It’s been a hot minute, Internet void, and I’m back to blabber on a bit about the toxic hellhole cesspit we call the year 2020. April was the first whole month I spent inside at home with my parents, my brother, and my boyfriend. At the end of the month my laptop charger frayed beyond the point of any artful smushing to get it at just the right angle to charge, and that’s a good metaphor for the month. Family issues were, as always, not fun! May brought midterms, more of those fun family issues, and a headfirst tumble into bad depression and anxiety land. I moved back to my apartment in LA near the end of May, and then June was finals week and another fun household conflict, roommate edition this time, and I’m preparing to move back in with my parents again. The days have kind of blurred together and it feels so bizarre that we are halfway through the year. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that I can’t seem to remember the passage of time (makes this mess pass a bit faster?) or not (feels like I’m trapped in an endless series of reboots of the same jumble of shit?) but it’s happening either way.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic and that means I have a little more time at home than I expected to have. I’m editing photos from last summer’s trip to Italy, thinking about what they’re going through there and here and everywhere and wanting to kind of sort of completely burst into tears, and waiting for shit to hit the fan even more here in the U.S. It’s not a great time, as I’m sure y’all know. I didn’t know if I should keep puttering away here while things are crazy outside, but 1) no one reads this blog anyway and 2) it seems like nice things are nice during good times and bad, so I don’t think I should stop doing them. OK, we’re done with the guilty introduction to this post – let me tell you about my favorite day I spent in Rome.
I started off at the Trevi Fountain, this time during the day and packed with people. A bit, uh, awful if I’m to be honest. Crowds and the heat are the worst way to explore.
Would like to highlight this funny looking car!!! What a hoot!
I followed the Rick Steves Europe app tour (my source for all the fun facts I’ll spout) to the opening of an ancient aqueduct, the same one that still feeds the Trevi Fountain. Although the Acqua Vergine was blocked by a grate, it was still cool to see and think about all those old timey Romans getting water from the same place they’re using today. You ever think about how funny time is and how weird it is that we’re here and there were people here before us and things are so different and yet similar all at once? You guys, I’m not even high when I think these things.
The Column of Immaculate Conception, made to advance the doctrine of Immaculate Conception from the Catholic Church in the 1850s, is the idea that Jesus was born without sin and so was his mother Mary. She stands in front of the Palace of the Propagation of Faith, aka the Church’s PR department, which has a yellow flag indicating it’s still owned by the Vatican.
The Spanish Steps are named so because the Spanish Embassy is in this square! Rome needs double the embassies of any other city, because each country needs two embassies here – one for Italy, and one for the Vatican. The one here is the Spanish Embassy for the Vatican. Anyway, beautiful of course, and roasting and crowded with people. I sat in the shade for a bit and people watched while I tried to ignore how sweaty I was from walking here.
This orange building has a sign between its windows that says John Keats died here of tuberculosis. He was 25! Jeez.
This Sinking Boat Fountain is fed from the same aqueduct we saw earlier! And it was built by either Bernini or his dad (so, the Bernini we all know, or the less famous one that gave the dude his surname.
Anyone reading this right now probably knows that everything is shit, but it still bears mentioning. So uh, we’re obviously in the midst of a global pandemic right now. That means I’m back home with my family in northern California instead of in my LA college apartment, and it feels bonkers to think about what I started this month doing and feeling versus how I’m ending. At the beginning of March I went to my friend’s theatre show, a dinner with twelve strangers (a cool UCLA alumni event where I had tortellini the size of my fist it was great), voted in our state’s primary election, finished my tours training, ate Korean BBQ and spent legitimately the next 3 days feeling full, watched a lot of New Girl, and planned my spring break. Soon after those first, like, ten days of the month, it became clear that life was not going to proceed as previously planned. I did all my finals online. I cancelled my spring break travel. UCLA announced the whole of spring quarter would be online, so I came home for break and now I’m home for an indefinite amount of time, planning to work from home and wondering what the hell’s gonna happen to my apartment. At some point in all this, I turned 23. (It was on the day we got the email that spring quarter would be all online.)
It’s funny, because I was walking around campus sometime in late February, listening to some music that may or may not play in the indie movie daydreams I have, and I thought to myself “man, I’m really gonna miss this place one day”. And that day is upon us! Who knows when I’ll be back at UCLA, you know? My days were already numbered, and now those numbers have dwindled even more. This time has been clarifying for me, in the way that tragedy always is. I know I — and my family, friends, state, country, planet — am not even in the worst of it yet. But already I’m thinking about how I want to live after this is over. I want to dye my hair blue, because life is too short to worry about how weird it’ll be and it’ll be fun and I’ll either look cool and love it or not look so cool and it’ll be over soon enough. I want to donate more money to causes I care about, because I can probably spare the price of a dinner and what’s the point of being an American immigrant with a better livelihood than your grandparents if you can’t help others get there too. I want to canvass for policies that need voices, any voices, maybe mine, just to have one more. I want to give more hugs.
So, um, yeah. That’s where I’m at as March is ending. I’m 3 for 3 on saying “this month was awful, I hope it gets better!” but this time, for the world’s sake as well as my own, I really fucking hope things take an upturn from here.
1 – the good times were good, the bad was real bad
Ah February. You half listened to what I wanted from you, and gave me some good times, but also some p bad ones! I’m ending February and beginning March much like I ended January and began February, meaning that there has been a string of Real Bad Days that I’m eager to leave behind. I did some nice things in February, to be sure – had good times with friends, went on a lil trip to Big Bear, did some good hard work in therapy, got an A+ on the midterm for this class that everyone said was terrifying. But I also was stressed out and tired bc of health and home things, and of bad things to happen, they were pretty bad things to deal with. We’re not even getting to the public bad news of February, lol. Anyway, March is my birthday month, I’m really hoping it’s a better time. Fingers crossed!
January has been an utter shit to me. The first few days were still winter break for me, but then I started winter quarter, which I have heard many people say is the worst quarter out of all of them. So I’ve been trying to balance my four classes, internship, job, and not give up eating and showering, but I’ve also been dealing with this health thing. My stupid body’s taken me to doctor’s office, specialist’s offices, so many please hold’s on the phone, insurance customer service, and a whole nightmare. It’s such a slog to take care of yourself, god. I’ve been so tired. Cried a lot. Cried in a school bathroom for the first time! A professor’s office! All that fun stuff. So, yes, January has been a shit, and I am hoping February turns out better. On the up and up, right? (It’s Feb 10 as I write this, so I can say that I thiiiink I’m coming out of it.)
We’re fully into 2020, so here are the things I want to do this year. New year, same me just tryna get a little better to give myself more joy and peace. I really like this Instagram post from @revelatori; it helped me conceptualize goal-setting and New Year’s resolutions not as antidotes to our deficiencies (“I suck and am lazy but this year I’m going to not”) but as exercises in self-compassion and gifts to ourselves to make our lives better, because we deserve to not hate things all the time (“Taking care of my body will bring me physical and mental strength and improve my life, and I want that for myself”). Anyway, we’re like mostly through January already lmao so heeeere are all the things I am hoping to do in the coming days and weeks and months!
I’m a sucker for tidy endings and new beginnings. Aren’t we (humans, that is) all? Let’s look back at the year and all that I did/did not do from the list of things I said I wanted to do at the beginning of the year. I think I looked at this list maybe four times maximum out of the entire year, so this will be a discovery to me as well as you.
My first quarter at UCLA ended in December, so that was my first finals week and all that here. I’m really happy with it overall! So, a couple weeks into the month, I headed back up north to do not much for winter break. I watched The Mandalorian, cuddled a lot with my boyfriend, saw friends and my brother, and wondered if I’d ever use the yoga mat I packed for winter break. It was nice to get a lil rest from everything, but we are already in January 10 and boy oh boy has winter quarter hit me like a truck.
2 – things i liked
The Anthropocene Reviewed: John Green, of The Fault in Our Stars and Crash Course fame, hosts this podcast where he reviews various aspects of the human-centered world on a five-star scale. I discovered this on the 99% Invisible podcast. When I was in middle school I loved Green’s books and my friends and I even went to see the Vlogbrothers live. Then he got even more popular and I think I thought he was too self-aggrandizing and pretentious, especially his Tumblr presence, and now I haven’t thought about him in a couple years. Until now! I was so surprised when he came on the show, and pleasantly so when his podcast turned out to be funny and insightful and touching. They feel the same way as his books felt for me years ago, only a little more smart, and a little less teen angst. The episode on the potatoes of Lenin made me cry, and the episode on penalty kicks in football/soccer made me care about sports more than I ever have in my life. I’m happy to have come back to John Green in this way.
Baby Yoda: We watched The Mandalorian, not all of it, and the best thing ever is Baby Yoda. The rest of it, eh. It was good, but I don’t care for fighting. Love Baby Yoda though.
Mario Party on Nintendo Switch: Not much to say, other than I play as Monty Mole and am not very good, but still have a grand old time.
3 – things i did not like
Someone stole my Instagram post: I posted a photo of UCLA and then someone else posted it! This was weird and I felt weird at how annoyed I felt. I thought I should have been more chill – it was an Instagram photo, some pixels and that’s all. But I was pretty upset about it. She ended up crediting me in her caption and said she thought it wasn’t my photo in the first place, so whatever, sort of believable mistake. Just a weird occurrence in my month, lol.
Vacation with some people is not vacation: Taking breaks is important, and I was really glad to go home and see my boyfriend and friends and moof around a lot. Sometimes ‘home’ doesn’t feel like home though, because people there impede your sense of self and safety. A big realization for me!
4 – other things i liked that you can click and also like
I had no idea what I wanted to do, and felt “stuck” for a long time.
Eventually – when I was working in restaurants, unable to afford going back to school, and feeling like I was so far away from doing anything I enjoyed – I gave up on having a 5 year plan or destination/dream job, and just started to follow my curiosity and values to create meaning in my life outside of work. That led me back to the path of community work and activism that led me to Congress. The funny thing is that I had been invested in community work since I was young, I just didn’t quite realize it.
That’s all to say if you feel “stuck” one of the most helpful (and difficult) things to do is to let go of expectations about external achievements (title, job, money) and start listening to what you are immediately curious about, invested in, or good at and follow that in ways outside of work. That can help you re-orient yourself.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Instagram Stories, answering the Q ‘how did you know you wanted to do what you do?’
5 – camera roll
In closing, I leave you with a reminder of what my face looks like from a photo my brother took of me a few months ago and a Tweet I believe in strongly.
Happy almost New Year! Here are some more photos from my trip to Rome in uh July! Today is the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. It was incredibly hot and I was tired and grumpy as a result.
We were so confused about tickets. So, so confused. I was really tired this day and it was really hot and we walked alllll the way from our hotel to the Colosseum and my travel companion and I are not bosom friends who can spend upwards of 72 hours together and have me still feel :]. All this to say, I almost cried when we ran into ticket trouble on top of all my other feelings. It’s always like that, huh? Depression? A bunch of things go a bit off and if your headspace is in a depressed hole at that time, it’s only a matter of time before one of those things pushes you to burst into tears! These posts about Rome have been colored by my depression during that time, and while I was there I felt so guilty for feeling depressed amidst all the beauty and privilege of travel. I still feel kinda guilty about it but I’m trying to remind myself that it’s OK to feel whatever I’m feeling and let it just pass through me, instead of feeling bad and then feeling bad about feeling bad on top of it all.
OK let’s get back to the Rome stuff!! This is the Arch of Titus, the sort of entrance point to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. It was built after the Romans won their war against Judaea (present-day Israel, I think?) in AD 70 and so, uh, it was built by the Jewish slaves who were captured by the Romans. How awful, right? Your people lose the war and you all get captured and then you have to build an arch depicting that victory with all your enemies carrying off menorahs and slaves aka you?? Jeez. Caring about people really ruins how pretty some fancy old things look.
You think this woman’s saying “Look! It’s the Roman army carrying off a menorah! This is when the Jewish Diaspora was created because they no longer had a home!”?
The Basilica of Constantine, now. These arches are the side niches of the old basilica, so originally this place would have been fucking massive with a statue of Emperor Constantine on a throne at one end. His finger would have been as big as a human!! Lordy lord. I’m imagining an ancient Roman style Grand Central Station from NYC lol, because I think that’s the biggest rectangular building I’ve been in where I felt like whoa. I imagine that’s what this would feel like in its proper glory.
Some kind of temporary exhibition that I no longer recall the details of due to this being several months ago.
So, it’s the last month of the year and I am writing three final papers and trying desperately to come up with “good original ideas which contribute to a scholarly conversation”. Isn’t it funny how you go through school for so long being told to cite experts and remember this important objective fact and don’t give too much of your own opinions – and then eventually you’re just expected to pull some original insights out of your ass with no explanation of how to do that? Isn’t that just awesome?
So clearly I’m in a ‘really need a vacation’ mood. It takes energy to put myself out there and walk thirty minutes uphill to class each day and exercise seasonal wintertime dreariness away, and I am ready to be done with it for a bit. It’s the Sunday before finals week – I’ve only got a bit left. That feels so wild to me, because it literally feels like just yesterday that I was moving in and getting lost (I still get lost, so that is less a “feels like” thing and more a “happens on a regular basis” thing), and also just yesterday that I was far, far away from LA and had no idea why UC students always knew what numbered week it was. I am really looking forward to December – finishing up my first quarter here, hopefully seeing some good grades come out of it, my favorite holiday (Christmas!!), getting to take a breather after all this school, seeing friends and catching up and all that. November has been alright, all in all! More of the same, but with a bit of Trying Not Get Seasonal Depression seasoning.
2 – what is good
Queen & Slim: The film club here at UCLA did an advance screening of this for free – I felt very cool for seeing a movie before it was released and also wonderful for spending $0 to do such a cool thing, lol. This movie wrecked my whole damn heart and then some. The premise is that a black man and woman go on a first date and it doesn’t go that great. They’re driving home when they get pulled over by a cop, and he’s the worst kind of cop. He’s unreasonable and aggressive and makes demands he has no right to make. The woman steps out of the car and is like, hey man, I’m a lawyer, and you can’t do that, you need a warrant! The cop ends up shooting her in the leg and then fights with Daniel Kaluuya’s character, who grabs his gun and shoots him. They drive away and are basically on the run trying to escape to Cuba for the rest of the film. It is exactly as tense as that summary suggests, a blistering mirror to America, and it’s also so full of heart it makes you weep until your whole face doesn’t remember what it feels like to be dry. Melina Matsoukas directed – it’s her first film but she’s previously directed a whole truckload of music videos, like Beyoncé’s Formation. Lena Waithe wrote the screenplay. I know nothing about film – most of my movie reviews are just “yes good I like made me cry” – but I know that this one deserves attention. It is the kind of two hour long experience that leaves you troubled over the state of your racist, anti-black country and yet a little heartened by human connection and love; just enough to keep from barricading your heart up forever. It came out properly over Thanksgiving weekend and I really hope it gets a strong reception.
Community: Big tone switch here. This TV show has been over for a while, but it’s a sitcom that follows a study group of community college students and, you know, hijinks ensue. In community college I had a study group and one time we were talking about Community and people were like ‘haha let’s cast our study group in the roles in Community!’ and they decided I was Annie. I had never seen it at the time, so I Googled her and was like, oh great, I’m this prissy cardigan-wearing nerd girl. Thanks a lot. After that I did a lot of Wikipedia reading on the TV show and character, but didn’t actually watch the show until now. In hindsight, my Wikipedia activities entirely prove the accuracy of that casting. So I’m on season two now and it’s very funny! It’s so weird seeing Donald Glover being funny instead of dancing intensely.
Van Gogh at the Hammer: Another cool LA thing I did was go to a couple lectures on Vincent Van Gogh at the Hammer Museum! You guys, it was super fucking cool. Art historian John Walsh lectured on Van Gogh’s time in a three-part lecture series and I went to two of them. I learned so much about him and his art! I got to see some really cool paintings and drawings they carted out for this! And it was all free! They even had my favorite cookies from Trader Joe’s at the reception afterwards! Agh!!
Warranty earphones: My earphones broke and I was super bummed. In one fell swoop, I lost the ability to listen to podcasts while walking to class, music while doing laundry, absolute silence while walking past people I just don’t want to talk to… Anyway, turns out the warranty was still valid! So the company, Anker, sent me some new ones. This is the first time I’ve ever actually used a warranty, lol. It’s wonderful! Thank god they exist!
3 – what is bad
College dining halls, or rather, what they have exposed about me: I enjoy eating and I am extremely averse to spending/wasting money (in other words, cheap). I have grown up knowing that when I walk into a buffet, I cannot leave until I am stuffed to the brim and have to unbutton my pants, because that is how you know you got your money’s worth and didn’t waste food, because did you know your father grew up poor and food-insecure? So, now I’m here at UCLA, and the dining halls are the home to “the #1 college food in the country!” as the advertisements will proudly declare, and I have a meal plan that I’ve already paid for, and the set-up is exactly like a buffet. And I just keep eating!!!! And then I leave and go to class and I’m like “holy fuck, I feel like I’m gonna barf”!!! And the next day I go back and eat the same uncomfortable amount!!!!! I really need to learn a lesson here. It’s just so hard to shake this mindset of scarcity concerning food and money. I literally don’t need nine flatbread slices for dinner! I was probably full at five! Maybe even four! Why did I keep going! Agh!
My poor left loafer: One night I left my loafers out while trying to figure out a good interview outfit. The next morning I put them on and saw these things on them and, I mean, it can really only be my cat’s nails, right? I can’t think of anything else that would cause this shape so I think she must have decided to do a bit of biscuit kneading on top of them. Now my shoes look like this and I am very, very sad about it. I should look into how to get it fixed or if that’s possible at all.
The Now/Then app: A number of months ago, I declared my love for this app – it lets me track everything I do! In satisfying color blocks! Amazing! Actually, it became pretty terrible. Every time I did something I felt vaguely panicked because I had to pick what category my activity fell under. Is curling my hair under “health and hygiene” or “leisure”?? The stopwatch that goes when you hit start on a particular activity is stupid stressful. I’ve been trying to step back from endless productivity being a main goal of my life, so I deleted this app. It’s been going really well. I enjoy bar graphs and pie charts in nice colors depicting random facts of my life very much, but it ended up making my brain constantly panic over measuring how productive I was being.
My fingers/hands: I think I may have carpal tunnel, arthritis, or tendonitis. We are working on figuring what, but it’s pretty shit.
4 – cool things from the internet that i liked looking at
Am I overjoyed that I am Li? Do I think it is all of my positive traits and I am a cute fat panda to boot? Yes x2.
I got really into looking at embroidery and cross stitch things. I hope eventually it spurs me into making my own lol.
Erica Weiner’s Secret Message Acrostic Ring: This is $600, so approximately $580 more than I would ever consider spending on a ring in the next several years of my life, BUT BOY OH BOY. If you like fancy shiny things, secret messages, personalization, and romance and sentimentality, have I got the ring for you!! Acrostic rings were big in ye olden days (starting late 1800s, apparently) and each letter of the alphabet corresponds to a different gemstone. So it’s a SECRET FUCKING MESSAGE SPELLED IN EXPENSIVE FUCKING ROCKS. My god, how cool. Take my money. Let’s forget for a second that I don’t have the money for a $600 ring – what would I spell with it?? Isn’t that so hard to decide if you don’t have a spouse or a kid??
5 – camera roll
Doggo spotted looking at Van Gogh with his ma!
I used this recipe, although I did change it a little. It was pretty bland, which I guess is my bad for using an Indian recipe from a white person. I just thought it would serve me well as someone who cannot handle spicy food. But I added a lot of cilantro (as you can see) and it got much better! I think cilantro does that to everything.
My roommate and my friend sent me this meme literally less than ten minutes apart. My heart felt so full, like all those cheesy Pinterest boards say.
Thank u for being here with me. I hope the last weeks and days of your 2019 are good, safe, and easy.