Some Assembly Required

When I was younger, I fantasized about being a regular at a coffee shop—something about being recognized on sight and the warmth that came with that was super appealing to me. The same feeling applies when it comes to books and movies that emphasize the idea of “finding your people”—I loved mediums that described that perfect fit, where you finally find the organization/club/group of people that you know you’re meant to be in. Those kinds of stories instilled in me unrealistically high expectations for the day that I finally become The Regular: that I’d walk into the room and instantly find myself at home; that I’d know all the names to match the faces; that I’d never have to face that quiet, numbing feeling of distance when you’re with a group of people but not really with them.

Looking back, I realize I was chasing the idea of Belonging without considering the reality of how to actually find it. I’ve joined more clubs that I care to name, hoping to finally bask in the warm glow of yes, this is where I’m meant to be, only to stop showing up a month or a year later because hm, I guess this just wasn’t The One, I’ll have to keep looking. In my first year of university, I watched as my friends seemed to effortlessly find their people and fit into various campus associations while I—true to nature—joined a few groups, went a few times, and decided none of them had that elusive Belonging that I wanted. The cycle continued, and I indulged in sweet, sweet inertia; carried along by my own vague disappointment.

After having a couple conversations with some wise friends of mine, I’ve started thinking: maybe I’m going about this in all the wrong ways. Belonging might be something you have to cultivate. It failed to occur to me—for any club that I had quit in the past—that if only I had persevered and really tried to put myself in the thick of things, I could’ve had a shot at creating the Belonging I spent so long trying to seek out. Instead of imagining myself as a single puzzle piece trying to find a specific puzzle that I’d fit into, I should’ve accepted that I’d have to build the puzzle around myself. Some things in life don’t come pre-made, and maybe this is one of them.*

*Of course, there are exceptions. Also, I feel like that whole last paragraph was very Oprah-esque and maybe the Belonging that I’m seeking is something unattainable, and I should just lower my expectations a few notches?

When I put it this way, it seems like something that I should’ve known by now. In fact, I’m surprised my own metaphor didn’t give me a hint: to be a regular, you have to go into the coffee shop a lot—you can’t just walk in, expecting them to know who you are and what you like. Why would a new club or a new job be any different?

Ahhh, you guys, I miss writing. Posting something here forces me to edit (whereas posting something on Tumblr is more like a flash flood of impressions with no grammar/capitalization in sight), and I love churning out these longer, more thoughtful posts. Maybe I’ll come by WordPress more often (provided my discipline doesn’t melt away in the summer heat).

Annus Mirabilis

Annus Mirabilis (n.) (phr.) a remarkable or notable year in history; a year of wonders or miracles, used to speak hopefully of the future.

(Are end-of-year posts going to become tradition? Looks like it!)

I started this post 12 months ago with the intention of turning it into another letter from the past, but never managed to actually sit down and write anything, so this has been a blank draft until around 2 hours ago. Oh, Past Anna, with your incessant Tumblr blogging and nonexistent WordPress blogging. It’s a shame too: this past year has been a pretty eventful one as far as years go. Here’s a list of ten notable things that have happened, for the sake of posterity.

  1. Graduated from high school! Wow!
  2. Went to a bunch of places in Europe, which has been on my bucket list since the day I learned Europe is a continent.
  3. Enrolled in college! Look at me, adulting.
  4. Did the scary AP English exam that I have honestly been dreading since grade ten! Lived to tell the tale!
  5. Decided my future!
  6. Finished some poems; started 38462 poems, most of them still drafts! I’m not even joking
  7. Learned how to drive! Also lived to tell the tale, which is a miracle, if you ask me.
  8. Survived finals season for the first semester of college without too much crying! *cheers*
  9. Started and finished 61 anime series! (This time I’m actually not joking. I counted. If you ever need recommendations, I’m your gal.)
  10.  The most important of all: I baked brownies and they didn’t turn green like the Green Muffin Incident*. All is right in the world.
*Once, long long ago, I decided to try baking muffins. It was from a box mix so I thought, “What could possibly go wrong?” When the muffins came out, they were green. Evidently, a lot went wrong.

Looking back, more Big Events (graduation, starting college, etc.) have occurred this year than other years. When I started this post back in January, I was more than a little terrified of all of them. My thinking was, “How am I ever going to survive until December?” Now having survived, I’m not too sure what I was scared of. That’s life, I guess: you stress about things until they’re over, then look back and wonder why you were stressed. Your Future Self is looking at the current you through the memories you are making right now and thinking, “Man, I didn’t even need to worry,” which is both comforting and aggravating: comforting because everything will work out, aggravating because current you doesn’t know how it all works out. (If only letters to the past were a thing.)

But hey, we’ve survived yet another year of agonizing over whatever it is we were once stressed about. We’ve all become the Future Self of the person we were in January, and we’ll keep evolving into subsequent Future Selves. Letters to the past may save us a lot of stress, but they take the excitement out of the process of becoming, which is kind of what life is all about, yeah?

Emotional Baggage Check

Sometimes, I find a really good article that hits all the points for me, like this one. While reading the beginning, I was half convinced that Jenny (the writer) is me from an alternate universe—only, she seems to actually know what she’s doing when it comes to helping people. 

My only actual job is to be student, but I’d say I’m also an Emotional Baggage Check of sorts. I spend a lot of hours talking to friends who are upset or need someone to vent to, and this is usually done over messaging, phone calls, or—strangely enough—at parties. Usually the venting happens during the night, and—like Jenny says—sometimes it escalates to talking them out of suicide, leading to urgent 2 am calls. It’s been especially stressful this past school year and that’s probably one of the reasons why my report card looks lousier than it usually does—when one of your friends tells you that they’re not going to be around tomorrow, homework is the last thing going through your mind.

Arguments with my parents have sprung up out of this. There’s the usual “You need to go to bed, these people won’t even matter to you after high school, your grades are important” opening statement, retaliated with my defiant “They matter right now and homework can wait but they can’t” objection, finally ending with frustration and sometimes tears. Those nights are the ones I want to avoid the most.

And of course, lack of sleep is an issue. There was a month where it seemed all of my friends were sad at the same time and I would talk to multiple people in one night: starting up a phone call with one person just as I was finishing a message marathon with another. Jenny talks about multitasking, but I can’t listen to more than one person at a time so I was up super late trying to get to everybody and homework. Needless to say, caffeine, all-nighters, and I are not strangers anymore.

Not that I’m complaining. I love having feels-packed talks with friends who mean a lot to me, and I love being able to receive their thoughts. I don’t think myself superhuman or selfless—during especially busy times, I’ve looked at my screen and audibly complained that I don’t have the time or the necessary level of caring to tackle the issue. Sometimes this kind of sigh-groan escapes me, and yeah . . . I’m no Mother Teresa. But I know that whenever I’ve committed to helping the person, I’ve never regretted it. There’s a certain happiness that comes with being able to be there for the people you care about, and it makes things (like staying up late) worth it.

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” -Mother Teresa

But like Jenny, I’m still trying to figure out how to take care of myself while also taking care of others. I assume I’ll find that balance eventually. Until then, I’ll just muddle along with everyone else and we can all help each other out.

Unfinished Business

Unceremoniously shoved into a corner of my living room is a scarf. I started it when first embarking on my knitting misadventures, somewhere between grade eight and freshman year — so, a couple of years ago. Ridiculously — but sadly not surprisingly — it’s still in a messy state of incompletion. At this rate, I’ll finish it when I’m halfway through university.

The problem is that I keep telling myself that there’s always too many math problems to groan about, too much Tumblr dashboard to scroll through, and not enough time to haphazardly do all the things I want to (which are all terrible excuses, given I have a friend who forges knitted masterpieces in a matter of hours. Fun fact: if you make her angry, she will not hesitate to stab you with the same needles she used to make a six-foot, Harry Potter-themed scarf. Everybody knows of the TMNT but she is a veritable TKGG: Teenage Knitting Grandma Goddess).

Truth is, I’m not a finisher. It’s rare I ever finish anything that’s doesn’t have an unforgiving deadline like piano recital pieces or school assignments do (yet, that still didn’t stop me from handing in a novel analysis essay a month late . . . sorry, Mr. H), which is probably why I went through as many extra-curriculars as people lose bobby pins. I can’t remember seeing anything through to the end except for swimming, and that’s only because my mom was convinced that one day I was going to fall off a ship and into the ocean. To her credit, that did sorta happen once.

So, no more extra-curricular for me anymore, but the unfinishing continues:

  • I pick up new sheet music, half-learn four songs, then drop them. As a result, you could say I know lots of pieces, but only in pieces. It’s slightly annoying, but probably more so for the place I volunteer at — they endure my choppy playing for an hour every week.
  • I don’t finish novels sometimes. Actually, there’s an obscene amount of books in this cardboard box mentally labelled “Yeah . . . no” shamefully tucked into another corner somewhere. (Oh life and your unforgiving corners.)
  • Don’t even talk to me about draft folders. Every time I open one of those, it’s a nightmare — blog draft folders, email draft folders, physical folders that hold hand-drawn drafts . . . no folder is safe.

Perhaps my inability to finish will be my undoing, but in terms of my scarf, I’m not worried. It gets worked on every time I have a sleepover, which means that when it’s finally done, it’ll be a scarf born from party times with friends.

And besides, isn’t there that quote that says the journey is more important than the destination?

(Ah, but I guess never getting to the finish line isn’t that commendable either.)


Instilling Fondness

Have you ever just looked at someone and thought, “I really love you”. They’re just talking or humming or watching a movie or reading a book or laughing or something, and there’s something about them in that moment—their body is alive, there’s a light in their eyes, something—that makes you think, “I just really love you.” It’s a weird sensation to think this, but it’s pretty awesome that we can feel this way about another being. -Tumblr user text-pistol

There’s injustice all over the world and humans have done unspeakable things over the course of history, but I’d like to think that the real essence of humanity is captured in those fleeting moments where you look at someone and cannot help but love them.

Full of Others

It’s really important who you hang out with.

At least, that’s what my mom told me a lot when I was younger. Her and many parents take friend influences seriously, and with good reason: none of us would be the person we are today without the influences of the people we surround ourselves with.

There’s the nature vs. nurture argument as well: the idea that our roots take precedence over our upbringing and environment, and vice versa. But individuals become who they are due to a mix of both nature and nurture, and also what they aspire to be. Perhaps that’s why so many of us admire our friends* – because you hang out with people who possess qualities you like (either subconsciously or consciously).

*Of course, you can also admire your friends simply because they’re your friends. The moment you become chummy with them is the moment you don rose-coloured glasses.

I have kind friends and hilarious friends and thoughtful friends and artsy friends and musical friends and intellectual friends and strong-willed friends and protective friends and ohmygoodnessCUTE friends, and most of them have all of these qualities packed into one body. Since friends rub off on you after awhile (several times I’ve noticed myself using my friends’ little mannerisms), we’ve all probably picked up a bunch of things from each other accidentally or through emulation.

It’s this kind of thinking that spurs questions: which qualities have we picked up, and from whom? (As Tumblr suggests, we should all get a book that says which qualities we’ve adopted from people we know. That’d be cool.) Are we all inspirations and catalysts for change in the eyes of each other? Is it in this way that people carry pieces of us with them, wherever they go? Will we always be present in the way they run their hands through their hair or in the little catchphrases they say?

It’s pretentious to want to leave a mark on the people you hang out with, but there’s something nice about thinking that a fragment of yourself is alive in another.