Wednesday, January 28, 2015

52 mornings // 04

Over fall break, Kevin and I visited our dear friends, Kathleen and Jonathan, at Princeton, and this weekend they came to return the favor! In preparation, I frantically searched for things to do and places to take them. After a semester here, you'd think that I'd have a list off the top of my head, but I actually haven't explored very much. In the end, the two main stops we made were at Snap Custom Pizza and Hothouse Coffee, which you'll be hearing about in separate posts. It was a busy weekend spent with good company, but for some reason, I'm finding it harder to compose something to say about it.

A pet peeve of mine is when people try to be "different" just for the sake of being different. Everyone is different; you don't have to try to be. You just need to let it come naturally or take the time to figure out what it is that makes you different instead of making a lazy attempt at distinguishing yourself. Because seriously anyone would rather wear a dress with Converse than with heels.

Another peeve is when people try to be "deep" but are really just talking nonsense. When writing about an abstract topic like "nothingness" or "simplicity," it's easy to use a bunch of colorful adjectives and talk very generally for a more universal approach that more people can (maybe) relate to, or at least get caught up in the vivid descriptions and forget that it's just fluff. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn't, and that's when it bothers me. And I think I may be on the verge of doing that myself, especially with this 52 project, in which most mornings consist of nothing more than idling around.

I'm a hypocrite! Just like how I hate tourists when I'm traveling and trying to get pictures for myself as a tourist. But I'm trying to be better about it. I thought that this weekend would be easier to make a post for, because I finally had concrete things to write about, but I failed to take into account the feels.

Quoting Urban Dictionary, feels are "a wave of emotions that sometimes cannot be adequately explained." I can show you a collection of GIFs to illustrate my emotions, but give me words and I'll lose them. It's especially hard to articulate yourself when consumed by such overflowing joy like I was.

Nothing beats hanging out with fellow photographers. We don't do anything. We just slow down and appreciate what's around us, capturing as much of the world as we can through our tiny viewfinder. We also find delight in crunching through freshly fallen snow and making Animal Crossing sounds.

We're memory keepers. We chase nostalgia. What more symbolic than a playground? As children, playgrounds were our world. We built cities in the sandbox, evacuated ships via slides, swung through the jungle on ropes, and climbed the mountain of stairs. We ruled the yard and nothing could touch us, unless we were playing tag.

Morning became noon became evening, and before we knew it, the four of us had made our way through the day that could never be long enough. But who is the sun to dictate when our day ends? We stayed out long after the sun set, which reminds me of a similarly nostalgic moment back in Beijing. Oh yeah, and today marks the first time I've hopped a fence. Yup, into an elementary school playground.

It came time for them to leave, but not without us serenading them with Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" as they boarded the train. Unfortunately they did not stay with us because they needed to escape Juno (lame), but I'm excited for them to do amazing things in their part of the world and come back to share it all with us. Meanwhile, I'll be trying to kick off my second semester of college on the right foot and then just keeping forward, as much as I like to romanticize the past and everything that it holds. I'll be spending many more mornings here on campus, and it'll be interesting to see how I give each morning a fresh look, because every day is a new day with something else waiting to be discovered.

Sleep seems terribly inviting though.

PS: 0302. 01.
Friday, January 23, 2015

#tagged: grateful blogger tag & liebster award

Tags like these are very common on Tumblr and even on YouTube. They're great if you're looking for a quick read that will show you the personal side of a blogger. But my posts tend to be on the lengthier side, and that's because I want to be sure that I blog with purpose. I don't want to post anything unless I really have something to share, something that I have a lot to say about.

That being said, I still think that tags like these are so much fun and are a great way for you to get to know me better. Also, if my readers are tagging me or asking questions, I sure as heck am going to answer, however late I may be. Same goes for comments, which I sure as heck am going to reply to. (I've caught up with all except for the ones on my 2015 blogging goals. Getting there!)

Thank you to Janine for tagging me with the Grateful Blogger tag (like three weeks ago) and to Michelle for tagging me with the Liebster Award (like five months ago, so sorry!). I hope you don't mind that I've piled them into one post, but I've gotten around to these so late that some questions aren't quite as relevant as they were before. Back when my blog was still based on Tumblr I was also tagged with the Liebster Award by Meg and Eline, so check that out if you're bored :) I may start linking these on my about page or include them as a category on my blog if they happen frequent enough.

  • Thank the person who tagged you and leave a link for them.
  • Write ten things you are grateful for. Think about what's important and why.
  • Tag 10 bloggers and comment on their blog. Let them know they've been tagged.

Running the risk of sounding bratty, I want to admit that I am an extremely privileged person and I've been taking it for granted until now, because I didn't know any better. Privilege is never having to think about it, and I never did. There's so much for me to be grateful for and I am. Life is so much easier for me because I am a cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied, middle/upper class, Christian, American (by nationality), English-speaking person. I am grateful for my family, my friends, my health, my education, as are most people. I am grateful for food, for shelter, for being socio-economically stable enough to not have to worry about whether or not I'll make it until tomorrow. So in this Gratitude List, I want to be more specific by sharing the milestones and transformative experiences in my life that have made me who I am today, because--in the most in-conceited way possible--I am grateful for who I am.

MOVING TO CHINA // I can't imagine living in one small town my entire life. Well, even if I had stayed put, I wouldn't have had that small town experience where I was in Los Angeles. Sometimes I wish that I had stayed put, that I had grown up alongside neighbors and friends, that I had that friend who I'd known since elementary school or even pre-K, who would walk into my house unannounced, with which I could do the same, who knew my parents personally from being around so often for so long, who stayed up talking about everything under the sun, moon, and stars, who had really been there for the good and bad, the ups and downs, and everything in between. But then I remember how much more I've seen of the world, the cultures I've experienced, and how many different people I've met.

ATTENDING AN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL // We international students have a bad rep for being overentitled, and while that's not true about everyone, it's true for some, and by my senior year of high school I was not having any more of it. Even after graduating, the international community is something I'm now a part of and forever entangled with. I have no right to look upon the international community with such disdain, especially since this is an overgeneralization and I've reaped many benefits, so in fact, it's quite ungrateful of me to not appreciate this community as much as I should, and quite pretentious of me to be giving criticism at all. My high school gave me so many opportunities, many of which involved traveling that will help me build relationships and networks around the world.

APAC SWIMMING 2013 // I was short on inspiration for this post and was going through photos I've been tagged in on Facebook to rediscover things I've participated in, milestones, etc. and saw a bunch from APAC swimming 2013 in which I looked genuinely happy, where I wasn't worried about how I might appear to onlookers or how to smile and angle my face so that it wouldn't look like I had a double chin. I remember that that was the year my school hosted the event, which means I had to take more responsibility and be more engaging despite my anti-social tendencies. Even though I was competing and socializing all week, I fed off the positive energy and it was invigorating. I found my love for it, which encouraged me to open up and explore the extroverted part of my personality.

STARTING MY BLOG // I started personal lifestyle blogging in September 2013 on Tumblr. I had been on Tumblr for much longer but was getting tired of seeing the same old superficial things on my dash. When Kevin introduced me and a few other lucky people to the world of lifestyle blogging, I was sold. Blogging doesn't stop at the screen. I could write a whole post about how blogging has influenced my life, and maybe I will, but for now I just want to establish that it has changed my life for the better. It's true, blogging takes up more time in my life than it should, especially considering that it's just a hobby, and yes, I think about blogging when I should be thinking about studies, but blogging has also given me an eye for the world. It exercises my creativity, but more importantly, it helps me find inspiration, beauty, and joy in my own life and in the lives around me that I would have otherwise missed.

BUSKING IN THE ART DISTRICT // I've been involved in the performing arts for awhile, but it was never my thing. I discovered my gift in classical singing, and though I thoroughly enjoyed developing it, I never felt it. I think part of the reason I have such difficulty evoking emotion in song is due to guarding my insecurities. Even though athletics are what most people consider competitive and performing arts are what most people consider a celebration, I've always found the performing arts more competitive. It's a dog eat dog world where people put a smile on their face, whisper behind your back, and trample everyone for the spotlight. The last thing I'd picture myself doing is busking, but that's exactly what I did. It became a whole thing of good vibes, soul, and late nights in which I learned how to express myself.

MY LAST MONTHS IN BEIJING // I almost listed this as "Project Based Learning" because that was definitely a catalyst for adventure seeking and memory making during those last months. People from my high school groan at the thought of PBL and so do I, because it was terribly executed by the administration, but my friends and I made the most of it. Our project was to practice our photography by roaming both the traditional and modernized parts of Beijing. In my head, this was our last hurrah as seniors, together. I probably did more exploring of Beijing in those last few months than I did in the last eight years. I only wish I hadn't waited until then to take advantage of the wonderful city I lived abroad in. Improving my photography and editing skills were a welcome side-effect. Despite its gross weather and unrelenting pollution, Beijing and all of its juxtapositions will always hold a place in my heart.

COLLEGE // without which I'd be as dependent as ever. It wasn't until then that I realized how isolated and protected my whole life had been. It made me realize that a little bit of kindness could go a long way. Thank you to the man who helped me with directions, with my luggage, and gave me one of his extra SEPTA tickets. Thank you to the ice cream man who gave me (and the swim team) a 25 cent discount on our $20.25 purchase of popsicles. Thank you to the friend who walks me to my dorm despite the fact that my dorm is basically off campus. Thank you to the random people who I run into who say hi, smile, and/or ask how I'm doing even though I'm probably one of the least cool people they know. Thank you to the friend who always checks to see if I've made it home safe because he knows I'm hopeless with directions. I haven't entered the real world yet, but I'm a step closer.

I know, I know. Audrey, did you fail elementary math?! There are only seven things! Well, this list and its explanations have gone on for long enough. I'm only eighteen. How many transformative experiences could I have had? Not enough for an autobiography, but maybe one day. I admit, my brain has run dry, but if nothing has jumped out at me, then it couldn't be that significant, right?

Darn, now I know why this tag asks for a gratitude list, not a life story. I feel like a very ungrateful person for not being able to complete it. To be fair, I could just stick on friends, family, health, food, shelter, clothes, and other materials to more than complete the list, but I'd rather not. A part of me wants to restart and do this tag the right way to be able to complete it, but... the things I've already listed mean a lot to me, and after writing it all out I want to share it! I guess not every post can be perfect. Quoting my favorite family movie Meet the Robinsons, I just gotta "keep moving forward!"

Another thing I take from this is that I should start taking more risks, putting myself out there, welcoming change, and not let opportunities slip by. There's always room to grow to be your best possible self. These experiences in my life that I've shared with you through this list weren't anything special at the time, but in retrospect, they're game changers. Of course you can never predict when these things will happen--the best things happen at the most unexpected moments--but what I hope is to be able to notice these things when they happen so that I can appreciate them instead of taking them for granted.

>> Read more >> to see the ten questions I answered for the Liebster Award and who I tagged >>

Monday, January 19, 2015

52 mornings // 03

On MLK Day, Americans across the country come together for a day of service, picking up the baton handed to us by past generations and carrying forward their efforts. As one people, we show that when ordinary citizens come together to participate in the democracy we love, justice will not be denied. So make the commitment to serve your community throughout the year -- and make MLK Day a day on, not a day off. [sourceBut you cannot believe how much I am in need of a day off! (Okay my struggle is incomparable to the social [in]justice in the world, but allow me this one transition sentence?)

I thought that having a day off on the first day back from winter break was ridiculous. Can't the holiday be stuck somewhere in the middle of winter break and spring break? But during the last week of 2014 I was in Taipei to visit relatives, during the first week of 2015 I was in Osaka for vacation, during the second week of 2015 I was in Florida for a training trip, and over the weekend I was in Massachusetts for a swim meet, so right now I need this little break to lie in bed and chill (and edit pictures).

The swim team took a road trip up to Massachusetts for the 7 Sisters swimvitational hosted by Mount Holyoke. After staying in condos by the beach for a week in the sunny state of Florida, the Comfort Inn by the nowhere in the snowy state of Massachusetts was a little lackluster. On Friday and Saturday I was walking around the inn trying to spy something photograph-worthy but was coming up with nothing.

The inn was dingy with bad lighting and small rooms. The bathrooms reeked of chlorine, which is what you get when you squish four swimmers into a three-person room with two beds. Breakfast was served on plastic plates with plastic utensils, and really, how many different pictures of bagels could I get?

I'm making it sound worse than it was, but I was not feeling very optimistic about this week's 52 project, and I'm only three weeks in! But as Jack London says, "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a camera club." You need to create it. You need to be your own inspiration.

This 52 project is a challenge, and with every challenge you overcome, you grow. So I began thinking of alternatives. I knew that the possibility of getting nice photographs in the inn would be shabby, so that went off the list. There was also the problem of sharing a room with three swimmers who were resting for a swim meet, as I should have been. If it weren't for this project, I would have been sleeping like a baby right up until it was time to board the bus for the meet, but anything for the blog, right?

I take a step back and return to my goal of maintaining perspective because adventure is out there. Remember the magic of mornings? Remember the magic of snow? Remember how exciting it was to sneak out when it was dark? Actually that last one I've never experienced; I was am the most angelic child ever. Well, this was my chance! To sneak out, to wake up with the world, to see the sun peek over the horizon, to see the snow sparkle in reply, to get some kickass pictures.

Sometimes you need to take a step back, and sometimes you need to take a step forward. From a distance, the town was ordinary with suburban houses spattered along the road and convenience stores guiding the way. I could imagine a small town girl sitting wistfully on her windowsill just wishing for something to happen, anything to happen in this nondescript place.

There was a limit to how far I could wander because I didn't want to get lost, which was terrifyingly plausible due to my lack of sense of direction, so I stuck to one direction along one long street. And it was rejuvenating. The houses slept under a coat of snow. The forests of trees hid secrets between their leaves. Each pop of color that sprouted from the ground was a miracle in the form of beautifully arranged petals. The ombre sky faded into unknown space. And I was there to capture it.

Be present, because it's always the little things, and if you're not there to see it, you'll miss them.

Fun fact: Did you know that Brunch at Audrey's was originally called Miss Average? That's why the description in my sidebar says, "My life is pretty average, but it's the little things that count, right?" There is beauty in averageness (seriously, Google it). I've kept the description despite changing my blog name, because there is some averageness to brunch: it's the average of breakfast and lunch.

PS: 02. 01.
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