Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Years Eve!

Wow. It's that time of year again- a day for everyone to go crazy and think of more and more elaborate ways to celebrate the coming of a new year. It's been a pretty good year, and like everyone else, I'm thinking ahead to this next year and all the things I want to do. My opinion on New Years resolutions? They can be good and bad. On the one hand they can really inspire people to start over with a "clean slate," to have a fresh start, to get rid of old habits and start new ones. On the other hand, it implies that New Years is the only time you can do that. I think every day should be cherished like New Years- every morning you wake up is another chance to start over, to live your life. But regardless, I'm still happy it's being celebrated all over the world.

The other side of the world is 12 hours ahead of us... they're already 4 hours into 2012. The picture above is one of Taipei 101. Needless to say, they celebrated by blowing a lot of stuff up. And Sydney, Australia? They're pros at this kind of stuff. People look forward every year to the new spectacles that Sydney Opera House will bring.

I guess this time of the year always brings need for a little reminiscing as well. A whole year's of memories can come crashing down on you if you just delve back into the past a little. It's a bit weird for teens, seeing as how we chronicle our lives in school years and the start of each new grade, but I can still remember last year's January 1st and New Year's Eve, the feeling of going back to school, the amount of snow still on the ground, waiting for February break to come... Anyways, I'm looking forward to tonight because I'll be spending time with friends and then later, after all the celebrating is over, spending some time in thought, reflection, and anticipation of the new year.

Enjoy New Years! Here's some premature celebration, but still pretty cool to watch. Handy if there aren't any midnight firework shows being planned around your area.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


It's awesome how my "weekly challenges" aren't weekly at all. I should call it "sporadic challenges" instead. Answer the question or challenge and I'll write about a blog topic of your choice!

Songs have different uses. Some are meant to make you cry, some are meant to make you laugh, some are meant to be sung at the top of your lungs in the car with all the window cars down... I have very different playlists for when I'm doing the things I like and when I'm doing my homework. Inception music, for example, is always a good kick to get you started on problem number one of your math homework. But what about creative writing? I never listen to songs with lyrics when I want to do some serious writing because they would distract me. Primavera is a beautiful song that I listen to over and over again because it sets me in a relaxed, peaceful mood. Here, try it yourself.

-So, what's a good song to listen to when you want to do creative work?
-Email me at with any suggestions and blog topics!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas Story

Merry Christmas 2011 everyone!!

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.'" Luke 1:10. No matter how many times I go back to the bible and read about the birth of Jesus and the shepherds and the angels, it always strikes me as such a miracle. How miraculous was it that God actually sent his son to be born in the humblest of ways here on Earth! He came as the Savior for us all, and I think it's so amazing that people all over the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus right now. Not only are we celebrating Jesus' birthday, but we're also celebrating the salvation and love that he brought to Earth. It's not even a holiday limited to one country or one culture, but one for ALL the people. That's what I think makes Christmas stand out... it's not all the presents and Christmas trees and cookies, but the meaning of the day to people around the globe, who are celebrating in spite of hardships and financial difficulties. In the end, though, you're never too old or too knowledgeable to hear the Christmas story again. This retelling of the Christmas story by the children of St Paul's Church will make you smile.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! There's something about the Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah season that warms the heart and lifts the spirit. It's something that is hard to pinpoint, but it lingers in the chilly December air around us. We have little reminders everywhere- small decorations in grocery stores, Christmas trees tied to the roofs of cars, holiday displays in stores, the surfacing of ugly holiday sweaters... people are excited. The year is coming to an end and people need a break from school and work. It's always a happy and eventful time of the year, but also one that is stressful. Go to the local mall and people are crowded in stores, waiting in lines, furiously shopping and preparing gifts. That nagging responsibility to buy gifts is stuck in the back of your mind. Sometimes it's good to just take a step back and smile, to appreciate all the winter holiday cheer without being buried in the stress.

The best part to the winter holidays is getting to spend some time with the family, though. With school over (thankfully), I can really take some time to just relax. The gifts and food are nice too, but it's important not to focus on them so much that you neglect the really important things in your life. Take a moment to really talk with your siblings. Watch a movie with your parents. Go out shopping with friends to spend time together with them and not necessarily to buy gifts. Though we're a bit lacking in snow in Syracuse this year, I still love the entire winter season and all the excitement leading up to New Year's. These are some of the best moments of the year, and I want to make sure I don't miss them. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bracelets to Change the World

I've always been a bracelet person. I like the individuality that comes with wearing something so simple and yet subtly noticeable. They're comfortable and not as bulky as watches. They come in just about every color and pattern. And for me, wearing a bracelet is like making a commitment- I always wear them for an extended period of time, for as long as I can. Whether it's one my friend made or one I bought one from some sort of fundraising event, I like to wear the bracelet until 1) it falls off from wear 2) I lose it 3) I'm forced to take it off during the school soccer season according to the rules of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. (And even then I made sure to put it back on after the game).

I don't think I'll ever completely forget any of the bracelets I've worn during my life. Like songs, bracelets too can be tied to memories or certain periods of my life. Like the plain brown one I made at Sabattis Boy Scout Camp way back when, or the white-green-blue-black one I wore when my family went back to Taiwan to visit relatives, or the Salvation bracelet I made this past summer with my elementary small group at church. They looked something like this, and were especially meaningful to me because the colors explained and reminded me of my faith.

Other people certainly know what I'm talking about when I say I get attached to my bracelets. Some of my buddies on the soccer team never took off their bracelets or headbands during the season and taped them down instead, claiming that they were their "lucky bracelets" for all the games. There's also so many variations of the Livestrong bracelet out there that people seem to have their own personal version/combinations on their wrists at any given time.

The thing that really popularized Livestrong bracelets and just bracelets in general, I think, is the strong association they have with cause or mission. Livestrong bracelets were originally founded to raise funds for cancer, and have sold as many as 80 million individual bands so far. Other fundraisers consistently use bracelets as an eloquent and attractive way to make profit as well as spread popularity and awareness.

The one I'm wearing right now, pictured above , is a bracelet I bought at my church to help support a mission  trip to Guatemala. It's a constant reminder on my right wrist to pray for those less fortunate in the world and also for those who may not know God.

And the way I see it, bracelets have and will be a way to change the world. A few weeks ago, my school held an assembly to talk about the Invisible Children organization and showed the video Tony, a powerful documentary detailing the story of how young people across the nation have been rising up to help the children their age in northern Uganda. For years the area has been plagued by war, riveted with violence and child abduction led by Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army that is responsible for much of the war. Invisible Children is a non-profit organization that is looking to raise funds to provide education and scholarships to students in Uganda, to improve village and refuge camp conditions, and to create global awareness to pass legislation and suppress some of the terrorist actions led by Joseph Kony. The bracelet campaign by Invisible Children as explained here is something truly motivating. It ties in everything there is to say about the situation in Africa, and makes the contribution that much more personal and memorable by including a story about a child in need.

After the assembly at my school and some time spent watching all the videos on the Invisible Children website, there's a profound emotion that's still pulling at me. 75% of you right now are reading this from somewhere in the U.S. Another 20% are from the United Kingdom or Canada. How many children in Africa do you think have access to the internet? How many in northern Uganda even have a safe home to return to? And I'm not saying we should just focus all our attention on Africa- there are so many parts of the world that are not as privileged as we are. They're not fortunate enough to have basic amenities or a place to stay. Half a million Americans are homeless right now. And yet all I'm doing right now to help them is typing on a computer screen, sitting in a chair and wondering how much of an impact words really have. We HAVE the resources to make things right in the world. All we lack is time and effort and commitment. Which is why I like the bracelet campaign so much, because having something to wear really reminds you and keeps you conscious of the things outside your own life. So could bracelets change the world? Maybe. But the awareness that they bring would be a pretty good start. 

Daft Hands - Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

This song brings back memories of working out over the summer at LeMoyne college. Great song, but this person takes creativity to a whole other level. Seriously, who has time to think up something like this? Kudos to them I say, I was bored for the first 50 seconds but was smiling for the whole rest of the video.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Finding Your Identity in Life

I am here. The peak of my senior year, the youngest I will ever be for the rest of my life. So many possibilities and dreams before me, so many decisions and opportunities awaiting my first footsteps. I have 17 years of life, experience, and knowledge behind me, yet I wonder- how can one not be petrified to continue stepping into the vast unknown? I'm almost done travelling through this gigantic, dark underground tunnel we like to call high school. College is approaching, and I can almost feel the light on the other side. (Well, I don't actually give my high school enough credit- it may be a dark underground tunnel, but it's filled with flashing neon signs and all kinds of cool illuminated objects, floating memories, loud, pumping techno music, and the laughter of close friends).

It's been quite the journey- late nights laboring over homework, agonizing over questions in numerous textbooks, staring at a computer screen with sleep-deprived eyes for half the night to finish essays, trying to stay awake during class... and what has it all been for? To get into college. But now that that's said and done, what's to become of the rest of my life? I'm no longer swimming through a multitude of deadlines, projects, scholarships, homework, and obligations, so what becomes of my time?

I'm using it to find myself. For the past twelve years, school and grades have been such a large part of my identity, and for good reason, too- when you spend so much of your time and effort into one thing, it starts to  naturally become a part of you. We all have definitions of ourselves, definitions of our existences, and deep down, school has always been a part of it. I'm only now starting to realize the scope of my life that comes after school ends, my whole life ahead of me. School has done a great job in preparing me with an education, but the true test comes afterwards. It's during these next few decades that I'll really find my purpose and identity.

Let me explain further. I've always been a relatively competitive person, something that came about from being a top student in school and being around others who similarly worked hard to be the best. It was a contradicting side to me, because I don't like to be competitive and I hate the pressure that comes along with it. But I would naturally compare myself to others, to try to gauge my own merit, to have a piece of identity to tie myself to. Everyone does it, I think, but people have varying degrees of how they show it or deal with it internally. At any rate, I do it to feel secure in myself and my identity. I'll be the first to admit that I used it to rationalize failure as well... "Oh, I did worse on that test, but at least I'm still better at sports." We all play the game where we internally compare talents and traits to others, something that is extremely hard to refrain from when you have friends of similar talent and accomplishment. There's a fine line between admiration and jealousy, I've found, and it's hard to control which side of it you feel most, even if you can control which side of it you show. You congratulate your friend and shower them with compliments, but secretly you feel a bit sick to the stomach because they achieved something great and you didn't.

It's not the most positive topic to talk about, but it's something I feel the need to address because we all experience it. In the end, I think it's character that determines how you control your competitive nature. You might be bitter at first that your friend got the lead role in the play, but bitterness eventually gives way to joy for your friend- pure, untarnished joy for what they've done and accomplished. And there is hope because that too, is an inherent characteristic to humans in my opinion. And so comes the ultimate question- how do you control your jealousy in those types of situations? How can you be happy with yourself without worrying about others? Competition certainly isn't bad, and it's definitely brought out the best of me these past few years, in all aspects of my life, but there comes a time when I just want to shed all of that and truly be happy with my own identity.

I think that time is now. I've come to accept that there will always be people out there who are better than me, whether it's at soccer (okay I realized that a long time ago), sports in general, music, writing, studying, or any combination of the above. There are unbelievable people out there, and it's hard to have faith in your own worth and talents. So how do you differ from 99% of the other people who aren't "the best." Passion and attitude. Those two things alone, I believe, greatly define people from high school and on through life. Back to the tunnel scenario- academics and the gain of knowledge are represented by the tunnel itself and the tracks I was moving along on. But all the other things, the embellishments and the rainbow streaks and the lights- they represent the clubs I've joined, the sports I've played, and the music groups I was a part of- the whole rest of the high school experience that many people overlook. Those are the passions I've developed. Sure, I wasn't first chair in band all the time, but I loved playing music and I love playing duets with my brother or other people on various instruments. I might not get recruited for Division I soccer, but it's still my favorite sports and brings me immense satisfaction. So really, in the end, it doesn't matter how you compare to others in the world in terms of pure accomplishment or talent. Not many of us will reach a point where they can truly say they are the best at something (unless your name happens to be Usain Bolt, for example), so in the end it's how you view life that's important (quite the paradox, huh, you live life to discover how best to view life).

And that makes ALL the difference. For a lot of kids who were at the top of their class in high school, college comes as a shock because it's a whole new ball game. Because they built their whole identity on being the "best," their self-image crumbles when they meet all these amazing people just like them, if not better. For me, contrary to feeling self-conscious about that, I feel pumped and extremely lucky. I'm excited to meet all these incredible people in college, and hopefully I'll learn a lot from them and be inspired by their accomplishments. I've decided that when I finally get there, however, I won't feel pressured to compete with them. I'll simply forge my own identity by being honest and true to myself. And with that mindset, I feel pretty invincible. School's ending, but at the end must come a beginning- the beginning to to the rest of my life. The beginning to explore the passions I've discovered during high school. The beginning to do the things I want to pursue for my sake and no one else's. One of those things for me, for example, is travelling and seeing the world, like the guy in this video. (A friend of mine showed me this video the other day, and it totally made my day- I was grinning throughout the entire video)

So even if you're like me and haven't really found your identity, just keep on celebrating life and you'll get there. I hate the idea of "finding a niche," but I think it's a reality of the world. We can't do everything, or strive to be the best in everything, so choose the things that matter the most to you. In fact, I think it's harder to choose what NOT to do in your life. That's why I love writing in this blog- at least for now, I'm free to write about anything and everything that crosses my mind. Sure, all the blog experts insist that successful blogs only focus on one issue or one particular niche, but I haven't yet decided if I can do that to myself. The same goes for college- I haven't decided which path I want to take, but I trust that the choice will come to me eventually. When it comes, though, I'll embrace it as finding my own identity.

For me, especially, this whole thing goes along a lot with my faith, and giving up my life for God. Bible study, going to Saranac Village, and quiet reflection have lead me to the conclusion that faith in Jesus Christ is the best solution. He will lead me if I put my trust in Him, and glorifying and getting closer to Jesus becomes my purpose in life. Proverbs 3:5-6 continues to reassure me. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." And so I'm here, standing at the end of a tunnel, waiting for the light to come so I can see which path to take and how to trust my own identity.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wedding Dress- Taeyang (DJ Changsta remix)

Remixes are good. I love the original, but this song got me through my homework today. (You know, when you don't feel like doing any work, so you find an inspiring song on your ipod, listen to it fifty times on repeat, start dancing through the house in front of your confused parents, bob your head and drum your fingers in the air, and feel a rush of energy that propels you through an entire english essay and all your calc and chinese homework?) Music is such a lifesaver sometimes.

Matching your own standards

At what point do things become more of a matter of self-expectation than expectation from others? It's a feeling that's hard to explain. Everyone keeps mentioning that "oh, it's your senior year, you're basically done and can slack off." But there's something inside of me that refuses to just let everything go. Of course, people with senioritis don't completely forgo work, but it's the mindset of "I don't care" that starts to influence their work. I got a test grade that was much lower than usual a few weeks ago and I felt myself grappling with a similar situation. A part of me wanted to blow it off, but another part of me was berating myself for the low grade. No matter where you might be throughout your senior year, it's never a good feeling to achieve less than what you know you can achieve.

I guess it's something hardwired into my brain. It was just that feeling of "darn, I could've done better" that stuck with me the rest of the day. I get it all the time when I miss easy questions or get points taken off for careless mistakes. So at that point, I was trying to differentiate between being apathetic and accepting it and moving on. I definitely understand the whole senioritis concept but I don't think my brain will ever let me be totally careless about all my schoolwork. Or any work, for that matter. I was in the library the other day volunteering and shelving books. I had a huge cart of children's picture books and was dutifully shelving them alphabetically (well what other way would you shelve them?) when I saw a bunch of books misplaced on a shelf. I could've just skipped over it, thinking that it wasn't my problem, as long as I did my part right. But I couldn't. There was that twinge of guilt, that prodding of my conscious, that even against my rationale and will, forced me to go back and rearrange all the picture books on the shelf so that it matched my internal standards. Orrrr it was just a hint of my OCD, but I guess I'll leave that up to you.