Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)

A most untraditional love story, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks them in the bonds of love.

The interesting thing about this story was that I had heard about it a long time ago, and all I knew was that time-traveling was involved. I'm a huge fan of time-traveling stories, and my impression was that this was a sci-fi, so my boyfriend picked up this book for me. We both discovered that it was a romance, and he gave up on it, haha, but I continued reading. No regrets.

  • For me, the beginning started out intriguing but confusing. There are a lot of elements about time-traveling that they don't quite explain in the book at first, but things get cleared up along the way if you keep reading. However, this makes it a little inconvenient if you're the type to pick a book back up after several days of not reading it.
  • I loved how the author wrote the chapters; they weren't necessarily in chronological order (which sometimes doesn't even make sense anyway, due to the whole time-traveling aspect) but in an order that was able to build up suspense. The pacing of the chapters also helped in creating the suspense. Some chapters were longer than others, but none were unbearably boring or unhelpful, and I liked the details.
  • For some reason, I thought Henry's character started off uncharming. There didn't seem to be anything extraordinary about him, aside from the obvious genetic mishap. But he begins to grow on you as he matures.
  • No matter what you think of Clare, it's hard not to respect this woman for her never-ending supply of patience and strength reflected in her faithfulness. Just... wow. Sometimes though, when her writing style changed to appropriately match her agitation (think long run-on sentences with many "and"'s on end), I got annoyed because it just seems like a very "edgy" thing some authors do when they want minimal effort while appearing super melodramatic. I feel like you can get your point across without dramatically changing the character's narration flow.
  • Also speaking of which, this book is very dramatic. Which is lovely in its own way, but can also come across as hopelessly romantic and a little surreal. The main characters' love story and a few of the side characters (Kimy especially) were the only things that felt real - the rest were a little bit over-the-top, like something you'd see in Hollywood. For instance, Gomez obsessing over Clare for so many years while Charisse was popping out his kids seemed ridiculous. And Ingrid killing herself because of Henry. Even Henry's dad is a little crazy because of love. Everybody acts very Shakespeare-esque because of love, and it's hard to connect that with the other little parts of life. Work (like seriously, academia or actual ambitions) are hardly mentioned. Even friendship isn't as touched upon.
  • Then again, all the characters are artists of some sort. This may be why they seem to play and love all day.
  • The barely-there sci-fi component was probably the most annoying part of the book, in my honest opinion. I liked that the author reached out to be original and explain how the time-traveling gene works, but the genetics explanation also seemed very dumbed-down. Obviously, it wasn't a big part of the novel, but I felt like they just gave us a very basic understanding of how genes work and not really anything substantial about the actual mutation itself, like how it could have occurred (gene/environment interaction?) or the potential damage/success scientists could take from studying such a mutation.
  • The twists along the way were well-implemented - good job, Mrs. Niffenegger, I was not expecting any of those that you threw our way. The quotes about time in the beginning of each part were poignant and particularly relevant, and just made the audience feel more strongly about this love that surpassed even the obstacle of time. In the end, all that suspense built really created something beautiful and powerful. Maybe I'm just emotional, but I did start crying at the end, and that was what told me that this was a really good book.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card (1985)

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut - young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. Back on Earth, Peter and Valentine forge an intellectual alliance and attempt to change the course of history.

This futuristic tale involves aliens, political discourse on the Internet, sophisticated computer games, and an orbiting battle station. Yet the reason it rings true for so many is that it is first and foremost a tale of humanity; a tale of a boy struggling to grow up into someone he can respect while living in an environment stripped of choices. Ender's Game is a must-read book for science fiction lovers, and a key conversion read for their friends who "don't read science fiction."

  • First of all, I don't consider myself a sci-fi lover. I like some sci-fi novels, but growing up with a dad who was a mostly exclusively sci-fi avid reader, I wouldn't consider myself a "science fiction lover". That being said, I thought this was a fantastic book and I would absolutely recommend it to anybody, sci-fi lover or not. 
  • You get a lot of interesting comparisons between personalities in the book: Peter vs. Valentine, Ender vs. Peter, Ender vs. Valentine, Locke vs. Desmothemes, etc. Leadership styles clash, political turmoil occurs, and the environment is confined and restrained, even down on Earth or in the Internet world. It makes you really think.
  • Ender's struggles throughout the novel really makes the entire books. The sci-fi aspects are just a bonus, for those who love the space setting. What makes this book really interesting is watching a child genius struggle under the weight of pressure and psychological manipulations. In the end, he is molded into this whole other Ender, but all of these obstacles have allowed him to prevail in "saving" humanity, even with these fed lies.
  • I really liked how this book was very intelligently-written. There's a lot of politics in this alternate universe, some history and physics lessons, military tactics, and some interesting psychology/sociology amidst Ender's interactions with the other kids and with the teachers.
  • The ending was great. The plot twists were great. The explanations behind the aliens were great. The important parts in the book were all well-implemented, without seeming cliche or forced.
  • I do wish they developed Peter a little more. He seems like a very promising character with a greater role to play. However, all I really got out of him was that he was Ender's greatest enemy until Battle Station, he was a ruthless genius behind two Internet figures who became immensely popular, and that Ender continued fearing him (or being just like him) even after many years. In the end, he's referenced again as the reason why Ender can't go back to Earth, and some other things happen, but I was a bit disappointed with how that ended.
  • The ending part with the queen bugger really confused me. I won't say more, for fear of spoiling it, but - what in the world was all that with the giant mountain and all those familiar icons from the games Ender played at Battle Station? I still don't understand how that ended up there, even though it was supposedly a "message." But I suppose the buggers have always been the mysterious backdrop throughout the novel. Nobody understands how they communicate with each other (though there are theories), or why they attacked us, etc.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Saturday, December 13, 2014


I've taken the Melatonin 3 mg and I think I'm about ready to sleep, but there's some stuff going on in my head that won't let me rest peacefully and after five long days of eight-hour shifts as a pharmacy intern in a small, independent compounding-retail pharmacy, I really need this sleep.

I'm really scared of a lot of things right now, but it gets harder to talk about them with anyone, let alone an online blog. It's this whole professionalism vs. personal issue that's at stake here... On one hand, I want to release some of my anxiety, in a sort of selfish way, among my former peers back in Texas, but on the other hand, I worry that I'll just get myself in trouble or they might see me differently.

It's not like I'm doing anything seriously detrimental or remotely illegal (and if I were, I'd be very stupid to confess it online), but I feel like I've transformed into this whole other person that my old friends can't really like and maybe I can't even really like this new person I've become, yet I can't revert back to my old self. It's SAD - seasonal affective disorder. I had the same thing last year around the same time, I'm pretty sure, where I was reclusive all the time and uninterested in everything.

Anyway, a few days ago I told R that I didn't want to see him. It was probably the hardest and most selfless thing I'd ever done, but I'm not really proud of it because that meant I had to break a promise. At the same time though, I keep telling myself that it was well-justified, and that in the end, it would hurt much less. If I were really selfish, I would covet this visit and leave satisfied knowing that he wasn't over me, and that would be about it. I wouldn't think even further down the road about the people I could potentially hurt (him, me, his future significant others or my future significant others), and I would just be impulsive about things. I already feel so bad about the Austin visit... As ridiculous as it may sound, I'd rather leave the past behind. I loved those times so much, and I still do, even thinking back on it, but I don't ever want him to feel obliged or haunted by me, and I feel horrible about making someone else sad, especially if I care about them. I think it'll make the transition onwards much easier now, so we can move on. But then, doing what I did made me feel sick to the stomach, especially after I realized that he will probably never look at me the same way again. It always hurts, I guess. Losing the first person you ever really open yourself up to.

There's so many more losses to go through, I'm sure, and I'm still so young. I need to get used to this sort of stuff.

And then I also don't want to be particularly sad about things or make other people sad by telling them how life sucks, etc. I can't even tell A about this sort of thing, even though I used to always ask her for advice. It's such a Debbie Downer topic. I tell myself that she understands me, how lonely I feel most of the time, how much I miss her, but then she seems a little more preoccupied with work and her boyfriend, which I can also understand. We all have our own lives now. But I do wish that she could actually plan out a time to see me over winter break and not subjectively "hope" to see me. I'm the sort of person who needs concrete plans, otherwise I get convinced that it'll never go through, and after more than 10 years of friendship, I thought she'd understand.

It's so reassuring having S and B to talk to. I feel like they're my only two real friends from pharmacy school... In professional school, everyone seems to have their own life where it's hard to pencil in new people. Nobody really cares to make friends as much as they did in undergraduate, haha. Either way, I'm grateful for their presence, especially S who is always 100% supportive of me.

Okay, I think the Melatonin is really kicking in... It's been a long day. It's been a long week. Hell, it's just been a long year in general. I need a break, but I'm an idiot and I never have any idea what to do when I finally catch a break, so I went ahead and applied for jobs and ended up getting full shifts over this winter break. So that'll be fun. That's why I'm always stressed, haha. Ugh, I need to get over it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

This Thanksgiving Holiday

I'm sorry, I've been meaning to update for a while now but haven't had the heart/time to. My last draft of a post was about "Shopping Therapy," but then it felt so superficial that I had to discard it halfway through. After my last couple of posts, which have been focusing more on the personal, I didn't want to post about the price of the materialistic things I bought.

It's been really weird transitioning from a college sophomore into a PY1, from undergraduate to professional school student, from Texas to North Carolina, from UT to UNC. Admittedly, I am still learning a lot about UNC and still have no idea where half of the buildings on campus are, but as a pharmacy school student, there's really never a reason to venture outside of the following three places: the pharmacy school itself (which consists of two buildings), the Health Science Library (and even then it's iffy because the pharm school has free coffee and printing, which are the only two reasons I ever go to the library), and the Beach for days where I forget lunch.

It's strange looking outside in the morning and seeing fog. It's even stranger driving around and seeing such tall trees. I love it here though; it's so pretty in the fall. The campus is absolutely stunning, and getting to walk around Duke University is a rare privilege that I never thought I'd ever be able to casually receive. (As a Tar Heel, I know I shouldn't say that because Dook sucks, but honesty, they have a gorgeous campus that somewhat resembles Disney World, in my opinion.)

Professional school is so different from undergraduate too. I have friends who ask me every so often how pharmacy school is different, and I try to look for words to explain and realize... there's just so much. I don't want to start rambling, so generally, I just tell them that the students are older and that there is much more self-discipline involved, both of which are very true.

It's not necessarily... more competitive here. Or maybe it is. But it's hard to explain how. Every classmate I have met here wants residency, and so they're going all out for high GPA, different professional fraternities, a hospital job at Duke or UNC, etc. At the same time though, we're like a huge family - everybody's looking out for each other, we're all helping each other any way we can, and I really like that vibe. I haven't came across a single person who seems manipulative or stingy. I guess everyone just has really high standards for themselves, which is suitable for a person like me, because I've always been that way too, and so I really love feeling like a part of a group of extremely motivated people. Nobody deters me from going over and beyond the requirement, and I'm always busy, which is nice.

In the past, nobody has ever explicitly said it, but people like A and L would look at me like I was crazy for wanting to take on more projects and they often said things that made me feel as if I was "trying" too hard. Like, "oh, well if you wanna be an overachiever..." or "what's the point of ____?" For instance, when I was a preceptor for Microbio or when I was taking up a professor's offer to get coffee together.

Anyway, it's going to be a little lonely for the rest of the week because everybody's going home for Thanksgiving break and I decided not to. Now that I've seen my apartment parking lot, I'm wondering if I made the wrong decision, but then I tell myself there's a lot I need to work on, and hopping on the plane for a total of 8 hours (not to mention layover and travel time) and spending hundreds of dollars for plane tickets wouldn't be worth it. I can't work very well at home, with my family around anyway. I'm telling myself we have all of winter break to catch up, and so that's one thing to look forward to get through next week.

Halloween with my pledge brothers! We dressed up as inappropriate and amateur crayons.

The officers of the 2014 pledge class of Kappa Psi... Vice president, historian, secretary/treasurer, social chair, and president from left to right!

Dinner at Monterrey's with the bigs/littles!

Then volunteering at Durham Rescue Mission with my pledge brothers:
And then of course, Thanksgiving dinner with Kappa Psi! Faculty and professors were invited, it was a great networking opportunity, not to mention free food. I made the gravy, hadn't expected such a big crowd of people to show up, and then felt bad because it ran out too quickly.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th of July

Got a free tshirt from the leasing office of my apartments! Reasons to love living in Austin, I suppose...

I went to the mall to get a few things that were on sale for this holiday, and ended up buying a nice thin cardigan for only $7 at Hollister. My friends, L and C, stopped by to chat and eat lunch with me, and it was all fairly nice. I felt kind of bad for L - he drove two hours down from Burnet to hang out with a group of friends, but in the end, only C was really available to hang out with him for the entire day. That must've felt pretty shitty. I hadn't made any promises in the first place, but I told him I'd be glad to see them if they wanted to drop by, and it was nice to see them again.

Then I spent the rest of this Independence Day with R. We kept hearing firecrackers but never saw anything... I was a little disappointed because I thought UT's main tower would at least be lit or patriotically decorated, but there didn't seem to be anything like that. Our original plans had sounded really fun, but that couldn't be carried out either.

Then again, it is just 4th of July. I've never particularly paid much attention to this holiday. I think I was just looking forward to this one because I've been craving a reason to go out and do things and celebrate, but I suppose that would've been a celebration for all the wrong reasons, huh..?

Monday, June 23, 2014

20th Birthday

It's weird finally being 20 years-old. I guess. Or actually, I don't know. It really doesn't feel any different from being 19 years-old, or even 18, I suppose. And that's how time gets you. It slips by in such a way that you don't even notice you're old until you are.

I don't believe I'm scared of getting old any more than I'm scared of death, but I'm scared that I'll age extremely ungracefully, with a lot of issues, both psychological and physical. I don't ever want to have loose folds of skin or have dementia. I'd like to be small, sweet, and petite even as I grow up. Hopefully I'll stay fairly attractive too and will have accomplished some great things. I'd like to have a loving husband without a trail of sticky divorces, bring in a steady flow of money with a job I can respect, and be able to travel the world.

I spent the first half of my birthday feeling extremely touched by the messages I received from close friends and family. In lab, J overheard something that made him realize it was my birthday, and he passed the word to K, L, and M. That was how I ended up with a banana, half a sandwich, and a cupcake - I'm sure they all pitied me and were half-amused that I was still naive enough to care about getting older. Still, the gesture was very sweet, and I was glad to have made some new friends in Austin.

R was extremely sweet to me and had bought an incredibly thoughtful gift. It was a lovely, sun-shaped necklace from a Texan brand. I had the most peculiar feeling when I opened up the case - it was such a nice necklace, and for a second, I felt almost as if I betrayed myself. I've been trying to remain so markedly unsentimental about leaving behind something that means a lot to me, but now I'm reminded every time I see it that somebody once loved and cared about me so much.

It's sort of hard. But at the same time, I'm so happy in this relationship... I don't want to forget things, I just don't want to be pathetic about my resolve to leave, you know? It's a difficult thing to think about, especially when you're young and uncertain about things... I don't know. I can't really talk about it just yet, and maybe I won't ever be able to, but I'm grateful for being with him for now.

We ate dinner together at California Pizza Kitchen, watched the bats at Congress Avenue Bridge (totally a weird idea, but it was my weird idea), and had ice cream. It was a wonderful day, and I got a good reminder that no matter how stressed out I am, I should always make time for the people and things I love.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Typical Friday Night

My mom called to tell me she was coming back from NC - but just where the hell am I going to live in Austin for the last two weeks of summer school, how am I going to make my way towards orientation when my finals (for those prereqs to get into pharm school, ironically) are supposed to be on the same week, and would I be comfortable living in a huge apartment with two girls and a guy?

Nothing was quite working out the way I wanted it to, and I was already feeling really tired and stressed, especially since the week before I had just resolved a huge annoying dilemma (asked special permission from the professor and advising office to switch Bio lab out from session 1 to session 2 so I can make it to that class without becoming late to all my other classes in turn). So right there, on the phone with my mom, I began hyperventilating.

I love her though, she's a great mom. She told me to just slow down and breathe deeply (which is not as easy as one might think, especially when your chest hurts and you're shaking and can't control your breathing, so that sort of annoyed me), but then she said:

"Hey, the whole housing situation in North Carolina, I'll deal with it. You, just focus on your studies, and don't stress out too much, okay?"

I really owe her one. I feel so alone in everything right now, and it really sucks because everything else is sort of weighing me down. Nothing seems to be fitting in my schedule, you know? The timing is just wrong.

I spent my Friday switching between feeling sick and lonely and desperate and crying, which is really pathetic, to studying stoically. It was the most awful feeling in the world. I had a sequential panic attack later on that night, triggered by my thoughts and not anything anybody said, and it was worse because when you're done with the first one, you already feel so drained and tired, but then you feel the second one coming on and you think to yourself, "Oh no, you can't let this happen, no, no," and then it happens. And the second one is usually harder to control. The whole thing took about 30 minutes before I stopped shaking and my chest stopped hurting and I could breathe properly again, but the recovery time took much longer. I don't know how others recover, and I wish I knew an easy way. All I can do is hold myself together and cry like a child, and it feels so pathetic.

I ended up calling R while crying during recovery time, and he was comforting, in a possibly humoring me sort of way, but still, it was nice. I haven't been able to hang out with him a lot because my schedule is so horrible, and every time I've seen him this week, it always concerns my Physics homework. So I was really grateful for that.

After we hung up, I then spent the rest of my Friday drinking the remainder of my roommate's vodka out on the patio and feeling so alone. It's funny how I used to laugh about her doing that - I always thought of drinking as a social activity, not as something to do on your own. Maybe it's because I miss them - my roommates, I mean. After a long day at school, I would come home to find D sitting on the couch, watching Big Bang Theory. I'd come and join her and we'd chat and laugh a little bit during the commercial breaks, and then Y would call to order pizza and come sit with us, and it was nice having support at home, not quite like a family, but a good substitute. But now I have no one to vent to. All of my closest friends are in Dallas or Korea or India, and in any case, I don't want to be a Debbie Downer and ruin their vacation time.

And I'm also so scared of being a whiny, clingy, needy little thing, just another one of life's burdens, and worse is the thought that I can't do what I thought I could do.

I feel depressed and miserable, and I can't tell anyone about it. I want to, but then it's also so embarrassing. They all think of me as the go-getter, the one who applies for everything and gets everything done with efficiently, but right now I'm just a mess and my motivational energy is at an all-time low. All I can do is vent in my blog, and feel a little better about how irrational my thoughts are.

(Wow, angst much? I think I'm going to stop right here. It already sounds ridiculous.)

I have support. My family and friends love me. I'll just have to stop thinking depressing thoughts and bite the bullet. In the end, it'll all be worth it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Little Bits of Crazy

It really sucks because recently, I've been getting panic attacks again, one or two times every week. Before that, I haven't had a panic attack since I was maybe 16 years-old, and so I went ahead and consulted Google to find out how I could minimize this frequency.

It turns out they're usually caused by major transitional life changes, stress (perhaps a shit load of summer classes and preparing for pharmacy school..?), and are maintained by a person with a temperament "more susceptible to stress." So naturally, I guess who I am makes me more vulnerable to panic attacks then, if those episodes are really what they are.

And if you've never had a panic attack before, consider it a blessing. They're really awful... You sound awful and irrational, even to yourself, and then you feel like there's absolutely no hope for whatever it is that triggered the reaction, and your chest hurts and you can't breathe properly and you can't get away because gosh, how do you escape your own body?

Anyway, I looked up other solutions, and here's what I plan to do now:

  • Take in less caffeine. Apparently, substances with a lot of caffeine can trigger panic attacks, so I should probably lay off the coffee.
  • Avoid alcohol. I've been drinking a little more recently (not outside my house, of course), just because it's so accessible now. But it makes me even more depressed now, so I'll stop.
  • Get more sleep. I think I'd be a lot more productive if I maybe slept for more than five hours. I used to be really good about sleeping, but now it's all out of whack and I feel so unmotivated.
  • Exercise. I'm thinking of taking up running again, since it used to always cheer me up. I'll clear up some time over the weekend.

I'm so glad that panic attacks are more common than I thought they were... I really thought I was just composed of little bits of crazy, you know? Because wow, it's not really a big deal, so what, I'm taking on a little more stress than I usually do, and my thoracic cavity goes into full-on freak out mode.

But I think it's just a temporary thing due to some minor lifestyle changes, and maybe I can get it fixed. Until next time!