Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Remix: Casual to Work

Casual outfit: Dress (worn as top), Forever 21 | Skirt, Persunmall | Necklace, eFoxcity | Shoes, Target
Work outfit: Dress, Forever 21| Blazer, Marshall's | Necklace, eFoxCity | Heels, Payless
Photos by George Liu

I've recently developed so much respect for people who work on their feet every day. As outsiders--casual shoppers in a department store, parched teenagers looking for a resfreshing summer drink, bustling adults running errands--it's easy to overlook things. When did that grocery store cashier wake up for work? How long has that salesperson been standing? What crazy hours does that barista tackle?

My parents insisted that I work this summer, and I can't help but be extremely grateful--it's a perspective changer. After four full days at Nordstrom, I now finally understand. I understand the aching feet. I understand the burnt-out mind. I understand that working is exhausting, regardless of whether you're a burger-flipper or an engineer. And both are equally respectable, for everyone has different stories.

That fast-food restaurant employee? He may be a recent immigrant trying to pave a new life in a foreign world. That weary hotel concierge? She may not have slept in the past three days, working back-to-back shifts of two jobs. It's not easy. Immediate appearances are a mere glimpse into a situation; they're far from the whole story. And this applies universally. That moody woman? She was just diagnosed with cancer. That sweaty pack of athletes running extremely slowly? They're not out of shape--they're on a cool-down after finishing an excruciating workout.

So be mindful. Be gracious.

*        *        *

Definitely took a little detour there with my wandering thoughts of the week. Working has definitely been hard, but it's also been fulfilling. It's gratifying to help a customer find that perfect leather jacket or that trendy sweater in the catalogue. I'm only temporary, so I'm not commissioned like most employees, but I've still had a few customers mention me at the registers. There's nothing like feeling competent and useful. I also get to dress up and work with clothes--what's not to like? More about what I've learned while working retail to come!

As for these two looks, the second is actually what I wore to my Nordstrom interview a couple weeks ago, but sans the heels and gold flats in their place. I snagged the red bodycon dress for only $4 last year, and it's been such a versatile piece. I'm a huge fan of layering, and bodycon dresses are ideal for throwing circle skirts over--it completely transforms an outfit.
I'd also like to introduce to you the photographer for this post--my friend and neighbor George. As my own younger brother gets older, it's harder and harder to drag him out for outfit shoots, so I'm so grateful that one of my good friends was both willing and enthusiastic to help out. He's incredibly accomplished in both art and school, but more importantly, he's insightful and hardworking. It's been fabulous having classes with him this past year and I can't wait to see how he tackles his senior year! He's also a blogger, and you can check out his avant-garde tumblr here.

Life has definitely kept me busy lately, but that's exactly how I like it. Here's to many more adventures in this beautiful season.
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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Vision

Lace top, Target | Tank top, Nike | Shorts, Forever 21 | Shoes, Target

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?every, every minute?
―Emily Webb, Our Town

Blanketed in darkness, the audience of the high school theatre production seemed to collectively pause for just a moment, holding its breath in sudden realization. Perhaps I was imagining things. But my expression of awe was certainly real. Was I taking life for granted, like many characters in the play? Was I not seizing each opportunity? Did I really, truly realize life?

That was two months ago, when I was still in school. When I was still stressing about AP exams and final papers. When summer seemed so agonizingly just beyond my grasp.

But this is now. Summer's in full swing, and the second half of 2014 is already upon us. After seeing Our Town, I resolved to become even more conscious of how I lived, to realize every minute. As just a little background, Emily utters those poignant words in the final scene, after she has died in childbirth and returned to earth to observe a day from her past (more about the play here). After just a few moments, Emily can't bear to stay any longer, for it pains her to see her family and younger self approach life so casually; Emily now knows that it's truly precious and painfully ephemeral.

Since we're now just past the halfway point of 2014, I wanted to evaluate my progress towards my goals for the year. While seizing life is not quantitative by any means, I believe that constantly striving to improve yourself through measurable goals often leads to fulfillment. So here's a recap of my goals, along with new commentary.

1. go to whichever college with a smile and my intense drive, regardless of  whether it was where I had originally hoped [in progress]

My first goal has yet to actually occur since I don't leave for orientation until late August. While I originally doted on Princeton, I'm certainly not unhappy about the way things turned out (more college thoughts to follow in a later post). Liberal arts schools have undeniable benefits--for one, I'm certainly looking forward to insightful discussions in Amherst's small class setting. More updates to come!

2. finish high school with nothing below an A-  

I did it, with AP classes bringing my GPA up to 4.317! While the inescapable plague of senioritis was certainly real, I take great ownership in everything I do, regardless of the situation.

3. complete an official half marathon in under two hours updated

Done in 1:51:20. New goal: run a full marathon without stopping this fall. 

4. chop my hair off and donate it after graduation (length and charity TBD) [postponed/modified]

Well, graduation came and went, and my long hair is still intact. I've grown a little too attached, and it doesn't help that I've found a loophole in my own goal: I didn't specify when after graduation. So I'm technically still in the clear haha. In lieu of this goal, I donated whole blood last week at the Red Cross--blood is certainly more vital than hair. It was mildly intimidating and my parents were extremely concerned about side effects, but my friend and I both made it out just fine and faint-free. I even finally got to find out my blood type! 

And it all continues, friends. We can always improve ourselves. We can always live more. There is no ceiling, really--even if you're doing something well, you can always do it better or more efficiently. 

The last sentence actually closely resembles what I said in a recent interview. Say hello to the newest member of my local Nordstrom's seasonal team! To say I'm looking forward to it would be an understatement, expecially since this is my first real job.

More adventures to come. Let's realize life.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Barefoot in the Park

My English teacher once told me that my life is like a soap opera. At that moment, I couldn’t agree more: it was prom night, and I had just gotten into a car accident.

Fortunately, no one was injured, and all cars were still drivable.  But not-so fortunately: I was at fault. I had rear-ended a car, which then dominoed and rear-ended another car. After pulling over, all the drivers and passengers gathered on the sidewalk of the bustling downtown street. I opened with a profuse apology. I then prepared myself for the worst.

“Were you drinking?” The woman from the first car asked bluntly.

I was mildly offended by her immediate response, but I couldn’t blame her. I was a teenage driver, and my friends and I were dressed for prom—her conclusion was undeniably logical, albeit stereotypical.

So I simply shook my head. “No, I was looking for my hazard lights.” 

And it was the truth, as strange as it sounded. I couldn’t help but feel utterly stupid that night. Because I hadn’t known where my hazard lights were, I had dragged two friends, five strangers, and myself in to this mildly-traumatic mess. The restaurant valet had turned my hazard lights on when returning my car, but I didn’t notice until I was on the road. While frantically searching for them, I didn’t notice that traffic had stopped, and here we were now. Just a few seconds of inattentiveness and ignorance and plain stupidity led to large wrinkles in eight people’s nights and possibly beyond. The two young men in the second car were heading out for the night. The family in the first car was heading home after a long day. And my friends and I would’ve been heading to prom.
Instead, we were all waiting for the police. As miserable as the situation sounds, I actually learned a lot during that hour of downtime. For one, I learned that I can’t say the alphabet backwards. A sobriety test seemed likely considering the woman’s first question, so my friends and I began hastily preparing—especially because I seriously doubted my ability to recite the alphabet backwards, sober or drunk. I was right. Failed attempts led to fits of giggles, and before long, we were somehow enjoying ourselves. And instead of retreating to our respective cars, the eight of us involved in the accident remained gathered on the sidewalk to chat. 

I found it strange that the people whose nights I had probably ruined could be so friendly. I, for one, was still mentally chastising myself. But their forgiving attitudes slowly made me realize that while a completely smooth life journey is ideal, speed bumps and uneven roads are inevitable. And though individual obstacles may vary, mishaps and challenges are universal. That was now for me, and they understood.

If only my parents and insurance would understand as well. When I called to break the news to them, mom and dad had simply been relieved that we were all safe. But insurance rates were sure to shoot up, and my hopes of having a car for the summer quickly plummeted. Would my parents even let me drive again? Would any parents still trust me with their kids?
The accident was so unfortunate that it was almost funny. I laughed bitterly. “What is my life? This is literally the worst thing possible that could happen to us on prom night.”

But was it? Dualism is everywhere—through this unfortunate event, I realized how fortunate I was. It could’ve been much worse. There could’ve been injuries, damages could’ve been severe, and the people I hit could’ve been furious. Instead, we were all safe, the cars were still operable, and the people were extremely gracious. While we missed all but twenty minutes of prom (don’t fret, we made it to after prom), my friends and I managed to make the most of our misadventure. I’m grateful to have friends who instead of sulking, comforted me, offering me their favorite sweatshirt when temperatures dropped and adding their own lighthearted touches with sobriety test runs and police car selfies. We also truly enjoyed our roadside conversations with the others, especially since the woman who had questioned my sobriety was not only a skilled conversationalist, but also had a great sense of humor.

While I didn’t actually have to take a sobriety test that night, I did have to appear in court two weeks later; I had gotten an ACDA (Assured Clear Distance Ahead) ticket, and for those under eighteen, court appearances for tickets are mandatory. It’s not nearly as intimidating as it sounds, and my judge even waived my fine since it was a first offense. And now, almost two months later, I’m happy to report that none of my fears actually occurred—I’m still driving, I have my dad’s old car, and insurance actually decreased because I turned eighteen. So in reality, I was really, really lucky.

I was far from enthusiastic to live that night’s juicy episode of my soap opera life, but I can’t deny that it was a valuable learning experience. I now can more gracefully maneuver life’s rocky roads—and turn on my hazard lights if necessary.
Well, I did it again friends. I vanished from the blogosphere and took more than my good sweet time returning. Much has happened again--like I mentioned, I'm now legal, which also means I'm no longer labeled a "juvenile traffic offender" from the accident. I guess I'm just a normal traffic offender now haha.

But in all honesty, I was really just being finnicky about the text for this post. It was definitely a large event with a large impact, so I wanted to do it justice. Then, of course, life took over with countless grad parties and job hunting, so I couldn't help but take another posting hiatus. I've missed you all quite a bit and can't wait to hopefully keep up less sporadically this time!

Anyways, this lovely purple number sponsored by eShakti reminded me of the long, elegant prom dresses, so it seemed fitting to tell this story with these photos. I wouldn't say the dress is formal enough for prom, but it's certainly too formal to wear on a lazy summer day, so I'm still looking for an opportunity to wear it out. Needless to say, I felt quite awkward snapping these photos with my tripod and remote in the middle of a busy park. But that awkwardness is definitely a challenge to overcome as a fashion blogger--just gotta do our thing and strut our stuff regardless! Overall, I'm quite happy with the dress though I wished I had done custom sizing like usual because the standard size 4 was too large. Definitely take advantage of eShakti's custom measurements, but give an inch or two of leeway so the dress isn't too small. They have a fresh, quality selection so make sure to give em a look-see.

If you want to see actual prom photos, take a gander at these below:
Just the good old Asian crew haha. I'm eternally grateful to the two friends who survived the ordeal with me; like I said I'm very lucky, and even luckier to be surrounded by such incredible people.

Looking forward to stopping by your blogs soon. Until next time.
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chasing the Sun

Committed to Amherst College!
Capital City Half Marathon, around mile 11
Senior solo
More polished outfit to make up for sweats during AP exam week
City Council recognition for National Merit Finalists
Photo project--from 7th grade to senior year
Graduation!

Well, I'll be honest. One of the reasons I couldn't bring myself to return to full-swing blogging was that I didn't know where to start. How could I epitomize all the stories, all the lessons, all the experiences--in a single blog post? I won't even try, because they each deserve individual contemplation. And that's what they'll receive in posts to follow.

Instead, here are photos I wouldn't share in a normal style post. They are the moments that make a blog personal, the details that offer depth to conventional empty pleasantries and glossy photoshoots. They are snapshots of my life, mere glimpses of intricate journeys.

If senior year were a book, the past month was the climax. For one, I finally have a definite home this fall. The final two contenders were Vanderbilt University and Amherst College; and after a month of sleepless nights, endless research, and requests for advice, I decided on Amherst.

The rest of the month was a mad dash to the finish--literally and figuratively. I ran the Capital City Half Marathon with my running buddy, finishing in 1:51:20 (averaging about 8:30 a mile for 13.1 miles). I performed my senior solo with my school orchestra (you can watch it here, starting around 5:20). I took five AP exams, two of which were on the same day (over six hours of testing, anyone?). I stressed about school exams and ten page papers, all of which seem so distant now. I appeared in court for a minor car accident (that's a story for next time). I graduated from high school, seeing some people perhaps for the last time. I laughed. I cried. I smiled. I dreamed.

And I'm still dreaming--dreaming of summer's endless opportunities and the adventures that await.

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