Week 10: I Never Make The Same Thing Twice

Last Saturday, I realised I had a little bit of linguine, whipping cream and parmesan cheese left. So I made pasta!

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This pasta is called Math Homework. Because I was supposed to be doing Math homework. But I made this instead.

I’m not the best cook. In fact, I’m not a very good cook at all. I just make things I like to the point they’re good enough for me to eat. I would probably get endless heart palpitations if I were to cook for a dinner party or something like that because (so far in my life, anyway) cooking has just always been something I do just for myself, just for fun.

With that said though, I love it. I love cooking and cleaning. I feel so alive, so at ease and so myself when I’m doing it. I still don’t know if the way I chop onions is the right way to do it or not. I don’t know if the amount of heat I use to make my omelettes is correct or not (actually, I know that it’s probably not, because 3 out of 5 times, they’re slightly burnt and/or undercooked). I still don’t know if I’m cutting the chicken properly..

But cooking makes me feel so many things. Firstly, it invites me to believe, once in a while, that I have what it takes to take care of myself and to be self-sufficient. Even if the food I make isn’t amazing, I know how to feed myself healthy wholesome meals. Even if it’s just one thing in my life I can do, it’s the one thing that truly makes me believe I will be okay.

The best part is feeling like I can just wing it. Like I said, I never really know what I’m doing–I have no recipes and I barely follow the ones I find because winging it is so much fun. I like learning that I can get by knowing the core principles of how something works and I enjoy the process of getting comfortable with improvising without making everything perfect. A lot of times in life, I try to control as much of a situation as possible and come up with plans and backup plans and more backup plans so that I get the outcome I want. Cooking kinda just teaches me to let go of that. Sure, nothing I cook is really consistent or life-changing but I still enjoy everything I make because I experimented, I gave it my best and it’s unique and special.

IT’S JUST LIKE LIFE, YOU GUYS. (I love metaphors so much that I can make scrambled eggs and turn it into a life lesson.)

Also, it’s such a great way to unwind. I find it really easy to be present when I’m cooking. Like for example, in class, it’s so easy for my mind to drift off and start thinking about the other 5 billion things we Penn kids worry and stress out about because nothing happens when you do that, the professor will just go on talking, the class doesn’t fall to pieces because you aren’t paying attention. But with cooking, I am forced to be there and I feel super ~in the moment~ because if I let my mind drift away or whatever, there goes my food..

Ok this is probably the cheesiest thing I’ve ever put on here (and not just because that pasta I made had like 2 fistfuls of cheese in it) and I can’t believe I dedicated like, 600 words to talking about my pasta-cooking thoughts.. but I just felt so happy cooking last weekend that it made me want to share this, haha.

It’s a Tuesday night as I write this and I’m chilling on my couch with Hanna after having dinner; she just braided my hair like my sisters usually do.

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Hanna was a junior at Penn when I was a freshman and she really made me feel welcomed here. It’s crazy to think that I’m now a junior and the freshmen I know now are to me like I once was to her. Right now she’s working at this radiation oncology lab here so it’s really nice how even though she graduated last year, I still get to see her from time to time. She’s such a lovely person and she always seems genuinely happy to see how I’ve grown throughout my few years here and honestly, she has been such a huge part of it because of how supportive she is. Hanna makes me feel like I have family here and I’m so grateful for that.

Anyway, it’s a busy week and I just typed this in like 10 minutes so I apologise for typos or grammatical errors because I didn’t proof read this *closed-eyed monkey emoji* and I’m back to work now!

Talk to you guys again next week 🙂

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Week 9: Don’t Trust Everything You See Online / My Girlfriends Are Made of Magic

Today's Chai Chat!

Today’s Chai Chat!

Today, I went to a Chai Chat (they’re monthly dialogues on issues socially relevant to students, basically, and they’re called Chai Chats because there is free chai!). It was a collaborative discussion on the way social media affects our perception of our peers and ourselves. I think it’s a really important dialogue to have because so much of the pressure we put on ourselves is derived from what we think everyone else is doing and the standards we feel we should hold ourselves to because of it. And let’s face it.. Facebook and whatnot, they all kinda make you feel like everyone else is doing a lot better than they usually are.

I mean, I love Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat. I think, to some extent, I like seeing what everyone else is up to because it gives me inspiration and ideas–a type of fashion style I could try out, a new restaurant I could visit, a good band I might want to check out. This is great. Seriously. I love it. Most of the time I’d say that in the moment, it makes me feel connected and happy or whatever. Plus, I like knowing what my friends and family back home or in other countries are up to! I miss them so much and being able to see bits and pieces from their “mundane” daily lives make me feel close and connected. I like seeing people having fun and being happy–it makes me happy. It really does!

But no one is really representing an accurate picture of what their life is like, you know? Most people try to put their best selves out there, and that’s fine. We’re always taught to behave nicely and appropriate around people, and so I can understand how it’s somewhat natural to “curate” a social media presence. I’m not saying it’s bad or that they shouldn’t, just that it might be difficult for us to remember, and so sometimes, when it’s 2 a.m. and, I don’t know, maybe I’m writing a paper that feels completely unwriteable or studying for a midterm that seems to have bottomless material to cover, pictures of people going out and having fun just slowly tip toes into my mind. It happens. And like a big fat caramel cupcake to my hungry eyes, it tempts me to think, “how do they do so much outside of school and still take 6 classes and do really well in all of them?”

We’re always comparing our blooper reels to our peers’ highlight reels and that’s not fair. But I get it. It’s hard. I know. I subconsciously do it a lot. Yet, I’m also guilty of putting my best self up. I try to make conscious efforts to be genuine and honest–I’ve been frank about downright crappy weeks and feeling stressed and helpless and lost. I guess those things just tend to be more “quiet”? I don’t know. Like I said, it’s kinda ingrained in me to treat social media interactions like I would real life ones, which means to lead a good example and what not, be collected and friendly, but also just a little bit open and frank about the not-so-great stuff.

I also personally don’t know if I would say I never want to compare myself with others, because a bit of awareness is useful I think.. but I guess all I wanna say is it’s never a complete picture. Everyone is going through something. For me, it really helps to remind myself that happiness isn’t a zero-sum thing; someone else’s success and happiness doesn’t stop me from having mine and likewise for you. We have different lives, starting points, priorities, personalities and different lessons to learn. Jealousy costs way more than its worth, and to quote the realm of adolescent wisdom (*cough* Tumblr *cough*), trust the journey of your life.

[Haha so thanks for bearing with me ’til the end of that whole spiel.. I am now going to ~*seamlessly transition*~ into talking about the rest of my week.. lol.]

This past week, I had my first session of Write On, which is the volunteer creative writing thing we do with kids from Lea Elementary. I missed being around these kids and seeing the clever things they come up with. The new coaches this year also seem really great at coaching the kids, so that made me really happy.

Working on collage poetry in small groups.

Working on collage poetry in small groups.

The kids performing their poems in front of everyone.

The kids performing their poems in front of everyone.

Besides that, this past week I was just constantly constantly constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have the friends that I do. I wouldn’t change a thing about them–they are smart, ambitious, hardworking, sensitive, kind and hilarious. Thank you thank you thank you thank you for friends.

Cristina walks 8 blocks with me to help me satisfy my cravings. Shahirah and May May lent me some of their clothes to wear and helped me pick out clothes and for hours even though they had a lot of work to do. Sofia is always there to crack me up with her random dance moves. Busra has my back and has real talk with me. Hui Jie is my pilates/gym bud who also goes on bubble tea runs with me and keeps me in check by reminding me not to procrastinate. I don’t even know if any of them read this but thanks for making me feel safe and loved all the time.

Cristina at lunch with me today.

Cristina at lunch with me today.

Some of the clothes Shahirah and May May lent me/weighed in on.

Some of the clothes Shahirah and May May lent me/weighed in on.

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At Sofia’s birthday last week.

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With Busra before we started contemplating life and why we’re in college and all that.

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Hui Jie sends me encouragement snaps when I have lots of work because she’s great.

Golden stars to all my girlz and everyone reading this. As we speak, I’m doing the thing where I spend an hour trying to pick a movie to watch and end up just watching 50 movie trailers and then decide not to watch a movie because I just wasted so much time trying to pick one. Haha, have a fantastic weekend! 🙂

Week 8: Sometimes Small Hurdles are Big Hurdles

Here we are. Week 8. I am at the midpoint of the semester, otherwise known as the time my to-do list reached puberty and went through a growth spurt.

Midterm next week and 200 pages of reading to do, remember to email the TA about setting up an appointment to ask clarifying questions, review material so that I know what questions to ask to begin with, email student groups about collaboration on event, go to Lea elementary for advertising 3 times this week, remember to print out flyers before you go, text Casey to coordinate where we’ll meet, email the homeroom teacher to tell her we’re coming, remember you have an appointment at Career Services at 1.30pm to talk about how to take control of finding a job, submit your resume and cover letters for criticism, follow up on advisor about transcript problem, cook lunch/dinner at 7 a.m. because you won’t have enough time to do it otherwise, call SHS to see if my appointment was schedule correctly online, make a dental appointment, see if I can squeeze in an extra gym session on Wednesday morning, drop by Marcus’ office hours to collect my midterm exam and assignments, see Professor Epstein to discuss the stuff I didn’t understand about his lecture on perception, remember to ask Mama about her medical appointment, email sponsors my transcript (!!!), make sure you’re drinking enough water, oh and water your plants check to see they haven’t completely died, do the dishes from yesterday morning please, oh and you really need to do laundry if not you’ll have nothing to wear to the gym tomorrow, also pick out classes for the Spring semester and make a mock schedule, which means you have to see Professor Connolly to approve some of your course selections, also see an ECON advisor to help figure out if you want to continue with that major, and see a PSCI advisor to see if you could accidentally get a minor in political science, and remember to write a blog post about your week in time.*

I hate to sound all ~oh I’m so busy~ but man.. the little things. It’s like that light rain which is more like mist, where it’s not heavy enough to warrant you staying inside, and yet an umbrella just will not protect you from it because it still gets in your face. It’s like a pile of books in my way for which I just need to figure out a system to stack them on their respective shelves. It’s like a being a waiter at those restaurant where they carry like 6 dishes on two arms (or is that not a thing?).

See, the thing is, none of those things really scare me in and of itself, and I know I can use iCal and my to-do list and reminders to help me get through all of them. But sometimes I wish someone would just give me a play-by-play of what I need to do on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis so I would just follow instructions, as opposed to having to always re-evaluate and re-consider and improvise. It’s like how the rubic’s cube was so much more fun once I had memorised all the steps, instead of having to think my way through it and calculus only became my favourite subject once I had gotten the hang of it.

Dude, this transition into being an adult is toughhh. It’s like I’ve spent my whole life riding those tiny aeroplane rides where you pay like a dollar or something to use and it just swings you back and forth for 2 minutes while playing some fun-fair type music, and then I blinked and suddenly I am in a real aeroplane and there are buttons on the dashboard and ceiling and floor and levers that serve functions I don’t know of.

It’s times like these I really need to just take a step back and detach from the street-level view of my life and “zoom out”. Yeah, they’re like a million tiny raindrops, but it’s just rain. Soak in it, wipe it off–it will stop, you will dry off. It will be okay. Deep breaths. One thing at a time. One step, and then another, and another.

Honestly, “baby steps” is like one of the most liberating pieces of wisdom I’ve ever received, which is why it’s on my Instagram bio thing (and that is clearly where all pieces of wisdom belong).

Week 7: I Get A Break!

It was a long week, you guys. It feels like a month crammed into one week, and I think that’s partly because I don’t know how to tell you the story of my past week in a coherent post.. many things which are pretty different and somewhat unrelated happened this week.

Dropping a class
This is my 5th semester at Penn. Every semester apart from my very first one, I’ve taken 5 classes/credit units. The typical semester is about 3-5.5 credits, although a few of my friends take 6. This semester, I was enrolled in a class I absolutely wasn’t enjoying. I felt the class lacked a good sense of structure/direction, and that the professor was not very organised. It didn’t fulfil any requirements for me–it was something I’d registered in just for fun. Except, it wasn’t fun at all. But because I had waited so long to realise how much I couldn’t stand the class, it was too late to add another class to replace it if I dropped this one. So I hung on because the idea of taking only 4 classes made me feel like I would be slacking, like I would’ve wasted the opportunity to be in another class. I felt so ashamed because it made me feel like I would be such an underachiever. Luckily, I accepted the fact that those were awful reasons to be doing something I don’t even like, and so I let it go; what felt like a shameful idea now feels like a triumph against my ego or whatever.

The safety threat
Last Sunday, the entire Penn community (and the communities of many other colleges around Philadelphia) was notified of a vague “safety threat” made on social media. Colleges were alerted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI about a threat of violence against a university which mentioned the time and date of 2 p.m. on October 5th (you can read about it here). The university ensured us that they were taking this seriously–and they did. On Monday, there was a noticeably heavy presence of police and other security officers on campus. People cut class to stay home, and everyone was in some kind of subtle panic. It was a weird feeling. Everyone walked quickly. It seemed quiet and tense. Classes were cancelled. I was scared, too. Shahirah, Hui Jie and I stayed home studying and eating takeout, trying not to check the time. Nothing happened that day, alhamdulillah, I am so thankful. Everyone was relieved, but I think we all were also perplexed? intrigued? at how such a vague threat had such a huge effect. We all learned how little control of our lives we have.

My exam
On Wednesday, campus was back to normal, and I had my political science exam. I’ve mentioned this before, but this is the first PSCI class I’ve taken and so I was a little stressed out because (a) I didn’t know what to expect or how to prepare for it and (b) I love this class (like LOVE IT so much that I question if I am in the right major) and so I really wanted to do well. I prepared for it sufficiently, and so I am not too worried about how it turns out, nor do I care as much because at least I know I did what I could. It was 50 minutes of frantically writing a 4-5 page essay? I can hardly remember, but it caused my arm much pain. By the time the proctors called for pens down, the way my arm felt tired gave me a flash of what it was like to be in school in Malaysia, sitting at our tiny wooden desks spaced out evenly for exams in our tiny cement-floored classrooms, writing on our kertas kajang (foolscap paper), tying them together with strings when we were done. I thought it was cool how the way my muscles felt could bring back memories of things I haven’t thought of in years. But the end of that exam also marked the start of Fall Break 🙂 (!!!!!!!)

Studying for my poli sci exam.

Studying for my poli sci exam.

Half of my poli sci cheat sheet!

Half of my poli sci cheat sheet.

Awful out-of-focus picture of my friends having coffee on the rooftop after dinner and dessert to celebrate fall break!

Awful out-of-focus picture of my friends having coffee on the rooftop after dinner and dessert to celebrate fall break!

Fall break
I don’t know how many of you follow me on Instagram, but I have been documenting (overdocumenting, possibly) my four day weekend on it. On Thursday, I went to King of Prussia to go hunting for a new pair of boots and it was really fun.

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My new babies hehe.

My new babies hehe.

I spent Friday in New York City. Honestly, New York is electric. I think this was my 5th or 6th trip up there and every time, I appreciate it a little bit more. People talk about the energy, but honestly, I don’t care much for that. What I like about New York is looking at the diversity–there are all sorts of people there, all sorts of stores, cuisines. Everything is cutting edge. There is always more to discover and so much inspiration to get from that city. I know this is what everyone says.. and I’m annoying myself for saying it because I know I’m blurting a bunch of clichés and am not really giving you a great description of what NYC is like.. but I hope someday you get to experience it for yourself!

First stop in NYC: coffee.

First stop in NYC: coffee.

Flat whites make my morning.

Flat whites make my morning.

My first time seeing Central Park in non-jacket-wearing weather, and what a difference it makes.

My first time seeing Central Park in non-jacket-wearing weather, and what a difference it makes.

The Mall.

The Mall.

Awkward unintentional handbag-modelling (?)

Awkward unintentional handbag-modelling (?)

Shahirah trusted me with rowing, and I trusted her to take pictures of me. Talk about trust exercises..

Shahirah trusted me with rowing, and I trusted her to take pictures of me. Talk about trust exercises..

Just one of the many boats I almost hit. And oh yeah, the view.

Just one of the many boats I almost hit. And oh yeah, a great view.

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The picture I always take when I get this ice cream.. because I'm original and creative.

The picture I always take when I get this ice cream.. because I’m original and creative.

Subway stations.

Subway stations.

Cute decorations in cute Japanese stores.

Cute decorations in cute Japanese stores.

A crappy attempt at a panorama at Times Square.

A crappy attempt at a panorama at Times Square.

We walked so much yesterday and it was a little tiring, so today I took it easy and just did groceries, watched TV, read and stayed home.

Me, pushing my basket through Trader Joes' check out line because it was too heavy to carry.

Me, pushing my basket through Trader Joes’ check out line because it was too heavy to carry.

It’s back to the grind on Monday (boo) so I’m really going to enjoy my last day off tomorrow. For now, I’m gonna end with this picture of my cousin’s adorable baby when he was at my house in Malaysia last week because he is the cutest and I miss him. Bye!

MISS YOU, AYDEN!!

MISS YOU, AYDEN!!