Saturday, October 25, 2014

Chanson d'automne

Top, Target | Dress, thrifted F21 | Oxfords, F21
Photos by Jingwen Zhang
One week later:
Sweater, thrifted J. Crew | Scarf, China | Jeans, Macy's | Boots, Old Navy
Photos by Iris Zhang

I glance up. Expansive cerulean skies and wispy white clouds greet me. I inhale. Refreshing mountain air infused with sunshine and a hint of fall fill my lungs. I had been hesitant to go to school in a small town, but now I am grateful. 

Mind foggy with fatigue and burdened with stress, I feel a sudden urge to set it all aside. To forget my midterms, papers, grades. To simply drink in my beautiful surroundings. 

"Is it socially acceptable to lie in the grass by the campus center?" I ask my friends abruptly.

I decide for myself before they can answer. "Oh well, too bad if it isn't!"

Abandoning my hefty books and overflowing backpack on the outdoor cafe tables, I scurry over to find just the right spot on the verdant lawn. I plop down, stretch out, and close my eyes for a moment.

When I open them, I find that I have company. My two friends and I watch the meandering clouds in comfortable silence. Then, I hear a giggle. It soon becomes collective uncontrollable laughter. 

We pull ourselves together and visit office hours for our math professor. But after a session of multivariable functions, we find ourselves watching the sky yet again, this time on the campus gem: the impressive hill overlooking colorful forests stretching beyond the horizon. We talk--of our fears, our past, our hopes, our values. We resonate.

As the breeze tickles my skin and the sun warms my cheeks, I smile. I am content.

With four upcoming major assignments and midterms, I await more moments like these in the near future.


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Friday, October 17, 2014

Time Lapse

Boston, Massachusetts
August 2014
P.S. I made this skirt!

A month and a half before eagerly-awaited marathon, runner develops patellar tendonitis and cannot run more than twenty minutes without excruciating knee pain.

Welcome to episode two of my soap opera life.
(As a quick refresher, the premier episode was about getting into a car accident on prom night).
If all had gone as plan, I would've traveled to Hartford, Connecticut for my first marathon last weekend. But life had a mind of its own, and instead, I found myself in Boston, Massachusetts for a mini-vacation. 
It wasn't easy for me to defer my race entry. I vowed not to go down without a fight, but after a two weeks of vigorous cross-training and no improvement in my knee, it was clear that the marathon would have to wait. I wanted to be able to enjoy my workouts--the liberating long runs, the satisfying fartleks and tempos, the empowering tests of my mental and physical capacity. I didn't want to slave away in the gym to maintain the same fitness--hours in the pool, on the bike, or elliptical were mind-numbing, and I had had enough. 
To say that I'm disappointed would be an understatement. But I realize that things don't always work out the way we envision. I'm hoping for recovery, growth, and delayed gratification. My body is not invincible, and I must train accordingly. It's too early to make any grandiose plans of another marathon; I'd be completely content for the time being to simply ease back into running. Baby steps. And we'll take the rest from there. 
I have not surrendered.
*                    *                     *
I made the most of things and traveled with a few friends to Boston over fall break. While I would've loved to be running, it was undoubtedly refreshing to see the city again. I had been there once with my family before college orientation, so the trip was deeply nostalgic, almost surreal. Had the past month and a half actually happened?
October 2014
One of my favorite parts of the trip was not the sights, the shopping, or the food (though all were incredible--especially the food), but seeing friends from home. Since I stayed with a friend at MIT, I was able to catch up with her and meet new people and experience another school culture. Then, serendipitously enough, another high school friend spotted us in Chinatown, so we met up to walk Seaport and Little Italy the next day.
I even got to fulfill #7 of my bucket list: meet a fellow fashion blogger in person! Since discovering Brittney's blog, Another Beautiful Thing, last year, I've never ceased to admire how well she balances fashion, personal life, and commentary on her blog. She was just as insightful, kind, and polished in person, and I'm so grateful to have had the chance to chat with her.

Wishing you all well--when I can again drop notes on your blogs is still up in the air, but it may not be until the end of this semester. For now, blogging will simply be a means of gathering my thoughts, but I hope to rejoin the community soon enough.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Simplicity

What my social media looks like ft. What college actually looks like
Original instagram post here

Blogs, like any other social media, project polished versions of our lives. Crisp photos, carefully-planned outfits, and selective details easily create an aura of enviable sophistication. I openly admit, however, that I'm not nearly as put-together as my posts may otherwise imply. While I love fashion, I take a healthy number of comfy days each week. While I often wax philosophical about profound events, I experience just as many uneventful days as the next person. While my life looks wonderful and happy all the time, it's actually as tumultuous as everyone else's.
 So in the spirit of reality, I present to you two everyday summer looks--not your typical blog fare.

I've been feeling unsettled lately about my social media posts--it seems dishonest to only share the happy, fun, put-together moments and brush the gloomy, stressful, and messy ones under the rug. So this post is a testament that I am human--that I sometimes dress casually and that life brings me ups and downs too.

It's unusal for me to talk outfits before my usual ramblings, but my move towards minimalism in style also reflects my move towards conciseness in expression (you'll see what I mean in just a bit). Please enjoy the tangle of thoughts to follow.
On my last night in my hometown, I plucked a laminated index card from the mirror in my room. In my handwriting, it read:

I will stay positive even when the skies are gray; I will make my own sunshine.
I will be an idealist even in a world of cynics and doubters.
I will pursue the life that I crave, not just one that is practical.
I will be a true friend but also not neglect myself.
I will speak what’s on my heart, even if I am afraid.
I will chase life with a determined gleam in my eyes.
T-shirt, Old Navy | Skirt, Target | Belt, Forever 21 | Shoes, Kohl's

Last year at a Rotary youth leadership conference, we created mission statements, and this was mine. While my ideals remain the same, I realized, after a bit of contemplation, that I could express my values much more succinctly. I still keep the old index card in a special spot on my dorm drawer, but joining it is a new friend:

I will be irreplaceable.

Technically, we’re all dispensable. Sports teams will continue to practice, bond, and achieve despite losing members at graduation. Employers will hire another who can complete the job just as well. Schools will maintain their daily routine. Friends will keep trekking down their own trails. Life will go on, no matter who you are.
But my irreplaceable means much more than the technical definition. I want to be such an impact that while life will go on, it will definitely be different. I want to leave such a uniquely-shaped hole that while it may easily be plugged, people must work to completely fill it; they must strive to improve themselves and their environments. It’s not realistic to affect everyone I encounter so deeply, but it is completely plausible to reciprocate for the people who have deeply impacted me.

I see it this way:

Only the optimistic can discern rays of hope beyond the clouds.
Only the ambitious can soar to once-unfathomable heights.
Only the adventurous can seek beyond the immediate.
Only the genuine can remain true to themselves and to others.
Only the courageous can find their voice in spite of fear.
Only the passionate can reach fulfillment.

Only the irreplaceable can embody all these ideals. One word goes a long way.

I strive to be irreplaceable--to maximize my potential and encourage others to do the same. To illuminate my surroundings and beyond.
Top, Goodwill | Skirt, Target | Shoes, Target

As for the precious creature that joined me in the first set of outfit shots, he's unfortunately not mine, but I was lucky enough to steal him and his owner for a mini-photoshoot. You met George in a previous post, and here's a couple shots of him and his dog, Brutus.
It's safe to say that I miss home quite a bit. Only know you love it when you let it go, right? But we learn the most about ourselves in unfamiliar situations, and I'd definitely still learning.

I'm still not quite ready to immerse myself in blogging, but again, if you'd like to drop me a note, feel free to shoot me an email. Hope you all are well, and I can't wait to catch up again.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tumultuous

Sweater, Kohl's | Skirt, Persunmall | Socks, Target | Flats, Target
Photos by Jingwen Zhang

Since it's been over a month, I thought I'd let you know I'm still alive. The tumultuous waves of college adjustment have yet to subside to (relatively) calm waters, but I'm trying. Again, much has happened--from a family trip to Boston, orientation, a running injury, the beginning of classes and extracurriculars--they are stories, photos, and details that I crave to share.

For now, the first set photos taken on my college quad will have to suffice. I hope to be back soon--to catch up with you all, to be inspired and to inspire. But in the meantime, I've begun a new project: a street style blog at Amherst College (fb page here, tumblr here). Feel free to follow along as I document the vibrant, talented, and stylish people on campus.

The seas may be stormy now, but I'll keep sailing with the same determination, passion, and vision until clear skies emerge.

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P.S. This post is no-comment since I can't yet find time to respond to previous notes, but if you'd like to catch me up on your life or offer me some college advice/share your experience, shoot me an email at lily@imperfectidealist.com.