The Continuing Limbo

feel a tightness in my chest

only to realize

i’ve been holding my breath

its been a dry well

parched for awhile

 

nevertheless

i bundle up every night

and eavesdrop on

conversations i will never be 

a part of

i’ve always existed in a continuum

of being in between

because i never truly fit in

despite trying

living a life of limbo

 

(Afterthoughts)

In some way or another we can relate to this. Sometimes we are caught in between, pressured to choose between two identities/groups. Yet maybe we can live in the middle. We don’t have to choose either one. Its possible, that we can inhabit two identities and yet still be, a whole person. Indeed that is something we all have to learn to be comfortable with, living in the crux of in betweens. If we can understand that some truths manifest in shades of gray instead of black and white, surely we wear more than one identity/label for ourselves.

I catch myself always having to choose between two identities. Are you Chinese or Malay? Are you a member of clique A or clique B? Introvert or extrovert? Liberal or conservative? Why do you remain ever so mysterious?

Just as I am pressured to ascribe to one identity, I back away quickly from both sides. And that is how I continuously live in a limbo. Just as I start getting closer to a group of friends, I catch myself wondering if I truly belong or just merely a visitor. What am I in this space? Am I a stranger-turned-member? Maybe I want to live in that shade of gray, neither one or another, just so I can understand both sides of the conversation. Outsiders to the group tell me their unsolicited opinions about the group. Granted, their views are valid. But being in the group also makes me understand the members and strangely I feel at home there too. I don’t intentionally choose to be occupying two spaces and be a stranger and a member all the same. I just find myself in such circumstances. Nevertheless, this limbo comes with the anxiety of asking myself, “Should I intervene when I sense conflict?”, “Should I tell them what people think of them?” or even importantly, “What if I got it all wrong and things are actually not as they seem?”.

However, wearing multiple identities has its perks too. It means you can mix with both groups, yet never be fully categorized as either one. It also means more social invitations from both groups. If I ever needed to take a step back, I can be alone, and contemplate my place in the group or identities people associate me with. In the end, ideally I hope we don’t ever have to need labels to truly identify where and how we have come to belong in a place. Labels, identities are necessary for us to find meaning in communities we choose to engage in, but these labels will only be a part of us, never to define us.

I’m not struggling with these identities anymore. I am content with being neither one or another, because it has allowed me to live in the grayest shade. I will not let labels define me.

Designers and Dreamers: Stress, Ability, and Capability

taubman courtyard lights at sunset
photographed exclusively by @themichiganarchitect instagram

Apparently it has only been a month since college had first started back up. Yet, how do I feel so beat already? Is it me? Or is it my habits that are the issue?

I have spoken to many classmates and friends, and they’ve all given various responses as to how they feel at this moment of the semester. Some are super chill, living their life as they’d like to. Others are just barely scraping by, rarely showering, eating, and (if they’re lucky) sleeping. So, what’s the diversity from? Do some people just work or study more efficiently or something that others, or is it just mostly because of the different scheduling due to major and types of classes?

Ya’ll know I’m gonna say that it will most likely be a mixture of both.

Like they all say, “everyone is different.” Even with the academic motivations, skills, and level of stress.

Of course, as college students, we are constantly learning from every experience of our everyday lives, and our brains are still developing, constantly rewiring new skills, and deleting past ones sometimes.

So, “what’s the point of this post?” you may ask.

Well, it’s more of an opinionated informative piece on this topic.

Sometimes, it is the most simple, mundane things in life that we should be most interested in taking time to improve. Not necessarily asking you to re-learn how to brush your teeth (though I’m sure it would be useful with the amount of cavities and oral issues college students commonly have), but maybe taking time to re-evaluate ourselves fairly. I was once asked by a friend of mine, “How do you evaluate your self worth? Is it through your work? Or is it through your aspirations for your work? (work as in course assignments)?” I’d had a hard time putting together the words of my thought at the time, but as short as the question was, it holds a lot of weight and definition in life.

As an architecture student, we are constantly taught how to re-see spaces, tap into our imaginations, and look deepx

into mundane topics for the sparks of our project ideas. As great as that may be for our creativity and model-making skills, how does this system of education support our own mental worth? I suppose it is similar in other fields as well, but I feel that at least in design (art and architecture and anything in that general sector), lessons can be easily taken to the heart.

Our projects are born from our minds, our thoughts, and may even pull from memories for structure. Furthermore, our projects are essentially our life during the semester; if I’m not in bed or showering, I am literally always at my studio cranking out the construction of my models. This accounts for the stress, and constant anxiety around grades and competition. In studio, surrounded by countless talented folks working just as hard as you, it really is hard not to look around and see a battlefield. (Not to mention, there are moments of literal bloodshed when you find your exacto knife had slipped right into your skin at 2am.) And, for those who struggle with even just formulating an idea, or the lack of knowledge of construction techniques, studio sometimes feels like a place to prove yourself, and create your self worth through educational struggles. But, the best part is yet to come. So, you’ve spent the whole week being antisocial, rarely eating, scarcely sleeping, or even showering, and your project is finally finished, yay! Now, it’s time for the review, where your professor and a few guest critics come and evaluate your work and give feedback publicly after you present. For many, reviews make or break the ego. If it goes well, our ego soars, we feel at the top of the world. If the review is mortifying, we feel embarrassed, and worthless, and like a total failure for “wasting” so much time and hope during the construction process. Then, the next project is assigned, and we gotta do it all over again…

The point is, life does suck sometimes, and we are all allowed to set our own standards and have our own habits. It’s just that I wanted to say that we need to still recognize our own strengths through all of this, and NOT place our self worth into our works’ products. Just because you worked hard, doesn’t guarantee you will score an A in the course, or show that you’re the most intelligent or talented or something. Working hard builds character, an essential pillar to being a person. Learning slowly but surely transports you from crappy to excellent. Likewise, your portfolio, which I am sure that you definitely took the time and effort to make it look presentable and illustrate your best works, is definitely not an accurate representation of who you are; a portfolio is simply a visual attempt for employers to get to know you better in terms of your personality and style and technical abilities. With that said, just try your best to create your portfolio, and I want to remind yourself that the only person you should be battling in this process is yourself. Don’t look at your neighbor’s project, look at your own, and learn off of your mistakes. It is not fair to compare yourself to others when you do not share experience in your backgrounds, and then try to compare your results.

To all my fellow Wolverine designers and dreamers out there, keep shooting for the stars, and I know you’ll land there 🙂

Money

Money. This thin green paper with some famous person’s face and a number printed onto it. Smaller than a letter-sized sheet of print paper, yet people say it is valuable enough to purchase happiness.
Money is a funny thing. It comes and goes. It goes more easily than it comes. Especially when it comes to college. Need money? Simple, right? Get a job! Yeah… not quite so easy. I was a research assistant for a lab last year, and it was great, I earned a considerable amount of money. This year, I stuck with the lab, but more assistants were hired and now we fight for shifts; money came less easily from that one job. So I looked for another; I applied to many. Heard from none.

Am I really that awful a candidate? So awful that people won’t even respond to my email even to say “no” to me when I ask for an internship?

It makes me realize how much power money has over me, and many other people in the world. Money drives so many of people’s decisions.

It’s the holidays. Need gifts? Spend some money. Don’t got money? Go get some! Yeah… some people are stuck with robbing or thieving.

So, you’re a college student and you finally made some time for fun! Oh right, it’s Ann Arbor, what is fun here? Eating? Drinking? The arcade? How about the mall? Hmmm my wallet’s empty, so are my friends.

You’re moving out of town soon to go home for summer break. Awesome right? Well jeez, I’ve accumulated so much stuff, now I need to get rid of it… But how? Donate it? Hmm I need some money still… Maybe I’ll sell it! ‘$5 New without tag shirt from Macy’s’: customer reaction: ‘Can I get this for $3?’ It’s just a two dollar difference! One discount that I really don’t want to make, but I know I should or else I won’t get any money back for the things I’m selling, and I feel petty for not reducing! But then, shouldn’t the customer also know I’m super broke and need at least some value back for the things I’m selling, as I am already selling at a super low cost? It’s crazy, a dollar, or even two, makes such a large difference in determining how much stuff I can sell.

Money. So small, yet so powerful. It can make me happy, it can make me sad. Is money an antagonist to my story?

 

A chair versus a skyscraper… how different could they be?

I was at the Start Up Career Fair last Friday, talking with a few representatives of the furniture company Floyd, and my conversation with them struck my interest in the question: how different are architecture and furniture, really?
People say that architecture studies humanities to build spaces for humans to live their lives in. Sounds good. But when it comes to furniture, it’s almost as if nobody really cares about it; we take it for granted.
To me, my conversation with the Floyd team resonated with our beliefs that architecture and furniture design are really basically the same thing- the only difference is their sizing scale. This is our argument, which I’d love for any of you readers to comment on whether or not you agree!
1. Both architecture and furniture deal with societies and their habits.
2. Both architecture and furniture’s goals are for the design and aesthetics to be one and the same thing within itself.
3. Both architecture and furniture have the power to change our lifestyles.
4. Both architecture and furniture require stable engineering and general understanding of physics in order to function.
5. Both architecture and furniture fields have the power to influence one another throughout history.

Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear some thoughts!

That Time of the Year

There is something about the sun going down so early – around this time of the year – that makes all the pressures of unfinished assignments all the more feverish. This eventuality of shorter days never crosses my mind until I finally notice that I have already fallen into a tired and somber attitude.
How easy it is to be ignorantly believing that everything is together and then quickly disintegrating into blah blah attitudes that bear no weight to anything, and in that absence of anything concrete, how disparate everything can be should you not tie each task, emotion, or thought with something that has weight and a semblance of togetherness.
By no means am I saying I sit with hopeless emptiness on my couch in my apartment as I write this blog post. No, this isn’t meant to sound depressing at all. The only reason why I remain happy is because I have to be. Also, listening to Feist’s Mushaboom helps a lot, but not really at the same time. Sometimes, if the moment is just not right, a song as happy as that makes me more tired and sad than I was before.
Another thing that helps, is writing, as much as I can. And when I am not typing or writing longhand on sheets of paper that I find strewn across my desk or in my little black notebook, I am thinking about writing. However, more broadly speaking, I keep thinking about English as an art form.
I guess what I am trying to say, is that keeping my mind occupied is a greater force to fend off the lulls of energy during this time of the year in comparison to delusional fantasies of happiness that are brought on by listening to Mushaboom.
In fear of this article becoming needlessly and annoyingly pretentious, because I am sincerely lacking material today for this blog post, I will cut this article short. I would rather not blab on about nonsense. For God’s sake, parts of this post are already nonsense.
Maybe I should just switch up my song choice, because I can’t be thinking about writing all the time, I got other stuff on my mind too.
Maybe I will listen to the It Ain’t Me Baby or some song by Haim or maybe…oh oh! I got it! Changes by Bowie.

Spontaneous! 4 Days Early

At the beginning of this year, I made the goal to actively learn something everyday. Call it a “New Year’s Resolution,” call it a “goal,” call it an aspiration: to be more self-reflective in the ways I grow and change and develop and (mis)form and queer and . . . and . . . .

I realized a couple days ago that my need/instinct to control everything about my life (planning, organizing, etc.) was getting in the way of me actually living. It got in the way of me interacting with others, myself, and the world. “I learned that I am stuck in a routine from which I cannot currently escape.”

Change it up. Be more spontaneous.

Instead of planning for things a week in advance (and not allowing myself to do activities that happen unexpectedly) I stopped. WHAT?! My Google calendar is still in full force but I have open gaps that I have my “spontaneous time.” If people ask me to do something tomorrow, I actually try to see if I can fit them in or see if I have free time instead of falling back on the usual, “Oh, I need to study,” or worse, “I’m too busy.”

Instead of loathing and meditating and harboring deep angst and anxiety about unexpected changes, I’m taking deep breaths, I’m listening to Jazz, and smelling the new fresh spring smell and moving forward.

Oh! So a snow storm hits and an event you’ve been planning for months at work falls through. Move on, replan, reschedule, breathe.

Oh! So a friend asks you to coffee and you DO have a half hour. Go get coffee.

Oh! So your lover will be in a nearby building and is on break for 15 minutes. Go walk over and say hello and catch up.

Simple things. Simple changes. Simple. Simple. Simple.

Well almost simple. It’s that time of the month (full moon time!) where I set aside reflective time to reevaluate, feel myself and the world, and meditate on living (4 days to go!). And as the cliche goes: all good things come in moderation.

My spontaneity has freed me and, also, stressed me out. It’s important to have balance, and I’m working at it.

A book came to me that I need to write (while reading Virginia Woolf) last week. So I’m going to write it. I’ve never really written prose fiction, but, you know what, now is the time.

And, for me, spontaneity is allowing me to explore, create, and begin my days a new. Something that hasn’t happened for a very long time.