Thoughts amongst Quarantine

Am I spelling Quarantine correctly? Let me check…

It feels weird to write about Quarantine, especially since I planed to write about it, well, when it ends. (A part of me feels like it’s never going to end, but I do have a tendency to be dramatic)

In my last post, I wrote about “more exciting things” to come upon my graduation from my Master program. I now inform my dear readers, that not much has happened since then. I moved to a new city, into a new apartment, but my life by itself didn’t change in any visible way. And since this blog serves the purpose of recording in some ways my mental state, I would say my mind has gradually moved from frenzy/frustration in March to boredom/irritability in May & June. Some of my friends told me to cherish “little joys” of life through this pandemic. Instead, I realize that sometimes, I get deeply disappointed and angry at the smallest inconveniences/annoyances in life. I don’t think this pandemic is helping me to become master of Zen. Instead, it’s turning me into an impatient cell-phone lady, as in I hang around my phone all day long. My phone is now my salvation: my friends or family sometimes video-call me, and I try to cling onto them as long as possible. If not, I scroll through my podcast list, just to hear someone talking to me. Oh God, when is all this going to end.

Another thing I started to notice, is that the word “Quarantine 15” started trending on social media. I tried to avoid it at the beginning, just like I tried to restrict my addiction to phone in March. I regretfully say I have achieved not much on both front. The extra time made available during this pandemic allowed me to learn 8 different recipes to make banana breads, which I ate all by myself. (because honestly, who would I give them to?) I followed an online HIIT regime, which started out too simple but now became too difficult. And it’s always the same dude, “give me your EVERYTHING, nothing less”. I gave EVERYTHING to you yesterday, and the day before yesterday! Even when he says, “don’t overheat yourself, it’s very important”, it sounds ironic and full of pity. Online fitness classes are another type of clown plays, especially getting kicked out by Zoom, when I was upside down! I used to have a friend who said he could never gain weight. How jealous am I right now… If only my digestive system isn’t so efficient as it is.

Besides, I have realized, that sometimes, even I myself was annoyed by some of my behaviors, which is in itself a whole discussion that leads nowhere. One day I decided to sit down and do a puzzle, yet half way through I was so frustrated by it I shut myself in another room, refusing to see the puzzle. The only things that keep me nice and mellow now are crime series and horror films, and the creepier, the better!

I don’t regret anything I did during the Quarantine, but I do sincerely hope that it would end soon. If not, I can’t promise what kind of crazy mumbling might come out in my next post…

More exciting things!

Sometimes I go over the posts I wrote from last three years and realized that all I could do here is to provide perspectives. A certain perspective that is only “alive” given a certain age, environment and circumstances. I want to preserve as much of my “youth” as possible, so that not only it’s fun to go back to where I started from time to time, but also see how different “excitement” can feel like as time goes by. And since words are the medium I am most familiar with, here I am.

Anywho, the time has come! I am finishing up my Master degree in Accounting. I can’t believe the past year flew by so quickly, in the sense that I don’t “feel” like I am changing that much. But when I think about things happening in Berkeley, or even before that, I can no longer see them clearly. Things that happen a year ago became somewhat like a video game that I log on and off, but the mentality then no longer represents me as a person. It’s so hard to describe with words, but I grew so much in this year. I learned to adapt to an ever-changing environment, willingly or unwillingly. I constantly questioned my ability when job searching didn’t go that well. I made new friends with whom I cried, laughed, and contemplated about random threads that seemed to lead no where but secretly weaved my 24th year walking on this planet. So many ups and downs. But most importantly, so many questions that I had to push aside just to keep on going. (Maybe a year later, the 25-year old me will judge my “questions” and mumbling. But that’s her problem, not mine.)

Nonetheless, I managed to land job offers, in (probably) the harshest job market in past 5 years. I think there are many lessons to be learned in this process, but maybe one of them is to dare to throw away the past. People say when you travel, pack light. I seem to come to a stage in which the “new normal” is much lighter, and I prefer it that way. And speaking of “future” and “exciting things”, I finally started registering for CPA exams… I started the process at least three months ago but because of the virus, bureaucracy, changing addresses and so on, I had to re-do the process several times. So hopefully in the future I can exercise my wish to write more posts about the CPA exam.

Life update again: 02/07/20

This is a long overdue post of my new semester. Since the beginning of my blog, I decided to write a blog at beginning and end of each semester. Nonetheless, this is my futile attempt to make up for the past three weeks.

I am graduating in May, and as a result of that, need to start studying for CPA exam. I have decided on taking the CPA exam in California and am waiting for results from CBA, whether they have approved my units for taking the tests or not. Meanwhile, as part of the CPA Review curriculum embedded within the MSA program, I aim to finish reviewing BEC and AUD, two sections of CPA exam this semester.

Besides CPA, I also need to find a job. There are many difficulties in this area, and probably I should dedicate another post to this. I put myself down many times in the past but now I firmly believe that it’s not completely my problem. In the world there are many issues that I cannot control. All that is in my hand is how I treat each day for what it is: just a day in my long long life.

I started boxing and love the sport. It brings much needed strength and relief both physically and psychologically. What I learned from boxing is, it’s important to keep relaxed and only focus on my goal. Do not get too stressed otherwise the muscles can’t function correctly.

During winter break I found out that my spines were very unstable. As a result, I began to take Pilates classes. I think Pilates, if practiced in the correct way, is a very nice workout for small muscles and in general to gain better balance and culture of the human body.

I intend to keep blogging, but am thinking about a new way of formatting the site. Maybe more posts about the CPA exam? That should be interesting… But also my update schedule is just as unstable as my spine. There really ain’t that many interesting things in my life to blog about as well, lol.

My classes are going great. For Merges and Acquisitions, my Professor is! He is one of the few people who can deliever complicated accounting issues to students in a clear and simple manner. I am so grateful that he is teaching us… If I took my MSA at other universities, probably Accounting will continue to be the boring but useful tool in my eyes. But now, I really see it as “language of Business” and believe in value of Accounting work.

Sometimes I find it weird that only last year I graduated from Berkeley, but so many parts of me changed. At least it felt that way. Champaign is where I call home now, despite slight unwillingness in the beginning. Maybe this is what happens when one is twenty-something..

 

I finally cleaned up my room

Per this blog’s title. But I also want to write about some interesting

Two weeks ago, I went to Oktoberfest in Champaign with a friend from UIUC’s German conversation hour. I have to say the Oktoberfest was a bit disappointing, but nevertheless my companion and I had a good conversation. He is planning on studying abroad in Austria next semester, and we both hope that he gets it. Despite the utterly cruel rainy weather, it was one of the best Saturday mornings I have had this month.

Afterwards I decided to go get some candles before the winter really hit. Because of the remote location of UIUC, I thought I wouldn’t have any “happy places” here. However, I soon discovered a candle store near campus, which I frequented since the beginning of the semester.

Ohne dieses Geschäft wird ich mich ganz langweiligen. Die Kerzen haben verschiedenen Farben, z.B rosa, blau, eigentlich so wie ein Regenbogen. Meine liebelingste Kerze ist jetzt die “Mittsommernacht”, so-gennante perfekt für Sommer und (vielleicht) Frühherbst.

Doch versuchte ich einige andere Kerzen: die “Chasing Ray” Kerze, eine Mischung von frischem Duft der Wäschen (aus irgendeinem Grund riechen das ganze Kerzesgeschäft so wie eine Waschküche) und dem Salzgeschmack der See. Eigentlich entdeckte ich, dass die Kerzen mit dunklern Farben riechen besser als die anderen. (Tätsachlich sind die anderen zu mädchenhafte und temperamentvolle…)

Lezte Woche habe ich auch ein E-mail von einer meiner altern Professor erhalten. Für eine Bewerbung in Frankfurt habe ich mein Professor gefragt, ob es möglich ist, ein Empfehlungsschreiben zu bekommen. Er hat ehrlich schnell gestimmt, und nach zwanzig Minuten kommt dieses E-mail. Was für ein effiziente Akademiker…

Ich habe auch keine Antwort von Rödl & Partners bekommt, und deswegen war ich gestern so traurig. Danach ermutigte ich mich, dass vielleicht eine bessere Chance schnell kommen wird, doch weiß ich nicht, ob es nur Lüge oder was Gottes Plan für mich wird sein… (Manchmal glaubt ich, dass vielleicht gibt Gott keines Plan für mich… wie verheerend ist das!)

Gestern habe ich der Film “The lighthouse” gesehen. Heutzutage gibt es so viele verrückte Direktoren, die verrückter Filme gerichtet habe. Keine Glücklichkeit hab ich von “The lighthouse” abgeleitet.

Life update: 10/08/19

What happened in Berkeley seemed to be a million years ago. I still havent figured out how Accounting works, and now I fear that I never will. At some point I would have to take the CPA exam, maybe for that reason, grades don’t matter, as long as I can pass the exam.

Fall semester in the Midwest is not that different from the West Coast. And some part of me realized that my fervent urge to work back in SF is only a superior and self conscious inability to accept. To deal with the past, one has to first mourn its loss. And then one can move forward. But so many part of me are doomed to be forever tangled with my past, how can future embrace me, when I never wanted to leave.

Every day seems so long and remorseful. I am surrounded by people I neither know nor like. Chicago airport is always malfunctioning, just yesterday when traveling back from Minnesota our plane got stuck on runway for half an hour. My job hunting prospect in SF isn’t where I hoped it would be, and for that reason I had the feeling that SF no longer wants me back. Maybe thats the case. Maybe there is no way back. But to move forward takes so much courage and will, when I consider neither in my possession.

Amidst the grey prospects of my new life, I do hold this tiny hope that one day, maybe in the distant future, I do find my life joyful and lively again. Until then, I shall not go gentle into that good night.

The curtain drops

“Feelings are just that, feelings; you need to use your brain.” — my therapist

I think I am at the edge of breaking down; it seems like I have been getting rid of things around me and now, I am finally left alone. When the outside world silences down, the real struggle within begins. I. Such a simple letter, yet it commands so much determination and rationality. When in doubt, I replay Kant like a mantra:” Habe Mut, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!” I repeat to myself: this is the best I can do now, I just need to continue. Bird by bird. Stone by stone. Breath by breath. Eventually I will get there.

It was a hard decision. But I cannot disillusion myself any longer. My only regret is that I should have finished the job in January/February. I gave it a second go, so that things would be painfully undeniable: Love is this anxious child between us, always seeking affirmation and consolation. It has to be the joint account. It has to be marriage. It has to be the ring. It has to be NOW. Nothing else suffices. It forces, demands, coerces, until both of us are cornered. When do we know, how do we know, if enough is enough? Were we so much tortured, that all we could cling on to was the pathetic verbal yes? Did we long run out of love?

Maybe I am a difficult person: I am moody, secretly selfish, notoriously controlling: I have to rule my uterus and my life. This much I was certain. I find it hard to rely on anyone, because “we are never so vulnerable as when we love, and never so hopelessly unhappy as when we lose the object of our love.” The guilt. The constant self-questioning. The neurotic moods. The phantom pain. The numerous noise. All has to be sealed perfectly underneath the veil of silent composure. Fake it until you make it, right?

It was never easy, but it was necessary. If you read this, I broke my heart into pieces, not for my family, my grad school, but for me. Ain’t nobody gonna force me into nothing, no more, in the name of love.

London, london

Last weekend I went to visit my all-time favorite physicist (I call anyone who does physics a physicist)/hiphop star (she likes to wear her baseball caps backward-forward, dope!)/great friend (there are different kinds of friends: friends you can show off with because they study quantum computing at imperial college london; friends you better keep them to yourself because they are just pure hot-mess, trolling on internet at 5am, stuck in apartment all day long like a hermit crab) in London! I was also stocked to see LSE in person, which turned out to be a huge disappointment, but more on that topic later.

My trip to London was very troublesome: for whatever reason I bought a transit flight from SF to LA, then LA to London on February 14th. It rained all day long, and my flight to LA was delayed by an hour, which in turn made me miss my flight to London. After one night in LA, which I spent listening to too much Gabriel o Pensador, I boarded on another flight the next day from LA to London. The flight itself was quite smooth, except I was sitting next to a British couple, who turned out were not pissed off by me from the very beginning, only that they, like many other British people, have their eyes grown on top of their heads.

Anyways I arrived in London, surprised by the nice attitude of UK custom officers. I met with my friend Lulu (who has appeared in this blog some two years ago; good memories: she was the one who brought/kidnapped me to Japan and introduced me to wonderful addiction of Snowboarding) and again, was struck by the efficiency of London subway system. We had Mexican food after I arrived in Lulu’s place, I actually thought they were good tacos.

Then off to visit Notting Hill’s long stretching street of antique dealership. Less formal than it sounds like, the Notting Hill markets proved to be a mishmash of hand-made delicacies and jaw-droppingly expensive —- Maps.

I was completely out of battery once we returned from Notting Hill. After two hours of conscious-less nap, Lulu and I went to Chinatown for dinner. Lulu, with her usual humor, commented that the Chinese people can somehow always plant their community in the center of a given metropolitan. Chinatown in London is much more organized. We walked around and had a Chinese crepe for dinner. After that we walked more, with a surprising encounter of a Scottish street-singer. He had such great voice: it’s deep like drums; and proficient skill in playing Guitar. The way he played his guitar, he laid it on his lap and played it like a piano. Lulu, who was also a guitar player, told me that he probably learnt Guitar like that. I was amazed. We also went to a bookstore, ah heaven on earth! I realize I should restrict my visit to bookstores now, I’m like a drug addict in Amsterdam there.

The same night we went out to watch a movie at the Museum of Natural Science. Jokingly we tried to act like a lesbian couple, since it’s an event in celebration of Valentine’s day. Apparently we were really bad at it, the doorman stopped us to check our authenticity as valentines. We got busted, but felt much more relieved to find out that many normal friends also showed up in groups at the viewing. I loved the Humpback whale skeleton sleeping in dead silence right above our head. Have I mentioned they are my favorite marine animals? Lulu was also there when I admired Humpback whales’ penes in Iceland. Alert to male readers: I wouldn’t click/visit if I were you.

Lulu is still the active thinker, with whom I spent many nights figuring out my life back in Berkeley. She has a big heart, keeping updated with many more friends than I do, at the same time providing brand-name high-quality advice. I told her about my frustration in having my life too easy: I became more aware of my privileged family background, and the many conveniences I enjoyed growing up. Would I be tough enough to compete with other people who experienced life the real way? I am also glad to see that she has taken one more step to challenge herself, I simply wish that she knew how great she was already.

The next morning I overslept, and had to arrive at mass late. Lulu came with me to experience holiness in St.Paul’s Cathedral. The mass is longer (1:30 mins), the group much larger, and the environment much more solemn than Newman Hall at Berkeley. One really feels one’s powerlessness and urge to obey in that architecture. We came forward to receive our blessing, a very gentle crossing on our foreheads.

Despite living for almost 1 year away from one another, we still like the same food. Ramen in front of the British museum turned out to be the best Ramen I have had abroad. We talked about “The Rape of Nanjing”, a book Lulu has been reading. Turns out John Rabe, a German businessman and Nazi party member was the founder of safety zone in Nanjing, which sheltered approximately 200,000 Chinese people from slaughter during the massacre. An interesting find.

“How come he would be in China?”

“He worked for Siemens AG at the time.”

“Ah.”

“Now it all makes sense, right?”

The British Museum is huge, but my favorite part is the Ottoman Empire section: such delicate and beautiful civilization. I first developed my love towards Ottoman Empire in a class at Cal, my GSI apparently speaks Turkish and is studying the history of Ottoman Empire. I was intrigued by the Devshirme system and the religious freedom it promised. How come that we as humans achieved tolerance once in the past, but can no longer do it now? I napped in the British Museum, on a bench for 20 mins. The time difference has turned me into a sleeping machine.

Afterwards we went to see LSE. I really had such high expectations towards the school: I had friends who went there, friends who are currently enrolled there, friends who wish to be admitted there. But one had to admit, the campus itself is nothing like campus of Berkeley. I realize that I am finally falling in deep deep love with Berkeley during my last semester here. Nothing seems to match its lovely quirkiness. And to think I found the campus mediocre when I first got admitted!

We had kabab and Turkish yogurt for dinner. Lulu enlightened me again in terms of good restaurants in Berkeley: so many things to try before I graduate! The next morning after one cup of breakfast tea, and several pieces of cornbread, I set off for the airport and said goodbye London, for now.

You don’t have to take it out

Today I decide to change my writing practice up a bit, because I heard, probably the kindest words anyone could say to me this afternoon. I was feeling a bit like drowning and dizzy this morning, and to be honest every final’s week I’ve had some sort of mental breakdown. Well, today is all about one of those breakdowns.

I left I-house because I did not want to stay there this morning. Before meeting up with some friends from my German history class, I spent around 1.5 hours at downtown berkeley, trying to get some work done before my lack of preparation for the review session got all busted. For whatever reasons I couldn’t concentrate, so I strolled around on internet for a bit. Finally, I gave up and went to get my nails painted (logical!)

Usually i don’t like gel on my nails, because they can be very difficult to get rid of afterwards. But I also haven’t had problems keeping the paint on my nails. But today was different, every time I touched my nails, a piece of coloring fell down. It was like the paint itself did not want to stay up on my nails. After several failed attempts, the nail painting, an activity I thought could help me to relax, became the last straw on a camel’s back. The process sort of reminded me of my semester: so delicate a balance that even one more strand could break it. I know it’s not a good idea to associate random events and grand pictures, I couldn’t help to do that.

“You don’t have to take it out.”

Just when I was busy cleaning up the mess I made, a stranger in the cafe, where I was sitting, said that to me.

Then surprisingly, she took my nail polish and started to brush one more layer on my nails. It all worked out wonderfully.

That was the kindest words anyone has said to me in weeks. I don’t know how and why sometimes random strangers and their random actions can move me to tears. I said thanks, asked my nail polish back, and started to brush. I realized how much I needed someone to say, it’s ok that you messed up, just pick up your brush and do it again. Maybe it’s because too many things are at stake, but really, humans make mistakes. It’s not that I made mistakes on purpose.

In any cases, although this strange encounter didn’t solve any real problems in my life, I was extremely grateful. I feel much better now and need to catch up on my work.

who to blame for the time?

On His Being Arrived to the Age of Twenty-three

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,

stolen on his wing my three and twentieth year!

My hasting days fly on with full career,

But my late spring no bud or blossom shew’th.

Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,

That I to manhood am arrived so near,

And inward ripeness doth much less appear,

That some more timely-happy spirits indu’th.

Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,

It shall be still in strictest measure even

To that same lot, however mean or high,

Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven.

All is, if I have grace to use it so,

As ever in my great Task-master’s eye.

 

Last week I attended my first honor thesis workshop. One professor at the workshop mentioned that, writing is a practice. It’s like cross-country running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. But once you stop doing that, you are going to lose the ability. He told me that during his grad-school days, he used to start with writing a short review for a sonnet each day. “If I want to teach a course on Sonnets, I am prepared!” he said cheerfully. Indeed, he is a professor in French and Comparative Literature, and as a Poli-Sci major I probably found myself a bit lost amongst a group of humanities and arts majors. But I do agree that writing should be impulsive and continuous.

I have always liked John Milton, particularly his “Paradise Lost”, because he was able to describe Satan in a positive light. I thought, what harder job can there be, than to justify for Satan. From time to time, I remember his words, better to lead in hell, than to submit in heaven. And that even if humans (Adam and Eve) are expelled from Heaven, they carry heaven within them nonetheless. I would not regret taking the fruit of wisdom. Freedom and happiness do not come together. If taking the fruit means to lose happiness, but to live freely hereafter, sounds like a good deal to me.

To go back to the sonnet, I realize that my 22 years old, as compared to my 21 years old, is much more about the disenchantment with reality and myself. Last year was tough, but I had the intuition that I was doing the correct things. Now I am not sure anymore. And very soon I will be 23 years old. Will I also lament, that time passed by too fast, and that I have no fruits to symbolize my 23 years on this planet? Probably. I cannot continue telling myself that everything will be fine. 人活在世上总得自己对得起自己.

 

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent

By John Milton

 

When I consider how my light is spent,

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

And that one Talent which is death to hide

Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, lest he retuning chide;

“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”

I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need

Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed

And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:

They also serve who only stand and wait.”

 

In the last line, Milton reflects that he has a place in God’s world despite his disability. This Sonnet was numbered 19, but in its first published version, Milton’s 1673 poems, it was numbered 16. Its more well-known title is “On his Blindness”, which was assigned by Thomas Newton in his assemble of Milton’s poems.

I find it particularly interesting, that when Milton writes about the “talents”, he is referring to the parable of the talents from the New Testaments. The parable of talents appears in both Matthew and Luke, eluding to the utilization of personal abilities. A master decided to travel across the sea, leaving behind his goods to his servants. Upon his return, the master assesses the management of his goods by the two servants.

The first and second servants explain that they have put their talents into work, resulting in doubling the value of the property they received. Both of them were rewarded:

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)

The third servant, however, had decided to “play it safe”, and buried his talent underground. In turn, he was punished by his master:

“Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew, 25:24-30)

It seems that here Milton is talking about his lack of talent to read foreign languages (although I don’t see how this could be important talent, considering that Milton is such a great English poet). Moreover, the last sentence, “They also serve who stands and wait.” seems to refer to people who due to disability can not actively contribute based on his talent. Nevertheless, Milton seems to argue here, that standing and waiting are enough? so intentions are more important than actions?