Monday, October 5, 2015

Outlier: An Unmatched Heart and A Mismatched Outfit

stripes and polkadots outfit
Blazer, Marshall's | Top, Rire Boutique | Pants, Macy's | Shoes, Keds | Necklace, Macy's
Photo and post title creds: Alura Chung-Mehdi

I wish I could relate--I really do.

When friends hit rough patches in their romantic relationships, I try to sympathize, offer them comfort in the form of open ears or dark chocolate, and even inconspicuously apply methods of Carl Rogers' humanistic therapy from psych class.

They ask me what they should do. I listen to their pros and cons. I attempt to offer insight without influencing their decisions. We both know, however, that I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about.  

Even in their conflict, I envy them. Because beneath the tumult, I sense two souls that deeply care for each other. That have connected on a level so profound that it is unfathomable to me.  

I'm 19, and I've never dated anyone. A couple years ago, a teammate so aptly put it: "I don't understand where boyfriends come from. Do they pop out of the ground or something?" Ironically enough, she has a boyfriend now, and they've been dating for over a year. He did not pop out of the ground. Despite this counterexample, I'm still not convinced: I fervently believe that boyfriends must indeed pop out of the ground--or something. 

Most of the time, I find my lack of a love life far from worrisome. As an outsider, romantic relationships appear time-consuming and inevitably agonizing. Don't get me wrong--it's heartwarming and uplifting to observe happy couples; I just always found it difficult to reconcile the almost-guaranteed pain with any resonance. In econ jargon, my opportunity cost of dating appears to be much greater than my opportunity cost of not dating. After all, academics consume most of my energy and attention. In high school, my parents had drilled into my head: No boys. Focus on school.

My mother, however, recently bestowed upon me explicit permission to date. You know, Lily, you're in your sophomore year of college. It's okay if you date someone, whether a friend from home or at school. I don't want you to miss your chance--there are more women than men in this country, you know.

Even my sage eleven-year-old brother has put in his two cents: Sis, you need to find a bae.

Statistically speaking, this is impossible. I have proof: my results from the ultra-credible and accurate site, which calculates the number of potential soulmates in your current location, through algorithms based on your preferences. A friend first sent it to me as a joke last year. Even then, my results were dismal: .9 of a person was right for me. Now, my prospects are even more bare: a whopping .45 of a person is the one.

I can't deny that I'm curious--if you ever see .45 of a person walking around, do let me know. I wonder what it's like to connect with someone on that deep a level. I wonder how it's even possible that two people feel the same magnetic force between each other, at the same time, in the same place. I wonder why we're drawn to certain people, how relationships develop, and what love is. 

I wonder, but I'm afraid. Infatuations are exhilirating at best, suffocating at worst. Falling for someone is voluntarily venturing into sickly sweet, thick fog. You have no idea if you'll end up somewhere worthwhile, or if you'll emerge unscathed. At the same time, taking the risk and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is an opportunity--for growth, for discovery. 

I fell hard a couple years ago for a close male friend--I even mustered up the courage to spill my feelings, and he just didn't happen to see me the same way. The emotional aftermath was brutal--I felt relieved, numb, confused, and hurt all at the same time. But to this day, I'm still glad that I told him, that I ventured into the fog. I became stronger, and counterintuitively enough, our friendship grew stronger as well. There was definitely a rough transition period, but now we're able to be more honest and candid with each other. 

I am an outlier. I don't know what it's like to be in a relationship. I'm terrified of falling for anyone. I think stripes go with polkadots. I consider endurance exercise fun. I have poodle hair. I eat eccentric health-food fare. 

The regression line may have missed me, but it's okay. If that .45 happens to materialize into my life, I'm willing to take the plunge. But for the time being, it's perfectly pleasant out here. 

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Making Connections: Wifi Shirt + Maroon Skater Skirt

wifi shirt college style
wifi shirt college style
wifi shirt college style
wifi shirt college style
herschel supply backpack in real life
Shirt, China | Skirt, China | Shoes, DSW | Headband, China | Backpack, Herschel Supply Co.
Photos by Alura Chung-Mehdi

I first spotted this shirt on a bustling street in southern China. As we rounded the sidewalk corner, I caught a fleeting glance of the quirky print through the window of a modest pop-up shop.

Amused, I kept walking and chatting with my family. Then I stopped.

If the piece itself weren't enticing enough, when would I get another chance to snag a wifi shirt for the equivalent of $4.55? Mind quickly made, I redirected my mom and brother round the bend again and into the store, where this top became the newest, funkiest member of my wardrobe.

Ironically enough, I had found just what I had been looking for, but in another form. Since my grandparents' apartment wasn't suscribed to wifi, my brother and I had been tirelessly and fruitlessly searching for accessible public networks. At one point, we even held metal pots over my phone in an attempt to catch signal. I claimed that our feverish efforts were so that I could respond to work emails--it'd be a lie, however, if I didn't admit that instagram was also a strong motivation.

Eventually, nice neighbors bestowed upon us access to their network, and I happily connected. I wonder, however, how my trip might've been different had I never found wifi. Would I have simply savored the majestic landscapes, rather than scrutinize their composition, constantly seeking an "insta-worthy" scene? Would I have engaged even more with the extended family that I rarely see, rather than tinker meticulously with photo edits?

In my efforts to stay connected, I often become detached--from reality, from what really matters. That's why I embarked on a 50-day social media fast two years ago (original announcement and reflection), and why I again renounced instagram and facebook during Lent last spring. 

And I continue to seek balance. The most fulfilling days, after all, are those where all the wifi I need is right on this shirt. 
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Friday, September 18, 2015

Artsy Endeavors + Life Updates: This Semester, I...

gold keds
golden evenings
street art northampton ma
 student by day, adventurer by night
amherst college dining hall food
 dining hall delicacies
flowers and basket
bike adventure
 25 miles of adventurepaleta
ivy covered wall
 quaint corners
photos from my instagram and vscogrid

This semester, I know how to college just a little bit better.

A newly-anointed sophomore, I prance back into the vast field that is school, savoring each stride along the worn, familiar paths and anticipating each landing in the tall brush that has yet to bear footsteps.

This semester, I undertake for the first time a quantitative-leaning courseload, consisting of math, stats, pysch, and French. This semester, I juggle rigorous schoolwork with two jobs--one, as a math TA, specifically to work with a blind student in linear algebra, and the other, as an orchestra assistant, mainly to manage parts distribution and greet other members before rehearsal.

As I forge through this field, I seek rhythm, passion, fulfillment, purpose. Uneven ground, poor weather, and fatigue are certain--but with deft manuveuring and determined hops up after spills, growth, empowerment, and smoother trails may manifest.
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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Not in Kansas Anymore: Gingham Button Down + White Lace Dress

gingham button down, white lace dress, dorothy look
gingham button down, white lace dress, dorothy look
Button down, thrifted Asos | Dress, Forever 21 (picked by the girls I RA'ed!) | Shoes, Keds | Headband, China
Not pictured: Toto

"Are you Dorothy?" 

As a friend and I made our way across campus, more than one person stopped basket-swinging, gingham-sporting me to ask this question. 

The first time, I laughed and said that dressing specifically like Dorothy hadn't been the goal--I'd simply been aiming for a farm-esque look, since that's where we were headed. 

The second time, I wished I had worn my red Keds instead of my gold ones. 

I also began to reflect--in the iconic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a tornado uproots Dorothy from her mundane life in Kansas. It drops her in the colorful, magical world of Oz, with little means to find her way back. The kind munchkins advise her to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, where she may request that the great Wizard of Oz send her home. Along the way, she encounters various obstacles, but ultimately, with tenacity, creativity, and trust, she arrives safely in Kansas. 

While my current location is far from the fantasy-land that is Oz, I'm certainly "not in [Columbus] anymore." Sophomore year has begun, and the pressure to find my career path, to seek my yellow brick road, has grown heavier. I'm certainly lost and a little afraid, as I imagine Dorothy was. But with similar grit, energy, and the click of some fabulous shoes, I hope to find my way as Dorothy did.

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