Monday, April 11, 2016

Life Lately: I Want to be Everything

traveling, wanderlust, US passport

Many college students dream of studying abroad for one semester. 

For me, one semester didn't seem like enough--I wanted two.

Over a month ago, I announced that I would be spending some of the 2016-2017 academic year abroad in Bordeaux, France. I omitted a crucial detail: namely, that I wasn't sure when I'd be in France because I was waiting patiently (okay, in agony) for another study abroad decision. Due to math major requirements, this decision would likely determine whether or not I'd be away for a full year.

Last week, the suspense was broken. I was accepted to study abroad in Spring 2017 at Hertford College, Oxford University. Provided that all the logistics pan out, I will be spending 10 months living and learning in Europe. 

I have everything I wanted. But I want more.

I can't help but feel wistful as my close-knit friend group prepares for their year ahead on-campus. I can't help but feel wistful as we banter over dinner, cause a ruckus in the common room, comfort each other in times of academic distress. 

It's hard to believe that a year ago, I didn't even know these people. It's hard to believe that within several months, they could be strangers again. Even worse, when I return for my senior year, the majority of the group will have graduated. 

I want to be with them, and I want to be abroad. But I can't.

We will have to bid farewell prematurely, and that will have to be okay. I remember feeling just as wistful as a high school junior when my senior friends graduated. But this time is different. This time, I refuse to be swept away by change--I will initiate it. An invaluable opportunity awaits--and who am I to reject the enticing, albeit somewhat frightening, call of adventure?

The most resonant connections will find a way to live on. In the meantime, I will strive to maximize the month remaining with my family away from home.

I want to be everything--I want to be a supportive friend, a faithful daughter, an accomplished student, a strong runner, a helpful math TA, an effective orchestra section leader, an active blogger. But sometimes, something has to give. I'll be here and there between now and the end of spring semester, well-occupied with the frenzy of work and end-of-semester errands. 

I am going to try to be everything, all while acknowleding that I'm human. After all, this is the essence of me, Lily, a very imperfect idealist. 

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Nostalgia: Floral Leggings + Cozy Cardi

college style, spring outfit, floral leggings
college style, spring outfit, floral leggings, jump shot
college style, spring outfit, floral leggings
college style, spring outfit, floral leggings
college style, spring outfit, floral leggings
Sweater, Yoins | Button-down, thrifted Ralph Lauren | Leggings, Burlington Coat Factory | Keds, eBay| Necklace, Love Nail Tree

For old times' sake, I squeezed a short swiming workout at the MIT gym into our packed two-day Boston trip schedule. 

My favorite city hadn't changed much in the nine months I'd been away. It felt funny to train again in the same gym where I'd completed important summer triathlon workouts. It felt funny to eat food again at the vegan cafes I hadn't stopped raving about. It felt funny to stroll along the same bustling sidewalks. It felt funny because so much had happened, but here I was again. 

I'll remember last summer fondly, for the weekend expeditions to Boston, for my resonant job as a indoor cycling instructor and RA at Explo. I'll remember it fondly especially in the months to come, because a while back, I decided not to return. I burned my ships, just as explorer Cortés did when he reached the Americas. With no means to return home, the necessity of success was all the more pressing. 

Like Cortés, I wanted to see what else was out there. I wanted to know if there was an opportunity that fit my interests even better, that could push me to grow even more. Despite completing countless internship applications since January, it's almost April and I still have no concrete plans for the summer. I have no time for regret, and no desire to wallow in pity. My ships are but wisps of smoke and ashes, and I have no choice but to press on. 

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Androgynous Finds: Zebra Print Button-Down + Maroon Skirt

Cardigan, thrifted F21 | Button-down, Burlington Coat Factory (men's section) | Skirt, China | Necklace, Love Nail Tree | Boots, Tommy Hilfiger

My heart pounded as I scanned the dining hall. Dishes full of the oh-so-appetizing bland vegan offerings balanced precariously in my arms, I gingerly began walking the direction of my first subject. 

Upon reaching her table, I motioned towards the empty seats. "Is it okay if I sit here?"

Much to my relief, she smiled. "Of course!"

Over the next few days, I found myself initiating more conversations with strangers, be it in my dining hall, or on the subways of Boston. As an extrovert who has no trouble making small talk, it was surprisingly nerve-wracking to plunge into my social psych experiment. 

For our norm violation paper, my partner and I chose to converse with strangers. After the early weeks of freshman year, I've noticed my classmates retreat to their small circle of friends, rarely sitting with more distant acquaintances, let alone strangers. Gone are the days when group boundaries had yet to appear, and reaching out to new faces was the norm. Luckily, this experiment was a good excuse reach out. 

I've spoken in Mandarin with a Chinese native on the Boston subway. I've met fellow students who are impressively well-rounded. I've talked music with a girl rocking a fierce red undercut. I've been inspired by the extensive travels of my college's film department coordinator.

Of my twelve subjects, not a single response was negative. Eleven people were happy to make small talk, one was neutral but polite. Of the subjects I was able to debrief, I asked the following questions: What was your initial reaction to my approach? Why do you think people often choose to keep to themselves?

Several people were surprised at first. Others thought nothing of it. Many found the conversation a pleasant experience and wished that people reached out more often. 

They hypothesized that people in general were afraid of being vulnerable. Of the possibility of rejection. Of appearing weird for breaking a social norm. Or, perhaps that they've internalized a previous negative experience interacting with strangers. 

But with the risk of rejection comes the possibility of connection. That's a chance I was happy to take, and will continue to be happy taking. 

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Artsy Endeavors + Life Updates: The Space In-between

Best way to start spring break: run away from all the work looming ahead
21.59 mi, 3 hr 30 min
Coffee mug, or camera lens?
 "Never fear shadows. They simply mean that there's a light shinging somewhere nearby" --Ruth E. Renkel
Catharsis is a pen and paper
$1.71 well spent
Beautiful setting for beautiful music
What I wish break actually looked like: lazy mornings in bed
 Treat yo self
 Good morning
 French library = coziest study spot

"Lily, you should sit closer to your boyfriend."

Engrossed in studying for my abstract algebra exam, I looked up. I was on one end of the couch, he had just plopped down on the other. Between us was my mess of old homework, practice problems, scratch paper, books, folders. 

I gave my not-so-subtle floormate a look.

Another friend of ours chimed in. "This is so much like an anime! They fall for each other, things are great, but then stuff gets between them...and then they have to fight to keep the flame alive, but ultimately, love wins."

We all burst into laughter. 

It was cheesy, but true: like the pile of schoolwork between us on the couch, academics had weasled their way between me and some of the finer aspects of life. In the past couple weeks, I've sacrificed time with friends for school, violin for school, workouts for school, blogging for school.

It's a delicate balance to maintain--prioritizing class is vital, and taking time to let go is so necessary. In the ephemeral week of spring break ahead, I plan to carve out some time just to live a little. Here's to more invigorating runs, more carefree nights dashing around ping-pong tables in unconventional 7-person matches, road trips with friends, finally getting around to shooting outfit photos (some of these photos date back to Decemeber--whoops!), and of course, plunging into work.

Here's to establishing an equilibrium of focus and lightheartedness in that space in-between.

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