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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AP Testing Aftermath

APs have ended and now all the students can finally relax. This year, I had my AP Bio and AP English exam. I didn’t really study for english because there wasn’t really a way to study besides learning big words. I studied for bio a lot. I read over the concepts, the labs, and the projects I did in the past. I was nervous because my bio test was first. I guess I didn’t have to be that nervous because I felt pretty confident that I passed with at least a 3. English on the other hand, I didn’t study and I’m pretty sure I’m on the borderline of a 2 or 3. I’m just hoping that the people that grade my test give me mercy.

Now that testing is over, I can relax in bio because there’s nothing else to learn. We have finished one movie about heart surgery and we just finished watching Interstellar yesterday. I didn’t watch the beginning but it is still a really good movie. English however, we are still doing work. We just started Catcher in the Rye and I’m a little behind but it’s a good book. I’m hoping to catch up this weekend. We are doing a College and Career Project where we write our resumes, respond to the UC entrance essay prompts, and write our goal statements. I kind of have trouble with it but I can manage getting through this project. Other than those two classes, everything’s pretty normal. Even though AP testing may be over, the classes might not be.

AP BIO PICMichelle

Uncomfortable Success

Every year around May, high school students are going CRAZY. We are not sane people at this emotional roller coaster segment of the semester. Since high school started, I don’t remember a year where it wasn’t busy, stressful, UNCOMFORTABLE, uneasy, and an emotional wreck around this month. But I do remember that, no matter how hard or nervous I feel, I should learn to accept the results because I tried my best, regardless if it turned out as a failure, a semi-success, or a definite success (But knowing summer is RIGHT around the corner doesn’t hurt either!!!). Also, one failure..or two..will not define your future either!

What goes down around May is usually this:

  1. AP classes are winding down (or speeding up!) to their last chapters. Students are still in their Spring Break slumber so coming right back from break is not an easy task. Most of us should’ve started studying for the AP exam during Spring break…but who actually succeeded in doing that honestly? I had an APUSH test the following Monday I returned from break, so already my rollercoaster is going straight down with full force. Like I said before, after classes are finished with their curriculum, it’s time to review this sh!t..which really only leave two weeks of studying before the actual day of the test. Considering it’s history and there’s a LOT that goes on AND most of us didn’t review over break…no one is relaxing at ALL. Also, the way we’re reviewing our material is by splitting up into nine groups (this isn’t a “project” really, but if there’s presenting of any sort, it’s a group project to me).
  2. Magically around this time, good ole GROUP projects start popping up! The timing is almost too perfect right now. I have a “Job Fair” group project for Spanish. A two-ish minute presentation on Tuesday comin’ up.
  3. Normal tests from normal classes. Thankfully since I am in a normal Precalculus class, I am chillin’ with a 99.4% and I cANNOT express how great it is to not stress over math. Amen to my amazing teacher. However, I do have chem to care for and you can’t tell me chemistry is easy. Right now, I am struggling with a 86.2% and I am praying to the gods that maybe..just maybe the FINAL will be a piece of cake so that I will magically pass with an A in the class, not that I would cry if I get a B in the class though.
  4. Art- This class is literally “arts and crafts” at this point..but TIME CONSUMING arts and crafts. So now I ALSO have to spend a small portion trying to catch up. We’re doing Piet Mondrian inspired collage.

If I look at this list, it isn’t THAT crazy, but this isn’t over a long span of time, it’s ALL in the span of 2-3 weeks. I am already a nervous person as it is because I sort of fear failure. To be honest, I hate the nature of the AP tests, which is why I get nervous and uncomfortable before I take it. First of all, why does it cost so much? Personally, because I know I’m paying this amount of money for a single test, I feel pressured to do well. I’m not rich (although I will be later on) so it’s sort of a burden on me. Secondly, why is the test SO long???? Sitting to do a test that long is basically trying to kill someone, me specifically. The test is on average about three hours. Lastly, it should just be a “passed or failed” thing. Like really, does it matter if someone gets a 1 or 2? They still failed regardless. Plus, it only makes that person feel worse.

Collegeboard needs to chill out..so that I could chill out too.

Logical way of curing your stress.  Photo @2007 by K. Latham (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Logical way of curing your stress.
Photo @2007 by K. Latham (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Just Give It A Try

I had gotten some bad news a couple days ago. I was recently told that the teacher for AP Psych wasn’t going to be teaching AP Psych next year. She was going to teach in Spain for a year. To me, this seemed like bad news because she was one of my favorite teachers. I had her for World History last year and she was an amazing teacher. I signed up for AP Psych a couple weeks ago for two reasons:

  1. I was very interested in the subject.
  2. She was going to be teaching it. Well that’s what I thought.

When I found out that she wasn’t going to teach it, I was worried. I didn’t know if I still wanted to take the class if she wasn’t going to be teaching it. I debated on whether or not if I should go to my counselor and change it to something else. I was worried that the new AP Psych teacher wouldn’t prepare me for the AP test or wouldn’t teach well.

After rethinking it over and over in my head, I’ve decided to not change my class and try it out. It could end up working and I probably worried for nothing. Even though my favorite teacher isn’t teaching it, I’m going to stick with it and hope for the best. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up loving it and become a psychologist like my favorite Bones character, Dr. Lance Sweets.

Procrastination.

I have learned over the years that procrastinating is kinda dangerous. Your grades are on the line. And yet, I still do it. Everyday. It’s in my nature. But mostly, I don’t have the time to do all my homework everyday. As soon as school ends, I get driven to my parents’ shop until 4:30. Once I get home, I have to do some chores until I can actually start my homework. When I do end up starting, it’s about 7 in the afternoon. So, it’s understandable that I don’t do all my homework in one night. I usually end up doing my AP bio homework first because, to me, it seems like the most important class. By the time I finish bio homework, it’s 8 and I move onto some english. I usually don’t end up finishing english homework though. Then, in the mornings, I do my spanish homework. I never do math homework during the week, I let them pile up until the weekends, then I do them all. This causes problems though, whenever there’s a english quiz or a math quiz, I usually end up doing badly because I don’t do my homework/don’t finish my homework. Sometimes, I get lucky and end up not doing too badly on the quizzes. Other times, when I have absolutely no idea what the answer is, I draw a cat (named Martin) and put sorry under him. I have been trying recently to at least finish english homework instead of doing just half of it but it’s really hard. But at least I’m trying.martin

Michelle

Spring Forward!

Daylight Time Savings finally happened, which means…spring is on the way!! I am so excited for this time change because living in the dark at 5 PM is tragic and waking up to an overcast sky is sad.

Here’s the thing: waking up early at 7AM is not for me. I mean obviously if it’s not a school day and I’m actually going somewhere exciting, I’m all for it, but if it’s for exercising or going to school, I am O-U-T. No matter how early I sleep, my body would feel terrible at 7AM, my eyes won’t budge open, and my senses are still floating around. 7 AM is the devil hour to me. But there’s something really beautiful about the morning when you’re at school at 6:40 AM during the fall Daylight Time Saving where everything is dark and there might be at most ten students walking around school, you feel so calm just basking in the fog of the morning, breathing in the freshest air out there because the ever so green trees have replenished the air. Just being there when no one is around, it feels nice because you have a new perspective. I felt married to the place because I was there at its worst (overly crowded) and there at its best (empty all around). I saw the changes when the sun rose and a line of people started pooling into the school. But that’s the story of 6 AM, groggy but peaceful.

As you can tell, I am no morning person. If I ever say that I am a morning person, I mean at least 9:30 AM or 10 AM even. I loved the mornings in Vietnam when the six year old me would wake up, smiling usually because I knew my dad was finally back for a visit from the U.S, that’s when I felt the most grateful. The air was chilly as it graced past my skin but within minutes of waking up the morning sun ascended into the sky and blessed me with its delightfully warm rays. Nothing is better than waking up to the smell of dark coffee grind and a touch of cigarette, my dad’s two favorite things in the morning. Fun fact, when I was in the womb my mother craved the smell of cigarettes…terrible for pregnant ladies to smell first of all, but I guess that couldn’t kill me. I guess that’s how I’ve grown to love smelling a touch of cigarettes in the morning. After a good five minutes, my parents would hurry me up to brush my teeth and comb my hair so that we would all meet my dad’s parents for breakfast in the morning. Outside our homes in Vietnam, there was a bustling marketplace, filled with fresh produce and tiny tents of restaurants all over this certain area. Everyone in this little town knew each other, but most of all everyone knew my grandparents. It was a ritual for us to go in our pajamas every morning to fill up our tummies with a good bowl of noodle soups. But that’s the story of 9 AM mornings in Vietnam.

The night life of Vietnam was spectacular because in the summer, couples and families are out enjoying each others’ companies at cafes and cute dessert restaurants. If I was at my aunts’ and uncles’ houses, it was particularly fun because we would eat and chat and watch Korean dramas. Basic things in life are so much better than living a grand life if you have the people you love around you.

Over here in the U.S, the best time is not in the morning or late at night, it’s somewhere around lunch hour to 6 PM. People would lunch together and afterwards many would go to the mall or theater to fill up the three hour gap, and finish the night enjoying dinner at six or seven pm.

Morning is delightful. Night is wonderful.

Sunset blessed my view. (photo from my instagram @queen_than)

Materialistic Girl

We crave the human touch, relationships, fun, but  the most fatal thing that we crave is money. The material thing that we love will come back to do us harm. Money brings luxuries-endless luxuries and financial stability. All of this will ensure a happy life that is filled with food, clothes, and sports car and jewelry. But most people who are lucky enough to enjoy this life will probably at one point choose the wrong crowd and the wrong people and will be overpowered by the power of money that will bring them the ultimate devil, drugs.

As a student, what I crave is some kind of rewards that will reflect my hard work. In middle school, I worked really hard to achieve straight A’s, in order to get medallions at the end of the year. I didn’t understand what it is about a piece of medal that was made in China. TO me, it was literally gold and I felt so powerful just to hold it and call it mine. I remember the assembly of sixth grade when I was nominated to get a medallion by my teacher. I was ecstatic when I received the letter. I even showed it to my ELA teacher asking the content of the letter, of course I was just asking to make me feel better, because I already knew what it was. I remember walking up the short five steps stairway with my math teacher, Mrs. Menz, and when we finally reached the center of the stage, she held out the medallion and gently placed it over my head. Then at the second part of the assembly, I was awarded with another medallion. I was so proud of myself as I walked up and down the amphitheater with two medals clanking around my chest. My first year of middle school went really well, to say the least. In seventh grade, I worked just as hard. Again, I was nominated by a teacher, but by my English teacher this time. During the assembly under the boiling sun, I was anxious if I was really going to get the award because at least ten other people were nominated as well. It was time for the teachers and their chosen students to get in line…my English teacher stood up…she called out to another student, a girl named Cindy. My heart sank to my stomach. I knew I was good enough…so why wasn’t I standing at the stage with my teacher, all proud and smiling? I try to keep the anger from boiling up. Eventually, I was called up to get the 4.0 straight A’s medallion. That’s a great achievement, but I wasn’t happy. I got one instead of two. You could see a shadow over my face, as if the sun was radiating on other students, and ominous clouds crowding over my area, threatening to rain. Nonetheless, it was summer so I didn’t seem to care anymore.

Then there was one left…Eighth grade. I didn’t want to walk out empty handed. I vowed to get two medallions this year. I even transferred to a different P.E class just because with my miles time with this one teacher, I would not get an A, and therefore be excluded from the 4.0 medallion kids. So I did it because I felt so uneasy if I did not get that medallion. I even had dreams about it. I even told my friend that I “couldn’t wait till High School” so that I won’t have to worry myself about these stupid medallions. At the end of the year, I even lied about my community service hours in my club, National Junior Honor Society, just so I would be legible for a medallion. I had to do it. My mind told me to. Flashback to 8th grade assembly, my last assembly. My goal was two medallions- I KNEW I was getting it. But there was one more I yearned for…the science project medallion. My dream was quickly crushed as my name wasn’t called out. However, my mood quickly skyrocketed when I was called for my 2 other medallions I worked “hard” for. I felt a little bit of guilt when I received my NJHS community service award knowing I cheated. But so many other people did it as well, so what’s the harm? I continued to look toward the audience with a smile. “I” did it. I was exhausted with how much mental work it was. I also I realized I changed. In 6th grade, I worked hard because I wanted to prove myself I was worth it. I was working hard to see the progress I made from a “fresh off the boat” Vietnamese girl to a successful “American”. I didn’t want that label around me anymore. But then I became greedy. I was materialistic. I was the monster that I created. In a way, I plateau’ed. There wasn’t much progress after I reached the “Honors” level. I was no longer trying hard as I should and I felt no inspiration to do so. But in Freshman year English Honors class, one of my goals was achieved. I was sitting in front of this girl, J, who I had class with in 2nd grade, when I first came to the U.S. I remember asking J a lot of questions in Vietnamese as I was new and didn’t know what was going on. One time I remember she got fed up and told me off, “Okay whatever, why don’t you ask the teacher?” My inner devil winked at me when the same girl who refused to help me practically begged me for my help in English.

Moral of the story: I know it’s hard that sometimes you can’t tell what success looks like because it isn’t in the forms of a promotion or a silly award but you have to understand you are working at a long term goal/success. My medallions are still hanging (still proudly) on my computer desks, clanking away every time my printer is cranking out papers, but they are absolutely useless. But I can’t deny that these medallions still feel amazing to wear on days that I am sad.

5 times the charm.

5 times the charm.

The Beginning of the Rest of Your Life

Last week at my school we began the process of registering for classes for next year. This process is pretty much the same every year. The only difference this year is that it’s my last time registering for high school classes and this process made me realize how close I am to becoming a senior. And that’s terrifying.

The process started last week by once again having the career center explain to us what we had to do to graduate and what we needed to get into college. It’s not like this was the first time I realized I would be a senior next year. I mean the college mail for months, signing up for the ACT/SAT, and now registering for classes all made it seem real.

Today we had to listen to the lecture about picking our actual classes for next year, and the whole lecture started with a saying I have heard quite a few times lately, “These decisions are the beginning of the rest of your life”(or anything along those lines). This saying only makes everything about signing up for senior classes more terrifying.

I also spent some time thinking about this and realized that in picking my classes they weren’t necessarily things that will help me with what I want to do for the rest of my life. I for one already know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be an elementary special education teacher. And while looking at the classes I plan to take, I realized that none of these classes would really help me with that.

Next year I plan to take AP English 4, AP French 4, AP Statistics, Government/Economics, and Color guard. While these are all classes that I need for college that is really the only reason I am taking them. So now when I think about this saying I think more about how much pressure is put on all of us to take these difficult classes in high school even if they don’t help with what we want to do in the future.

So if you are stressed and terrified for your senior year of high school just remember to breathe, and that no matter what you decide it will all work out.

senior_year_job_search_1

Photo @2014 by Matthias Baudinet (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Senior Year

The second semester of my junior year is barely halfway through and I heard that I would have to be picking my classes for next year already. I’m terrified yet excited at the same time. I don’t know if I’m ready to make the decisions.

Last year, my sophomore year, I had made a big decision in my schedule for my junior year and I don’t think it paid off. I had chosen the regular academic classes I was supposed to take (AP Bio, AP English, History, Precalc Honors, Spanish). Instead of taking an art elective like I planned to do before, I changed it and took the Animal Health Care ROP. I was happy with my decision at first, but as summer started to end, I realized that I wanted to change it to an art class. It was too late. I was stuck with the ROP for a semester. Three hours a day, four days a week. The class was okay, but I had only chosen it because, at the time, I wanted to become a vet when I grew up. I later realized that I didn’t want to be anywhere in the animal field. Even though, I didn’t want to go the class, I still stuck with it til the end. Once first semester ended, so did the ROP.

Now, I’m here with only five classes in the day, instead of six. It feels good to leave early from school, but I feel like I could be doing more. I don’t want to make the same mistake again for my senior year. I kind of have an idea of what classes I want for next year, but I keep doubting myself. For each subject, I’m tied between options. Should I take AP Spanish 4 or regular Spanish 4. How about AP English or regular English. Ceramics or Photo. AP Gov/Econ or regular Gov/Econ. Physics or AP Physics or Sports Medicine. AP Stats or AP Calc. I’m torn in every subject. I don’t want to end up hating the class and regretting my decision. I probably still won’t be able to decide by the time that I have to go to my counselor to give her the list of classes for next year. All I know right now is that I’m scared.

classes

photo cred: me

-Michelle

Imagine

Imagine a world where you were you can actually accomplish something with what you learned while learning it. Confusing? Its okay, I’ll explain. My whole life I have accepted the fact that school is a place where you learn from textbooks and take exams based on your memorization skills and critical thinking. You never have to actually apply what you have learned in a realistic settings. What if you were giving the opportunity to do that? What if, instead of  two semesters of textbook education, we let our selves explore our education physically and contribute what you learned. For example, if I were taking a Chemistry class, the the first semester would go to your textbook learning and in the second semester you can go to a chemistry lab and do all the things you spent weeks learning how to do. And if there was no way that we could digest a whole year worth of Chemistry in a semester, then the opportunity to apply what you learnt could be done over the summer.

And imagine, just imagine how our schools would look like. Half of the campus for studies, and the other for applications. Students would walk happy, finally understanding the importance of there classes and what they can accomplish with them. I would assume less people would drop out of collages, because more students would have a better grasp of what they want to be, so they would stop changing their major and be relived from the deficits of debt. Students will be more educated and trained to survive in the outside world. Students will have more faith. Imagine the possibilities. Learn and Do. Learn and Apply. That is what I think our future holds.

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