Say What I Want, Do As I Please

Hello there! My name is Melinda, nice to meet you.

Well that was certainly a different greeting than how most people would start off their blog post. But try this one.

How are you doing? My name is Phuong, nice to meet you.

You probably had to stop and wonder how that name is pronounced and by the time you have a clue on how to say this one syllable name, you’re not even paying attention to me. First and foremost, both of the names mentioned are my names, I was born as Phuong but from fifth grade onward, many people know me as Melinda. It is very likely that you are confused how this would correlate in any shape or form to my title-which foreshadows that I will talk about language (words) and actions. What we say and HOW we translate it across are all based on our responses to the judgments that we receive, and of course, the names given to us from our parents hold a very dear and personal value to us-it is the FIRST thing that people will scoff at and judge. A short story called “The F Word” by Firoozeh Dumas is one that I can relate to the most. She talked about the different ways people would react to her when she used her unique Iranian name, “Firoozeh”, which means Turqoise in Farsi, versus her American name, Julie.

As Phuong, many peers didn’t seem to pay attention to me as much, I was simply another “FOB”-meaning fresh off the boat- and wasn’t cool enough to hang out with them. The more embarrassed I became about my own identity, the more reserved and resentful I became. I started to dress with the trend and talked with slangs…all these efforts to be more “Americanized”. In reality, my actions really couldn’t hide my culture and how I am, the real me. But that’s not to say I don’t like being Melinda because I really do. The name is elegant and on the plus side, no one really knows a Melinda so I always feel special that I’m not just another Asian “Michelle” or “Jennifer”.

And that was my answer to my first question: What purpose does expressing yourself with words serve?

The first form of self-expression is through your name because not only is it unique to you and only you (ok, maybe with the rest of the 100,000 other people), but a stranger can have a sense of your culture and be able to know you that way. You live your WHOLE life under that one name and it is your job to feel comfortable and grow into that name. Once you are sure of who you are, all your actions and words will follow through beautifully. But above that, we express because we want companionship in others, we want to share a part of ourselves, to connect, to feel, to love.

In Catcher in the Rye, language is Holden Caulfield’s weapon. It is all he really knows. But once you master something, you are rather weak in another area, and Holden’s weakness is his inability to express himself through actions. Why does he struggles so much? All his problems started because he is already an insecure individual who has a hard time coping with a brother’s death and the idea of growing up. When you embrace reality, the world is not that complicated. Your life up until this point has been cultivated through your decisions, which was based off of your emotions, and under all that emotions is insecurity. Throughout the book, Holden brings up Jane, a girl he has been crushing on forever, to a lot of his acquaintances but he never really goes out of his way (and be a man for that matter) and show Jane that he cares through real actions even though Holden is clearly frustrated, both mentally and sexually. To Stradlater, Holden holds back a lot about his feelings because he doesn’t want to seem desperate. Why is it so hard for people to say what they mean? Simple. Steven Pinker, author of “Words Don’t Mean What They Mean”, explained that when you converse with someone, number one, you are trying to convey a message and ALSO “continue to negotioate that relationship”. Holden simply wanted to seem like the “bad boy” who wouldn’t cry over a girl to Stradlater.

Through my experiences and from reading this book, I learned that you should just live life. Tell the world what you want to say, regardless if others disagree, and do what scares you the most. Until then, you are not truly living.

fly free

Soar above your struggles. (not my pic)

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Actions VS Words

There’s the common phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” People can say that they love you but it isn’t as effective as showing that love. Showing that love could be opening doors for the person, making them food, or playing with their hair. People can be total hypocrites. Where they say they hate it when someone does something but go and do the thing they just said they didn’t like other people doing. My class has just finished reading Catcher in the Rye and the narrator, Holden, hated the movies. He didn’t like the actors because they were “phony” and anyone who watched the movies were also “phony”. Yet he went on a date with Sally to the movies. People can say that they can do something and brag about it but when it comes to a point where they actually have to do it, they chicken out. Holden always talked about how he could fight and would always win. When a guy that was in charge of the hookers showed up at his door demanding the rest of the payment, Holden refused to pay. This resulted in a fist fight in which Holden got beaten into a pulp. He said that he could fight but didn’t even try when the other guy was throwing him punches. You can say things but they won’t mean as much as what you do to prove those words. Actions do speak louder than words.

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-Michelle

Why is it so hard for people to express themselves?

All though we have all been told how we should all express ourselves and not hide anything inside. But for some people it can be very difficult to express themselves.

I think that a person’s peers play a large role in whether or not they choose to express themselves. This can be seen clearly in “The Catcher in the Rye”. Holden spends a large amount of the novel trying to get people to listen to him. Though he talks to several people throughout the story he doesn’t feel as if any of them are really listening to him. This causes him to not express himself through his words because he feels as if no one cares and no one wants to listen.

Another common reason for someone not to express themselves is a fear of being judged. They might feel that if they express how they feel to someone whether through writing or verbally that the person might see it as annoying or tease them(Expressing Emotions: Why is it so difficult?.Yasinski). While this is common, it is not a fear that anyone should have to have. It has become part of our society to be self-centered, so a lot of people seem uninterested when someone else and how that person feels is the topic of discussion. This causes many people to shy away from expressing themselves.

I believe that a fear of being judged is also a reason why in “The Catcher in the Rye” Holden struggles to express himself, and when he does say something he usually contradicts it. He fears that if he says something that someone else might make fun of him or disagree with him. So, he contradicts it later hoping to please everyone.

There are a lot people that just struggle to express themselves verbally. A lot of people prefer to express themselves through their writing because they are afraid that they will be judged of the express themselves verbally. This is the reason why many people chose to keep journals or diaries. “The reason for this preference once again has to do with how our brains are wired: written words use different pathways in the brain, which seem to flow fluently for many introverts” (Why do introverts struggle to speak.Granneman). While they are afraid to express themselves verbally they can express themselves just as effectively through their writing and it causes them less stress and anxiety.

So through my reading I think that I have learned that there are many parts of a person’s surroundings and peers that determine how comfortable they are with expressing themselves, and that is why many people struggle with expressing themselves.

Do As You Say And Say As You Do… or at least try

The Catcher in the Rye really is an interesting book. I am glad to say that I ended the year with a novel like this because it leaves me thinking. First lets talk about the protagonist Holden Caulfield, shall we? His personality spoke to me from the first page. “If you really want to hear about it”, he states, “the first thing you’ll want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like…but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth” (pg. 1). From the beginning, Holden is engaging me into a conversation. Now whether his intended audience was me or not is debatable, but from where I was sitting, that is sure how it felt like. Holden began speaking as if he was answering a question you were dying to know. His words wanted readers to believe that he was this interesting, cool character that is basically better than everybody else. But when occasions come to test that theory, his actions say otherwise.

Holden first contradicts himself in the first page, whether he realizes it or not. He starts off saying that he doesn’t want to talk about himself and his whole life story but that is exactly what he ends up doing throughout the whole book. Holden shares with readers the best and worst times of his life. Holden has a habit of contradicting himself in every turn. An example is when he stated, “I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot” (pg.18).But it’s one thing to say something and then say the complete opposite, and another to say something and do the complete opposite. Because as my sister always puts it, “actions speak louder than words”.

The time that Holden called the prostitute is a good example of this. Holden was trying to convince readers (or himself) how he was feeling sexy so he called a prostitute to come meet him in his hotel room. Only when she came, he suddenly wanted to just sit down and talk. “Don’t you feel like talking for a while?” Holden asks (pg 95). Then when the prostitute got mad because she thought she wasn’t getting paid, Holden assured her saying, “I said I’d pay you for coming and all. I really will. I have plenty of dough” (pg 97) to which he totally ignores when he decides not to give her the ten dollars.

Holden displays personality through his actions and his aura through his words. His actions shows his indecisiveness. “While I don’t believe any one action defines who someone is, I think there’s something to this. Actions speak louder than words. And repeated actions are what shape our character and reputation,” said Lori Deschene in an article. “A good man doesn’t have to go around bragging about being one. He lets his actions speak louder than his words” tweeted @Digitaldrop. This all proves that what you say isn’t the whole truth if it isn’t proven by a little action.

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Share Your Story

You could call smiling one of my specialties. The impact of a smile keeps the peace and love in the world going, the passive expression of saying “ Everything’s okay, I’m here to be happy and conquer whatever comes.” People sometimes tell me that I smile too much. “ Trang, you’re always smiling, you could be in pain with a broken toe and I wouldn’t know because you’re always smiling.” I used to think smiling was “phony” or people did it to get something they wanted. Through the course of life, smiling has seeped its way into my daily routine, bringing out its genuine goal instead of the superficiality it may suggest today. My life wasn’t all smiles and such though.

Born into a low income family, my dad’s main goal was to raise children who were not wasteful. Not being wasteful meant eating until every single grain of rice was cleared from the bowl. If my brother and I had any food remaining, we had to stay at the table until we did. Sometimes I would sit there for hours and hours on end, dreading eating a few pieces of dry meat. Eating everything did have its downfalls; for example I was a relatively inactive kid who immensely hated physical activity. As a result of being inactive and eating a lot of food, I grew up clinically overweight.

Being clinically overweight did not necessarily attract the best attention as a little girl. Everywhere I went , there were voices. The “voices” were mainly from my relatives. At family parties, parent conversations consisted of how I needed to watch what I ate, aunts asking my mom why I was so chubby, questions about what size I wore for clothing. I never wore jeans, jeans gave me an uncomfortable feeling with its thick denim waistline. I refrained from being fashionable because I couldn’t fit anything stylish right.

I started swimming at the age of 4, but never swam competitively until 7th grade. My dad was the reason why I started swimming and am still swimming today. My dad was diagnosed with liver cancer when I was in the second grade. The day he was diagnosed till now, everything that his cancer did to him impacted me. He started to take walks at the beach every day, walking to early 6:30 am morning mass, sacrificing all he had for my brother’s and I education. One of the things cancer influenced my dad to do was to sign us up in a sport. He saw swimming as a low impact and rewarding sport, my life took a toll for change. Swimming trimmed me into shape, exercising nearly 3 hours everyday for 7th and 8th grade from Physical Education and swimming on a competitive club swim team. The comments about my weight stopped and compliments started pouring in.

My dad passed away the January of 8th grade, 2012. His passing made me realize that he did not let himself decay away with the terrible disease called cancer. My dad took every moment in life and made it worth it. He did whatever he did to put my brother and I ahead of the game, so that we could prosper in the future. His passing meant that I lost my biggest supporter, a father figure to guide me, and the reason why I started swimming.

It took me a while to get used to it. I’m still not used to the change. In the freshmen year, I noticed that I lost the hard working aspect of myself. I had no one to support my decisions, my mom worked for six days a week from eight to six. I was still swimming, training with the Varsity school team. At that time I didn’t notice it, but I developed extremely unhealthy eating habits. I would eat a microwavable Egg-McMuffin at 12 am and chug down chocolate milk, all day everyday. I would eat bars and bars of Hershey’s chocolate bars on end. I did not notice how broken I was as a human being.

It wasn’t until the summer of freshman year that I noticed that I gained unhealthy weight that affected how I felt about myself. I remember the day clearly, the option of eating healthy flashed into my mind for one instant second, and that was the day my life changed. At first, I ate healthy for physical appearance, to appear slim. Two years later, current day now, my main priority in eating healthy is to be and feel healthy. There were times when swimming felt like a burden on my life, but I was quick to realize that I am swimming for my dad. My dad is inside me. His words and legacy speak through my actions. I am now looking into the field of health science with a desire to transform the world a healthier place so that maybe people with illnesses may have the confidence that my dad did and to live out lives that impact others, just like my dad did to me. I am Trang Truong, a “just keep swimming” is my life motto. trang

Actions v. Words

Do people pay more attention to words or actions? This was my question I considered while reading “Catcher in the Rye” these past couple weeks. I’ve come to the conclusion, as I thought I would, that people really are more receptive to actions over words. In addition, words describing actions rather than feelings tend to be far more powerful.

Throughout the book, Holden experiences countless occasions of his words being ignored, but his actions being taken slightly more seriously. However, they’re not taken too seriously, as he did punch out the windows in the garage and his parents didn’t send him to therapy then, but still.

Holden also contradicts himself a lot; he constantly says he hates the movies, but imagines himself in one in multiple scenes. In those times, readers overlook his words and just see his actions, which seem to speak louder and tell a different story.

I also definitely don’t think Catcher is the only example of this. Even different kinds of words are more believable than others. If someone says that they’re mad, you’ll probably believe them, but you won’t really have any reason to. But if they say that they were so mad they yelled at their mom, brother, and dog, you’ll probably believe them even more, as long as they’re a trustworthy person.

It’s these specifics that make things like political speeches much easier to swallow and believe. For example, in President Nixon’s Checker’s Speech, rather than saying how he’s an honest person that doesn’t use campaign funds for inappropriate things, he tells a very specific story. Nixon discusses how he got a dog from a voter and through an elaborate display of appeal to pathos he convinces his audience of his good character.

And one of the most obvious examples of actions over words is the breaking of a promise. Whether something small, like keeping a minor secret, or something huge, like Hitler invading Poland even though he said he wouldn’t. Well, that’s pretty extreme, but you get the idea. Throughout history and throughout our everyday lives we see people saying one thing and doing another. And whether they speak before or after doing, we tend to believe what their actions tell us more than their words. Why? Well, let’s leave that for the psychoanalysts to think about.

The Memories Are Worth the Stress

So last week was a very inserting and stressful week for me. It started last Tuesday when the new captains for my color guard team were announced.

Just to give you a little background I have tried out for captain three times including this year. The process for trying out for captain on my team is a long and involved process. Our team usually has two captain, three section leaders (flag, rifle, sabre), and a vice president. Last year I was given the sabre section leader position. At the end of this year one of our captains graduated and out of the rest of the leaders only the second captain and I would be returning for the next season.

Back to the announcement, I was announced as the captain. I was thrilled when this was announced and after all of the other positions were announced I realized something. There was only one captain announced and it was me. This meant that last year’s returning captain was now sabre section leader. This was something that had not happened before.

The next few days were very stressful for me. It consisted of a lot of figuring out how to do things and asking questions. After a lot of stress things are finally starting to fall into place.

Over the last week I have learned so much. I learned about communication and leadership. The next year as captain is going to be a stressful one, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love color guard and my team and I am going to make so many new memories as captain.

Stress, Stress, and More Stress…

I’m so stressed out!!! I have so many things to study for its unreal. On top of that, I have to do extra credit assignment and projects and study and study…did I mention study. You want to know what I don’t understand? Why do teachers assign projects right before finals? Do they not understand that there is a capacity of stress a brain can handle. Any ways, I just want to reflect on the stress on finals. Although finals make people (especially me) pull out their hair one at a time, it teaches you to be organized and how to manage your time. Studying for my final, I have to plan which test I have to study for first, which assignment is a priority, and how much relax time I can afford. If I am being honest, I hate finals. They are unreasonable and a painful way to end the year. I wouldn’t mind finals so much if they didn’t affect your grades so much. It sucks when you spend months trying to build up your grades and it only takes one test to make it tumble down. My Japanese final dropped my grade by six percent! And because it is a final, you cant bring your grade up. It is a live or die situation. All that I’m hoping for right now is that I don’t drown.

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To be or not to be…

A virgin. Now that I am finishing up 11th grade and everyone is slowing “growing up”, I am starting to feel like Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. I mean, I’m totally okay with the fact that I’ve never had a boyfriend or anything. I even had my first kiss last March, although the kiss wasn’t anything super special because I only knew the guy for a week. On the inside, I was really glad the “first kiss” was over. Now people would think I’m more mature right? People just assume that if you’ve done something physically intimate with someone, that they are automatically older than you mentally and better than you. I know a lot of people who aren’t virgins anymore. And it’s their business and their choices and their bodies, so I try not to focus on the fact that they’re still under 18. Actually, that’s all I really focus on.

I know there’s no time limit on when you can find love. But what most teenagers feel is just passionate lust. It isn’t love…and that’s probably why I feel really uncomfortable when people would just give it up to ANYBODY at the moment. In Catcher in the Rye, Holden explained that he can’t “get sexy” with somebody he doesn’t know that well, therefore, he refuses to lose his virginity to that one prostitute. The person he really cares about is Jane, and if he had a choice, he would gladly be passionate and intimate with her. I used to hear, and still do, that people eventually lost their virginity ,or feel the need to lose it, is just because of wanting to keep up with the status quo, the bandwagon. Every time I hear that, I frown in disbelief, “If you decide to do something because your peers are doing it, you are stupid.” But now…I sometimes feel like time is running out for me to lose the V card, which is entirely irrational because I’m only 17. Being a teen is hard because you’re torn between not feeling good enough about yourself in terms of grades, a social life, and not being able to get into a relationship. All these emotions-jealousy, angry, anxious, and depressed are dumped on your head and somehow you have to clean it all up and get past it.

I realized virginity is a very personal thing and should be held on until you are with the right person (doesn’t have to be until marriage) and you feel at ease, doesn’t matter about how OTHERS feel when you are ready. But unexpected consequences will be there if you are not careful.

Have control over your own life.  (Not my pic)

Have control over your own life.
(Not my pic)

College Reflection Letter

Throughout this college research project, I was able to straighten out my priorities to distinguish my goals much clearer than I did before. Before this college project, my main goal was to apply for California State University, Long Beach and attend there for my undergraduate studies majoring in some type of health and minoring in art. This project helped me expand my horizons in that it gave me hope that I may be eligible for admittance to Chapman despite some low grades on my transcript, because I am involved in volunteering and leadership, and I still have a chance through SAT and ACT testing. My goal is still to attend CSULB, but now I have Chapman as my high reach school because it is also local and I can commute there. CSULB is ranked #33 in the western region while Chapman U is ranked #7 in western region schools; I figured it wouldn’t hurt to aim high for Chapman while still having my eye on CSULB. Some surprises consisted of my consideration of different majors rather than art, such as screenwriting and tv production. My biggest accomplishment in putting this portfolio together was being able to use what I learned from my favorite past time hobby in sophomore year (looking up colleges and professions) into a single file and setting my priorities straight: the go big or go home in the field of health. Something I would do differently next time would be to research more schools outside the state, even though my plan is to commute in college. Doing this helped me realize how much I love health and made me eager for college to come around; reality struck and I feel the greatness of (almost) moving onto a new chapter in my life.

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My face when I think of college.