take more time to do things for myself, not necessarily for a project or for display. Art used to be a huge part of my life, and I just haven't kept up with it recently. I think that starting a bullet journal will be a good way to reintroduce myself to art; it's still "goal oriented" and productive (because home girl can't sit still and color for fun), but it's also something that I need to do regularly/monthly (I'll be able to work on my skills slowly and steadily!). 

Studying for my Human Anatomy and Physiology lab practical - it's a lot of work, but it's my favorite class!

On Liberty:

Summer: freedom from school - whoop whoop! Oh man, summer has been on my mind for too long. I've been strategically planning effective ways to check off everything on my recipe bucketlist; a theme for this summer is to really refine my cooking technique. I started off quite experimentally, but I'd like to take more time to refine specific techniques and dishes while still being creative. Stay tuned for a new cooking series!

I'm also excited to spend more time with my family, especially my brother. Last summer, I worked two jobs and did research; the early days (before I quit one job to salvage some sanity) included 15 hour work days and full weekend shifts. This year, I'm being a little smarter and limiting my commitments in order to be more people-oriented; in order to make time for my family and friends. Life at school is like a car race - you're Lightning McQueen and you're hurtling on the path, just zooming by so quickly...too quickly! Though this summer will still be busy and eventful, it's nowhere as crazy as last summer was, and I hope I can learn to slow things down, breathe, and enjoy just a little bit more. My brother will be graduating from high school soon, and his summer will be a well-deserved period of rest, something that he hasn't gotten in a while. With both of us living less hectic lives, we'll hopefully get to spend a lot more quality time together (for those of you who don't know, my brother is my best friend!). 

During some spare moments, I also hope to knock out some of the books that have been sitting on my "To Read" list and some of the editing projects I've been waiting to jump into :)

Fear of the future: freedom from worries and fears is important, too. My dominant commitment this summer is an internship. I'll be commuting three times a week, about 4 hours round trip if transportation runs smoothly (and we all know with the NJ Transit/Amtrak's recent issues that I'm asking for a lot, haha!). This commute is unnerving me for some reason. I know that I can use that time to do a lot of reading, writing, podcast listening, etc., all very relaxing, yet I feel unsettled when I dwell on the idea of this commute for too long. My parents did this for over ten years, so why can't I? Who knows where this fear is coming from, but I've been praying a lot about giving up my fears, worries, and concerns to the One who can handle anything and everything. 
Spring has finally sprung in Ithaca!

On The Pursuit of Happiness:

Going back to the basics: Ithaca's autumns are beautiful, but I think spring is more highly anticipated as it reprieves us from suffering any more from the long, frigid winter. Though the weather is still a bit bipolar, warmer days means more outdoor runs, which, if you know me well, is truly the key to my heart.

Learning to restrain myself: another fatal flaw of mine is giving into the temptation of my ambition. I am so good at taking on too much (exhibit A: last summer) and simply not having enough time to slow down and enjoy life. Do you notice a common theme? 

Right before pre-enrollment for the coming fall's classes, I received a few opportunities (TA-ing, research) that I was ready to accept instantly. The issue was, I'm also a transfer science major who had intended on minoring in a completely different subject (Spanish) and also works part-time...scheduling would be veery difficult, and I'd be spreading myself veery thin. 

I knew I couldn't do everything I wanted to do next semester, but I couldn't let go of something - TAing, research, work, the minor I haven't even started?! Fortunately, my adviser sternly (though lovingly as well, I think) drew the boundaries for me and forbade me from taking on too much ;) What helped me more, however, was mentally analyzing my priorities and interests as I explained my situation to her. I've decided to drop one class to allow myself to TA and research, and to take all the Spanish classes I'm interested in during my time at Cornell, but not pressuring myself to fit in the ones that qualify me to be an "official minor". Sure, it sucks that I don't get recognition for taking the same number of classes, but hey, my original intention to pursue a minor was for self-improvement and a love for the language, so it's no biggie. 

With these restraints, I'm learning to plan for fewer yet more in-depth, quality experiences. At the same time, I'll be able to be more people-centric with a free-er schedule.

Learning to reduce the noise in life: much of my ambition and penchant to spreading myself too thin is derived from how varied my interests are. It's taken me a while to see how some things can intersect so that I can pursue multiple through one outlet instead of scattering myself in various directions...truth be told, I'm still not completely there, but there's been progress! 

I think noise can also be applied to social media. "FOMO", the fear of missing out, is as annoyingly true as it is stupid-sounding. With the way social media and branding have progressed, many outlets have become less exciting for me...maybe because they remind me of my competitive flaw or of the fact that I can do other things instead of pursuing education at full force. 

I can't post this because it doesn't fit my "aesthetic" or "theme", which, by the way, I have yet to figure out. I only got however many likes on this, which is less than that photo, yet I like this one better - why don't people like this?! 

These thoughts of mine are so trivial and superficial, and I think I've actually ruined potentially great things for myself. Where to go from here? - take some breaks and avoid taking things too seriously. When I'm ready, let's start having fun again. 

Branding: The concept of a brand irks me, which is so funny, because I spent an entire semester in a social media marketing/branding class (that I genuinely loved!). As I said, my interests are quite diverse, so what umbrella category can I squeeze myself into in order to more effectively communicate my story, skills, and services, and to efficiently build an audience or following? 

Brands also need to be maintained, and I don't think that I'm at the right point in my life to produce high volumes of quality work...again, I'm taking things very seriously because I want to grow and improve, but I feel like I'm also risking the joy that I find in my work, which ultimately is what motivates me. 

Right now, I think my happy medium is to approach everything with a lighter touch. My favorite platform for creative expression, documentation, and sharing is this blog; there's no restrictive theme or category, it's really all-incompassing, a person who changes, grows, and isn't defined by one career, study, or experience! 

Whew, what a long blogpost! If you read to the very end, I want to thank you sincerely for your time and for your caring heart! There's just been a lot going on, and I hope this gives you an adequate glimpse at where I've been, what I've been doing, and where I'm heading towards :) Until Sunday - xoxo, han

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