The City That Never Sleeps

When I was in the first grade, I did a presentation about the one place in the entire world that I wanted to visit: New York City.  My mom took me the summer afterwards, and ever since then I have always felt a pull towards New York. There’s this unexplainable energy that I get whenever I am among the bustling crowds, seemingly endless skyscrapers, diverse foods and people, and energetic pace of the city. This past month, I went back to see my family. I had a lot of fun visiting some tourist spots in the area and wanted to share them.

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view from the one wtc

The first day my family spent in New York City, we had arrived early in the morning on a redeye flight from San Diego. Our first stop: Chelsea. Located in the lower westside of Manhattan, Chelsea is home to the High Line Park, Chelsea Market, Whitney Museum, and lots of cute shops and restaurants.

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I wanted to highlight the Whitney because it’s a spot that I had never visited prior to this trip and I loved all the exhibits that were open. The museum features thousands of modern pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries, and represents a variety of art. My favorite exhibit was called “David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake At Night.” Wojnarowciz never stuck to one medium, with the Whitney’s website describing his art as “adopting a wide variety of techniques with an attitude of radical possibility.” He was queer and later diagnosed HIV-positive, and focused on the idea of the outsider for his subject. He became a huge advocate for people with AIDs, and his work demonstrates the difficulties of the late ’80s and ’90s with the AIDs crisis and culture wars.
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view from the whitney

The hotel we stayed at was called The Empire Hotel, an upscale spot across the street from Lincoln Center. It was only a couple blocks away from the famous Central Park, and we decided to spend a day riding bikes on the six-mile path that goes around the entire park. It was an easy, hassle-free process; we rented bikes from a spot right outside the park and even got them to match the price of a cheaper place down the road.

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view of central park facing the south side

It was a fairly overcast day, but it was humid. And the bike path is not easy. There are lots of turns, steep hills, and foot traffic on the path so it was difficult to navigate at times, but it was a lot of fun and was a great way to see the park. We stopped by the Strawberry Fields, which is an area that is dedicated to former Beatle John Lennon, and other spots like Sheep’s Meadow as well as the Bethesda Terrace.

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‘imagine’ mosaic in the strawberry fields

Having visited New York in the past, I saw the One WTC when they finished the water memorials that mark where the Twin Towers previously stood and when they built the museum underground as a memorial for 9/11. But I hadn’t seen the observation deck, so we decided to visit it on a relaxed day spent wandering around the city. It was expensive at around $30-40 per person, but was definitely worth it for the view.

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view from the one wtc observation deck

After stopping by the One WTC, my family and I decided to go to Brooklyn since it was nearby. After a 10-minute walk to the beginning of Brooklyn Bridge, we did what the typical tourist would and walked across. There were tons of other people so it was a little overwhelming but definitely a cool experience with the view of the Williamsburg Bridge to the left and the hustling car traffic underneath. The walk across took about 10-15 minutes.

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the brooklyn bridge

After making it to Brooklyn, we went to the famous Grimaldi’s per recommendation of my relative for some classic New York pizza. It was really good. There was a line outside of the door and a bouncer ushering people inside when space opened up. But just down the street was Juliana’s, and we were curious about it so we searched it up. Apparently there is a huge debate in the area about which one is better. Juliana’s has 1,000+ reviews on Yelp with an average rating of 4.5 stars, while Grimaldi’s has 4,000+ reviews and 3.5 stars… so next time we’re in Brooklyn I need to try out Juliana’s and make the decision for myself!

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one of the pizzas we ordered from grimaldi’s

On one of our last days in the city we visited the Met, also known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We had visited the museum in the past, but it is HUGE. There are all kinds of exhibits and thousands of pieces that you can’t see everything in one day. And the museum knows it, so the ticket gives you admission for three days. I didn’t take many pictures here, but I wanted to the include the one below. We were walking around the sculpture by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux called “Ugolino and His Sons.” It’s a beautiful marble sculpture from the early 19th century. There was an older man sitting on a stool sketching it from a side view with charcoal. It was fascinating to watch and it was clear he was talented.

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These are some of the highlights from my New York trip last week. It’s my favorite place to visit and if you haven’t been already, I definitely recommend checking it out! There is a lot more to the city than what I’ve mentioned and it’s great because you get to encounter so many different walks of life by simply wandering around. I’ve still got New York on my mind…

Check out my NYC Instagram story highlight HERE to see more photos from my trip!

Communication is Everything

In theory, communication seems like a simple idea. It’s the basis for the connection between two people. But in reality, communication can be difficult. It can be complicated and confusing. It can bring people together or tear them apart. It can be the cultivation of ideas into something brilliant or be the wall that some people never scale together successfully.

Throughout my life, I have always prided myself on my great sense of empathy. I think of myself as a considerate person, and strive to be the person to put other people first. I try to take their feelings and emotions into account even if they may differ from my own.

I’ve realized that in order for me to be successful, I have to be confident in myself and who I am. But part of that is also realizing what I am not, and taking comfort in the fact that that I will always have areas to improve in order to continually become a better person for myself and my relationships with others.

I’m a typical overthinker. Whenever I have something important to share with someone, I run through a million scenarios in my head beforehand and get so nervous that sometimes I write down what I want to say before the conversation happens to sort out my thoughts. I recognize that the nervousness can be a good sign; it means that I am invested in the situation. But sometimes I think that it comes off as disingenuous. I go over what I want to say so many times and it becomes polished — too polished — and what I want to convey to the other person can get lost in the words.

I think that the most important component of good communication is transparency. Being clear with your thoughts and your feelings to another person is so important. That’s not to say you should always speak without a filter. It just means that you should be candid and honest while considering that the articulation of your words may affect the other person’s reaction. Ensuring that you are maintaining healthy communication with the people who mean the most to you requires effort.

I’m not perfect. Take what I say with a grain of salt, because the next person may have a different perspective to offer in terms of what they believe cultivates good communication. But that’s the beauty of it. We all react and learn and grow in our own ways, and communication is how you can bridge the gap between those differing characteristics. I believe that as long as you show that you’re well-intentioned and are truly trying your best, then you’re doing just fine.

A Proper Introduction: Discovering the Undiscovered

I’ve come to the realization that I don’t really have a proper introduction post to my blog. I started this website a while ago as a place to express my thoughts and have started to adhere to a consistent posting schedule, but have yet to create a post where I establish my purpose and my goals.

There’s many emotions that come with starting this blog. I’ve always aspired to find a place where I can share my deepest thoughts, express my opinions, and discuss my experiences through writing. Here, my options are limitless. No boundaries, no restrictions. Just me and my thoughts. I have the opportunity to write whatever I want whenever I want.

As a young person who has been brought up in this society – this chaotic, ever-changing, and sometimes polarizing society – I’ve always had an opinion. I’ve always wanted to say something, but I’ve never known where to start. As humans, we are ultimately working towards our truths and what really drives us to continue doing our best each and every day. Along the way, we may run into a few bumps in the road. The ups-and-downs of life can sometimes throw you a surprise. It’s always those unexpected situations, good or bad, that can put a person on the line and throw them onto a path of self-discovery and show them something new about themselves. And in order to figure out what life is to us, we must first discover who we are – what causes us to react with certain emotions and impulses to situations, and what makes us, us. Those are the moments I have always grown as a person, and I want to be able to share those moments on my blog.

Don’t get me wrong; it took a while to work up the courage to want to share those experiences to the public. I admire every person that’s able to do that without much hesitation. But once I got past my initial uncertainty, I saw how great this blog could become.

I haven’t even started my second year of college. I still need to live and discover myself. I still need to experience life. I need to go out, cram for exams, lose and make friends, and find out who I want to be when I grow up. I’m new to this experience. I’ve never written for a blog before and I’m not perfect. Maybe my opinions will be bias, too naïve, or against the majority. I’m okay with that, but I hope you will follow me and listen to me and be open to me. I always keep an open mind to others’ opinions, and I am always striving to learn more.

This blog is where I can share that with people who will listen to what I have to say, whether they agree or disagree, and create a space where we can learn from each other. And eventually I want to go beyond just sharing my opinions and my ideas. There are so many possibilities. Words are powerful, and I want to make an impact with my own.

📖 What Makes Life Worth it? | When Breath Becomes Air

Growing up, I was one of those kids that’d go to the library and check out a full stack of books, read them all in a week, and go back for more. In the midst of all those books were always the few that hit me hard. The ones with characters and stories that resonated so deeply with me that I empathized for them with my whole heart. Those books fostered my love for reading.

But now, reading is difficult. It is hard to sit down and indulge in books because I get distracted. With the ever-growing presence of technology, my attention span is much shorter than it was as a kid. Along with many others, I am guilty of holding onto books for far too long, claiming that “I’ll get to it when I have the time” even though I could definitely make the time.

That is why I wanted to create this series of posts on my blog specifically tailored to reading books. Eventually I want to expand to articles, essays, and other forms of writing, but for now my goal is to constantly be reading new books and writing about them on my blog. I want to open up and rediscover my love for reading, and encourage myself to constantly be taking in new works.

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The first book I want to talk about is When Breath Becomes Air. It is written by the late Paul Kalanithi, a brilliant neurosurgeon, after being diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and realizing that his time left to live is limited.

When I was loaned loaned me this book, it took me a long time to pick it up. But I’m glad I did. I won’t spoil the specific details of the book for you because you should read it for yourself. What is interesting about Kalanithi’s story is that he often struggles with questions regarding life and death, but in the context of what he describes as the intersection of biology, morality, literature, and philosophy.

Throughout the book, there is a constant theme of understanding death, grappling with it, and what it means to be in the face of it. Death had supposedly become familiar to him through his work treating patients as a neurosurgeon, but when he was forced to face it personally, it was unrecognizable. When he received his diagnosis, he was ready to die. He knew what was coming. But when his treatments started to work and he faced the prospect of living longer than he originally thought, his focus shifted to what sort of purpose his life would hold with an unknown amount of time left to live. Through his book you get to see how Kalanithi navigates what it means to live out his last years to the fullest that he possibly can, battling questions of having children or moving across the country away from his family’s support system for a dream job. He continually asks himself what the consequences of his decisions will mean for the people he leaves behind if in one, five, or ten years he won’t be alive.

Despite the sadness of the circumstances behind the book, what’s inspiring about it is that he never cowered in the face of death. Instead, he led a life full of integrity, love, and intelligence. It is clear that he was someone who thought so much outside of himself and had so much to give to others while still maintaining a level of self-awareness that made him the brilliant surgeon, scientist, husband, father, and person that he was. At one point during the book while contemplating whether to have a child, his wife asks him “Don’t you think that saying goodbye to a child would make your death more painful?” And he said, “Wouldn’t it be great if it did?”

I pride myself on being able to achieve a sense of awareness that tends to my ability to think of the bigger picture in terms of where my life is going, rather than getting too caught up in problems that won’t matter down the line. Even so, naturally I often find myself getting lost in my daily routines and stresses. I know that it is important to live in now, appreciate each moment, and not get too caught up in the future or the past, but what this book has shown me is that so much of what characterizes a fulfilling life is knowing that what you are doing in the now is going to contribute to an overall meaningful existence.

While Kalanithi was never able to finish the transcript for the book on his own, it paints a vivid picture of his life and the types of inner conflicts that he dealt with from a coming-of-age young adult to a powerful neurosurgeon to a helpless patient during his last years. He battles questions of spirituality, science, character, morality, and philosophy, and the relationship between doctor and patient. I highly recommend that you read this book. I could go on about how great it is, but it does not compare to reading Kalanithi’s words yourself.

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Links to check out:

Self-Love

Loving myself has been the hardest challenge that I have faced in my life so far.

Most students are able to tell you about all the difficulties that they faced when making the transition to college. For me, this past year I struggled a lot with my self image. When you’re thrust into a new environment and a new way of living paired with the ubiquitous fear of not knowing your place in the world, it can be a lot to bear. Maybe putting my problems into the scale of the world was a bit much, but nevertheless it was the root of a lot of my insecurities.

I found myself constantly comparing myself to other people in my life, asking questions that weren’t giving me answers that satisfied me. Why is this person doing better than me in school? How come they have more friends? Why are they better at talking to people? Why do they seem so much more confident than I have ever felt?

Anyone that knows me well will tell you that I am guilty of getting stuck in my head about everything which leads to overthinking, self-doubt, and self-sabotage. It is easy to compare yourself to others and only see what they have and what you do not. It is easy to focus on what you perceive as flaws instead of being grateful for what you do have.

For me, the best outlet was talking to people that cared for me. I knew that what I was doing was unhealthy. What I realized through these conversations is that everyone does the same thing. It is inevitable that people compare themselves to others around them. It’s human nature. But the ultimate challenge that comes with that is learning to practice gratitude. It is so easy to see what you don’t have, that it often becomes difficult to remember to appreciate what you do have.

Don’t get me wrong — sometimes using people around you as inspiration to get to a place that you want to be is not a bad thing. It is good to surround yourself with people who are high-achieving and are striving to be the best versions of themselves because it can motivate you to do the same. But don’t confuse that with having to be the same as them. Instead of asking “Why don’t I have what they have?” you should be asking yourself “What do I have?” and “How can I use that to make me even more successful?” It’s about appreciating your own attributes and strengths and learning how to use and build upon those to be happy with who you are.

Every person is different which means that your path to success and self-love and all that is not always going to look the same as those around you. Each and every person in this world has something to offer, and when you realize that, it really opens up your perspective of yourself and the people in your life. It sounds like a cliché, but it is so true.

Like everyone else, I have days where I find myself feeling down and getting lost in my head. It is okay to doubt yourself because that’s natural. But when you have those moments, remind yourself that it’s okay to feel that way. Don’t try and shut it out. Acknowledge it. Keeping track of my thoughts in my journal or going to my favorite spot at the beach just to be alone and check in to see how I am feeling has helped me a lot.

It took me a long time to love myself, and it’s still something I am working on today. It is a lot easier to say something than actually put it into practice, but awareness is the first step. It is hard. But it is something you have to continually work on and eventually, you’ll get there. I believe in you. :’)

 

Eight Days in Estonia

Before spending eight days with my family in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, I had never heard of the country. It has a population of just over one million people, but I quickly discovered a love for the quaint town and its mix of modern and historical architecture, national parks, and good food.

Estonia is half-covered in forests and its terrain is relatively flat. It’s a largely innovative country with a fast-growing economy, and it has the highest number of startups per capita and has a program called e-residency, which is a digital ID that can be issued to non-Estonians. Citizens of Estonia have access to universal health care, free education, and the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD. They do their taxes and they vote online.

Tallinn’s Old Town is a well-preserved historical site, listed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1997 as an example of “a medieval northern European trading city.” We spent the majority of our time here and had the opportunity to get to know the area intimately.

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On of our last days in town we went to the top of St. Olaf’s Church, the city’s biggest medieval structure. We had to climb hundreds of small stone steps, but the view was well worth it. There was a small platform surrounded by fence that allowed you walk all the way around the tower.

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One of the best parts about Tallinn is how clean the food is in town. Everything is locally sourced and organic, and almost all restaurants make everything from scratch including their bread and butter. Rataskaevu 16 was my favorite restaurant. I had chicken breast and some peppermint tea with some of their homemade sunflower bread, and it was delicious.

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While the heart of the city is Old Town, Tallinn has a lot more to offer further along the coast. During the first week we were there we took a bike tour and saw Kadriorg Park, which is about a 20 minute walk outside the city. It is filled with museums, gardens, and palaces.

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But even further outside of Tallinn is Lahemaa National Park, characterized by its bog walking and small fishing towns. We were able to walk on Viru bog and it was one of my favorite parts of the day that we spent in the park. The platform was the width of two small wood planks.

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We visited two small fishing towns: Käsmu and Altja. In Käsmu we climbed a tower at the edge of the water and had a home-cooked meal with salmon, potatoes, and bread. Some Estonians live quiet lives in these small coastal towns complete with preserved fishing net sheds and farms.

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These are some of the highlights of my time to Estonia. The country has so much more to offer than what I have mentioned and it has a fascinating history, but I wanted to share some of my favorite bits from the trip. If you are ever in Europe, I highly encourage you to check out Tallinn! ♥

A New Environment

With the school year coming to an end in just two weeks, I have taken a lot of time recently to reflect on the past ten months. Since moving away from home, I have learned so much about myself that I hadn’t noticed in the past and have changed a lot.

One of the biggest realizations that I’ve come to recently is how your environment determines so much of who you are as a person, and how it is largely due to the people that surround you. I hadn’t realized just how much this was true until I came to college.

When you grow up in the same town surrounded by the same people, everything about your environment lets you be comfortable. Naturally, you fall into a routine with school, friends, and home. You know what your place is and you usually know how each day will look. You may face challenges in your life as you grow older and earn more responsibilities, but the environment remains constant. It’s familiar, and for many people that is associated with a level of content.

In high school, I thought of myself as relatively reserved and shy, often keeping to myself and not opening up to new people very easily. I was a homebody and liked to stay inside my bubble of a comfort zone. I never attended many school events and would often opt to stay in for a night instead of going out, and surrounded myself with people who seemed to feel the same.

But near the end of high school, I was itching for something new. Even though it scared me, I knew that I wanted to get out of my bubble.

Because the shift in environment was drastic, the changes I underwent were largely due to the new experiences I was having and sharing with other people. By meeting so many different kinds of people during college, I’ve had the freedom to be whoever I want. It is clear to me that the meaningful friendships and relationships that I’ve cultivated since coming to college have had a huge impact on my life. I have made friends that I have been able to open up to and connect with in ways I had never experienced prior to college. And as a result I’ve learned a lot about who I am and what really drives me forward, and how to be be confident in myself as a person with dreams and aspirations.

For example, I have learned that I love to be spontaneous and make decisions on the spot, even though for most of my life I thought I was a meticulous planner who only felt comfortable planning everything in advance. I have learned that I love to be a goof, even though for most of my life I thought I should put on the front of being composed all the time. These characteristics seemed small and intangible, but now I realize that they’ve affected me a lot.

Being thrown into a new place with so many different people shows you who you are or who you want to be by challenging you, and then showing how you deal with those unexpected difficulties in your life. It’s really given me the opportunity to embrace those insights. I love my hometown and I wouldn’t change anything about it, but going to college and being exposed to a new environment has opened my eyes.