the simple truths that overwhelm

A few nights ago I laid in bed and realized what a mere speck – just a drop in the river of time – that human existence is, compared to the sun and moon and stars, compared to the earth, which holds Galileo’s body and Christ’s and Sappho’s – it is the body of us all. How utterly insignificant I am – of course, I had known this as a basic fact of life, a knowledge carried like one’s own name, but buried so deep beneath the bullshit of everyday life that I had not fully realized it until then, and it was swift and crushing and overwhelming, like drowning. But it was also purifying – it cleansed me of the dust of vapidity, routine, and superficiality, and I felt like I was present in my own life again.

Coming of Age: On Turning Eighteen

“Just as a flower does not choose its color, we are not responsible for who we come to be. Only once you realize this do you become free. And to become adult is to become free.” – Stoker (2013)

About a week ago I turned eighteen. I woke up ambushed by my mother and a singing balloon, and then I had to rush off to school. Before I did, my mother, as she does every year, made me pray to God and prostrate in front of my father, in return for which I received his blessings, as well as $20 and a banana. It was all done very hurriedly, and the fact that I don’t really believe in God anyway made me feel slightly guilty (although you don’t exactly have to believe in God to be a Hindu), but my mother had tears in her eyes, and as I went to school, everything felt sort of sad and bittersweet. I definitely didn’t feel anymore adultish, but there was the dread of an upcoming biology test hanging over me. At school most people seemed to have forgotten it was my birthday, which was depressing, but at the same time I couldn’t bring myself to care because I was too busy worrying about the bio test. When I got back home I had a mini existential crisis and cried a bit – maybe the four hours of sleep I’d gotten had something to do with it – and thought, “well, this is the worst birthday ever.” Of course the worst birthday ever was probably the moment you were first born – what a shock that must have been! All that blood and crying and screaming and everyone fussing over you. And I hate hospitals.

But during this mini existential crisis, I had the feeling again that my life was slipping away out of my hands like water and I was powerless to hold the moment still while I figured things out. There’s no pause button for life. It seems like only yesterday I was writing in my diary, “I’m turning eight tomorrow, but I wish I was still seven because seven is my favorite number.” The day before my birthday my parents had been badgering me again about going to medical school, becoming a doctor, etc, etc, and I had the same thought that I would never be free of them (which was what reminded me of the quote above), that I would always, always be stuck in what Sartre calls in Being and Nothingness “mauvaise foi” – bad faith, a sort of self-deception where you adopt false values and tell yourself you’re less free than you really are, forcing yourself into a life you don’t want to live. I did a hypnosis thing the other day and had a vision that I was at a great threshold and on the other side was a path lined with trees and flowers leading up to a little house on a hill filled with sunlight and books. I don’t know what I want to do in life, but there’s such great pressure to have it all figured out before going to college. I mean, I know I want to write, but I don’t think I’m good enough at it to make money from it or be remembered after I die. Of course, with discipline and practice, writing, like all art, can be learned and improved, but I won’t ever be as good as I want to be, and that terrifies me. When they tell me “you have to be a doctor” or “stop being so impractical,” sometimes I think I should just grit my teeth and resign myself to that fate. After all, anyone can grow to like anything with enough time & an open mind. And I have always wanted to help people. Doctors are for the most part financially secure and independent in their careers, and doesn’t everyone want that? And how many people living all over the world are living lives of necessity, doing the things they do out of sheer need to survive. In contrast, to live a life one wants to live seems like a selfish luxury, especially if this life involves doing something that is of no apparent contribution to society. When I had that vision of the threshold I thought of the fig tree in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, all the rotting figs dropping to my feet because of my horrible indecision, and yet, all I want is a little truth and purpose.

Increasingly I have had the impression that adult life is flat, stale, dull, that one day all the color will leech out of my life so gradually I won’t even notice it happening and I will fade into a grey, senseless middle age – the 9 to 5, constantly worried over trivialities, cynical and jaded, stuck in a loveless marriage with horrible, bratty children who are horrible and bratty because I’m too miserable to love them properly – until eventually I will fall headlong into the grave on my stupid face. Of course, this is all very bleak and overdramatic, and being middle-aged is probably not as bad as I imagine it to be. Besides, if this is my “ennui” stage, it means I’ve escaped the period of ignorant bliss and am now on my way to meaningful bliss.

Looking back over my younger years, I think I had this idea in my head of what high school was supposed to be like from all those books/movies/TV shows that I feel almost cheated out of the American Teen Dream™ – I’ve never been drunk or to one of those parties or fallen in love or even had a first kiss – but now I see it was partially my fault for buying into all of that. I think I will always be more idealistic than I should be, and that’s okay.

At the end of the day, I am glad to have parents who love and care for me as much as mine do. I have been privileged in many ways. In others, I have sometimes been unfortunate, but that’s life. Over these past eighteen years I’ve learned a lot and changed a lot, and I have so much growing left to do. I don’t know if anyone really does settle fully into their own skin. Although I’m sad to be leaving behind Neverland and Narnia, I’m excited for what’s to come – after all, the horizon is bright, the future lies ahead, and the threshold is mine to cross.

“Anne’s horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen’s; but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it. The joy of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams. And there was always the bend in the road!

‘God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,’ whispered Anne softly.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

New Year Goals

I don’t know if these are resolutions, per se, but every new year I like to set some goals for the upcoming year – too ambitious, as always, but I did manage to accomplish about half of last year’s so I think if I do the same this year, I’ll be happy.

  • write at least 500 words every day
  • submit to more literary magazines/contests
  • read all the books on my reading list
  • stick with the new schedule in order to better manage time
  • practice violin regularly
  • be happy/healthy & make new friends at college; focus on my studies, don’t be afraid to ask for help/talk to other people
  • write in diary every day
  • at least 1 blog post a week
  • learn something new, like a new language
  • exercise, meditate, eat healthy, drink more water, travel
  • make use of time; don’t sit around moping, waiting, doing nothing
  • try to be kinder to others, and to myself
  • love

2016: The Year in Review

For most of you, I’m sure 2016 has been a rather shitty year that you’d much rather forget; in fact, I too have only dim recollections of what happened earlier this year (for example, I almost forgot Donald Trump was going to be president), but I don’t think it has been entirely bad. For one, I got accepted early into one of my top choice colleges and will be starting there next fall, which is such a huge relief since I don’t have to worry about applying in the regular decision round. Some other notable things that happened this year were being selected to go to the New England Young Writer’s Conference, which was such a wonderful experience, and getting some awards at school. In terms of my other goals, I didn’t write as much or read as much as I had wanted to (seeing as half my poems were haikus), but I am taking a philosophy class this year and it is very exciting. I was at the same lab again this summer as last summer and I really enjoyed it, though I’m not sure if I learned very much. I think I’ve become a little more responsible, though. For the past week I’ve been exercising and doing yoga everyday, and I actually cleaned my room for the first time in over 6 months, and it seems to have also cleared up my mind somewhat.

I don’t know if I’ve really changed all that much this year? Honestly, it’s hard to tell, although perhaps I’ve gotten a bit more jaded, which was not my intention and probably something I’ll have to cure in the year to come. Another bad habit I’ve unintentionally developed this year is accidentally falling asleep at around 10 while doing my homework, waking up at around 4 or 5 AM, and subsequently panicking because I haven’t finished my homework/studied for a test/whatever. I seem to have procrastinated my new year’s resolution not to procrastinate. Oh well, there’s always next year, right? Anyway, how have your 2016s been? I wish everyone the best for a happy 2017!

Hokusai Exhibition & MFA

Last April my dad and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which I love visiting and hadn’t gone to in a while (I think the last time I went was to see the Chihuly exhibition). There were so many families with lots of younger children because it was April break, and the line to get in went out of the front entrance, all the way down the stairs, and out onto the sidewalk in front of the building! I meant to make a blog post about going there in April but I guess I forgot until I rediscovered these pictures sitting around on my computer a few days ago and thought it would still be nice to make a blog post with them.

IMG_0101
Leonardo da Vinci and follower, Head of a Young Woman, about 1500-10

This was from an exhibition called Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty, featuring drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The sketches were so interesting to see, especially since da Vinci was a scientist and inventor, and many of these drawings were almost scientific studies of beauty. There was a poem by da Vinci that I especially liked; I wish I’d written it down at the time.

Then we went to the Hokusai exhibition. Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) was a Japanese painter and printmaker during Japan’s Edo period, and he was one of the first Japanese artists to be recognized internationally.

The first painting is Three Women Playing Musical Instruments by another Japanese artist during the early-mid 1800s, Katsushika Oi, and a collection of Japanese instruments from that time period they had on display, similar to the ones the women in the painting are playing.

Here are some of Hokusai’s famous woodblock prints, Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji. It’s so funny because I’d always pictured The Great Wave to be a huge, grand painting, but it’s smaller than a sheet of printer paper. The series shows the mountain from different vantage points, times of day, weather conditions, etc. I wish I’d gotten to take pictures of all of them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And here are some more Hokusai prints/works from the exhibition:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then we went around to look at the other exhibits. They had a bunch of really beautiful flower arrangements, such as this one:

IMG_0136

There was a large collection of John Singer Sargent works in the American art wing. I loved looking at all of the portraits, like these two:

There was also a large collection of European silverware, glassworks, and ceramics. The teapots, of course, were my favorites.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some sculpture:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These were some American and European paintings. I especially loved the Monet and van Gogh collections.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I found two paintings next to each other with these two figures and thought it was rather funny.

And finally, here is some contemporary art:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Overall, I really loved going there and hopefully I’ll be able to go again soon! I hope everyone’s been having a lovely day!

New Year’s Resolutions 2016

The Earth has gone around the Sun again, without fail, and I, too, without fail, a few days before New Year’s, will sit down to write my New Year’s resolutions. One voice in my head, the optimist, declares boldly, “2016 will be my year!” as the other voice, the realist, tells me that in my heart of hearts, it is futile; I will lose motivation, the days will slip by, and in the end, only time can win this battle. There are many guides on the Internet full of tips & tricks on making your resolutions practical, feasible, and accomplishable, as well as people who tell you exactly why they do not make New Year’s resolutions, statistics telling you that only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution, what your resolution says about your personality, what your resolution should be based on your Zodiac sign, etc, etc.

But I’ve always loved that feeling of starting anew on January 1st, wiping away all the mistakes of the last year with a turn of the calendar page. It reminds me of this quote from Anne of Green Gables: “isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” It’s also helpful that my birthday is in January – turning another year older adds to that image of newness, which I think is the most motivating thing about New Year’s. Anyway, here are my New Year’s resolutions, which I have tried to make less vague and unrealistic:

Write a poem everyday & a short story every week. I’ll admit, this one is a tad unrealistic, but even if I don’t exactly write this much, I’m hoping it’ll push me to write a lot more this year. After all, I’m not trying to write great epics here (although who knows? maybe that’ll happen, too). I think I’ll try to wake up early and write a poem before school, which might set me in a nicer mood, or I’ll try to write a poem before going to bed. For the short stories, I think I’ll have to utilize whatever spare time I have as well as my weekends to accomplish them.

Get published in at least 5 literary magazines. This goes along with the first resolution – in a way, it kind of ensures that I do actually write something. And trying to publish more has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

Read at least 25 books outside of school. I’ve divided my 2016 reading list into books read for school and books outside of school. Even though I love a lot of the books we read in school, I really want to try and expand the scope of my reading and discover a greater diversity of literature.

Learn how to drive. Not much to say here. I feel like I’m behind all my peers with this but I do want to get my license before going off to college in a year and a half-ish. Speaking of which – 

Get into one of my top choice colleges. This is a big one, and also one that bleeds into 2017. I was going to make separate resolutions about getting good grades, SAT scores, doing well with extracurriculars, volunteering, etc, but it’s easier to lump them all together into this one.

Drink more water & eat healthier. This was also a resolution from last year, and one that I don’t think I managed to accomplish. I think I need to start carrying one of those reusable water bottles around. And I need to be more openminded and less picky about the food I eat, even if I do hate so much of the food that I know is good for me.

Figure out how to manage my time & sleep more. Time management & being productive in general is not one of my fortes. In fact, a personality website once told me procrastination was the nature of my name. Anyway, I am going to attempt to overcome this nature by creating schedules/finding methods that allow me to do the same amount of work more efficiently and not let me get distracted by the Internet. By organizing my time better, I’ll be able to finish everything I need to do earlier and hopefully get more than 5 hours of sleep on school nights.

Learn from mistakes instead of getting stressed/depressed. Whenever I get a worse grade on something than I expect, I have the tendency to see myself in the depths of despair and start crying over whatever it is, which just results in a lot of negative feeling that makes me feel stressed out and pressured about the next thing my grade depends on, which makes me feel unmotivated to study, and then it turns into a horrible vicious cycle. So in 2016, I’ll take a step back from my mistakes, figure out why they happened, and then improve for the next time without blaming myself too harshly.

Develop self-confidence. I’ve suffered from a lack of confidence ever since… forever, practically, and even though it’s always been something I’ve wanted to improve, I’ve always pushed it aside to focus on other, more immediate things, always thinking it would just come naturally all of a sudden. But I know that confidence doesn’t just happen overnight, and I’m trying to teach myself that I can still have confidence in myself despite not having done the thousand wonderful amazing things that I picture Ideal Me™ would have done.

nothing gold can stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
-Robert Frost

diary excerpts pt. ii
august 2015 – december 2015

august 3rd – “Everything is fleeting. Everything fades. And this moment – this hour, this day, this time – it won’t come again. This is all we have – a fragment of glass in the sand, the sparkling water under the bright bright sun. Nothing, not even the ocean or the clouds or the power and conviction of love can last forever. Everything fades; everything ends. Everything leaks through the cracks between your fingers. It’s future rust and it’s future dust.”

vlada_roslyakova_lina_scheynius_numero_12

august 5th – “Social anxiety is really a huge pain in the ass, and as much as I’d like to not give a shit, I can’t help it – can’t get over it – can only really be myself when I’m only with myself. But at least I’m writing out in public which is the first step. I also have the strong urge to walk to Au Bon Pain and get a snack or something. I’ve always had this mental image of sitting in a Parisian café scribbling down poetry and drinking black coffee. My current reality is sitting in the back of Au Bon Pain after work, eating a toffee cookie and trying not to get crumbs in the margins of my notebooks. I once read a quote that said poets in yellow would be preposterous – but why shouldn’t a poet wear yellow? It brightens everything – it makes you feel like you have a bit of the sun in you. I’d gladly be a poet in yellow.”

august 8th – “Life is very immense and I want to capture the slow gravity of everything like water pooling around my ankles. It is August and heat shimmers around everything and the colors dip their feet tentatively in the pool of the sky. Tilt and tilt – it is midnight and the stars wink out at you, friendly and alive and burning and unassuming. You’ve got an airplane heart about to take off and I have pages and pages to fill with the lovely star clusters of dreams.”

august 9th – “The phrase ‘Back to School’ drives the stake of dread into the pit of my heart.”

tumblr_nk3mogBHgO1spa4mko1_1280

august 11th – “Where does the wind blow when it’s afraid of the trees? Who sings the songs that the angels sing, and who dances the dance of the devil? When we are all rust and dust, will you be there to calm the frenzy of my decaying bones? Love is the antidote to everything, I think – it is what makes life worth living; I am very sleepy…”

august 20th – “I don’t like noise, but some people – my mother, for instance – have the need to to always be listening to or creating some noise. Maybe it’s because they’re afraid of their own silences.”

august 21st – “Today was my last day of volunteering. It was raining in the morning and we had to take the train. Thank God Dad is such a practical, reliable person and had an umbrella on him. We walked together in the rain through the damp, soggy streets and past oily, polluted puddles where raindrops fell in perfect concentric circles.

I told J how much I enjoyed working there and he told me how much of a help I had been to him, which is nice to hear. He took a selfie of us to send to his mom, whom he’d told about me, and then we said our goodbyes and he left to see the Meryl Streep movie. It was all rather rushed. Afterwards I felt empty. I sat in the lobby for some time drinking my peach iced tea and then I peed and then I sat around again, doing nothing, feeling the gravity of the realization that I would never see these people again. Sometimes people come into and out of the doors of our lives just in a flash, like big gusts of wind that blow through and ruffle pages and then when they leave, the stillness is so sudden and haunting. I wish it wasn’t like that.”

tumblr_njkzwh9ptK1spa4mko1_1280

september 4th – “I feel almost cheated out of life, somehow, or defeated, or without purpose, direction, focus. I feel sick almost – tired of my surroundings, tired of the air here, which is too hot, too still, too stifling. Now I hear the sound of someone in the kitchen, and they will come up here and they will persecute me, hang me, scold me, ask why and for what, demand blood sacrifice, say something. And now that I am back in school I feel more stressed out and bored and harried and lost and alone and tired and misanthropic than ever. Whenever there’s time there’s a need to fill it up. God, I don’t know what to do – I feel half-delirious and there’s a sharp pain behind my forehead, and I feel like I had something profound to say but now it escapes me. There’s thunder rumbling in the distance, and I wish it was still summer so that I could stay up in the dark and listen to the sound of the rain and fall asleep to visions of wonder in my head. Summer always seems to be so infinite and wonderful when you’re in the midst of it, but it always ends too quickly.

september 15th – “I was transported from the garish sunlight of reality into the velvet midnight of love and murder. The night spreads out around me – I gather myself into myself, collecting all the varied ephemera that had drifted away in the day.”

october 19th – “This was the day that I was dreading and now that it is finally over, I am not very relieved. So much work to do still, but at least I got into NHS! – at least that was a nice surprise, even though lately I’ve been on the edge of a razor blade, just waiting to get cut.”

november 11th – “I think I would much rather spend eternity saving the world from evil and chasing after my true love than having to deal with grades and tests and pressure and failure.”

december 25th – “I wish it would snow, I wish it would snow, I wish it would snow…”

lina_scheynius_fashion_summer_2008_11