Christmas Funnies!

“I really want to talk to my best friend!”

Strangely? That was the first thought I had this morning. I’ve been missing him by about ten minutes each time he popped online, and since he was spending Christmas in Portland and the time difference/his lack of a phone/rare wifi, I haven’t talked to him at all since school ended. We left each other messages on Skype, but getting to talk to him for about five minutes today was nice. But basically, he shared this comic with me, which I thought was funny:

Anyways, I hope everyone had their share of Christmas happiness, and if you don’t celebrate it, I still hope you had an awesome day. (: Have a safe and happy rest of the day, where ever you are!

I’m off to write and play with the calligraphy set my little sister bought me!

Christmas!

image creds to Liza Charlesworth

It’s the first day of Christmas vacation, and before I hop on to viola practice and this short story commission that I desperately need to turn in (ugh, thinking about my day is stressful lol), I wanted to blog about Christmas! (as the title might suggest) I was inspired by blog posts about reindeer food and painted plates for Santa’s cookies, which led me to a thought of “hey, I don’t think we ever did that in my family.”

My memories of Christmas is very limited. Growing up in Taiwan, not many people actually celebrated Christmas–well, they did, but it was more for mere celebration and gift giving than actually celebrating the birth of Christ. Fun fact? Though December 25th is an unofficial holiday, it is actually supposed to be Taiwan’s Constitution Day–not Christmas.

When I was growing up, I went to one of those English-speaking preschools, and that was my first taste of American culture. We learned about Santa, learned a few Christmas songs, did a gift exchange, and even put on a Christmas show for our parents. There were no reindeers or cookies or even elves, though, and that was something that was quite popular amongst American children–but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Looking back, my parents really tried making Santa a reality. Foster the imagination of a 5-year-old, I guess. But that never worked for me. Somehow, I always knew my parents were behind the stuffed animal or the craft material under the tree.  Once, after learning the Up on the Housetop song at school, I went back home and asked my parents how Santa would come to our house because we didn’t have a chimney or a fireplace (we lived on the eighth floor of an apartment building). My dad’s response?

“He’ll come through the toilet, of course!”

Okay, he tried. You have to give him that. Looking back, his response was hilarious–but I think that was about when I realized that Santa is entirely my parents.

When I moved to America and experienced my first Christmas here, I was 10. Every kid, somehow, had an elf, and my sister made reindeer food at school, and I was so confused. I had already established the fact that my parents were Santa, and I told the other kids that, but they insisted that elves were real, Santa was real, and reindeers were real. So for about a few days, I started believing again (I was quite gullible back in fourth grade), but my parents didn’t play along since 10 is really kind of old to be believing in Santa (in my opinion, anyways), so I let that go, too.

I didn’t tell my sisters until about two years later that it was mom and dad. (achievement unlocked! for keeping a secret! and being a good sibling!) I stuffed their stockings and ate their cookies and got rid of some of their reindeer food that it looked like reindeer really came through, haha.

And now? Christmas is a pretty small thing at my house, and for us, Christmas is just a time for family to be together. We set up a tree after Thanksgiving, but we don’t really go out of our way to get each other gifts (it’s one of those, “it’s cool if you did, but if not, that’s totally fine” kind of thing), and we spend the day hanging out or watching a movie and then finishing the day by going to a Chinese restaurant (which are usually open on Christmas day). And that’s it, Christmas is over! In some ways, I do love how simple it is for my family. It’s never stressful, and it’s one of the few days in a year when we simply drop everything and spend it together. It’s quite special.

So there you have it! Christmas and how it’s celebrated in my family. How do you guys celebrate it? (:

Decisions, Decisions

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(Yes, I know I’ve been neglecting my blog…)

Hello All.

If you happen to be a senior in high school this year (or a senior applying to college, ever), you may know what it’s like to apply to college: the essay writing, the waiting, and then, oh god, the decision date.

I haven’t publicly broadcasted this on the internet, but tomorrow, I will be receiving a decision from Harvard. It’s not the only university I applied to (or will be applying to), but it’s one of the three schools I’ve applied to during the Early Action round (the other two being the University of GA and Georgia Institute of Technology). I’ll be hearing from the rest of the universities (a list containing many more schools that I’m not going to list out here, haha) in March, when Regular Decision results come out. And since I’ve been feeling pretty anxious and this has been… a nerve-wracking week to say the least, I’m just going to write about it. God knows my parents don’t want to hear me talk about this anymore.

I don’t remember when I started to want to go to Harvard, but I’ve had this idea early on. Probably around the age of 13 or 14 is when I started wanting to go to the most prestigious school in America. My parents moved to the United States for me to get a good education… and I don’t know, when I think “good education,” Harvard definitely comes to mind. So I applied. Harvard seems closer now to me than it had been. But also farther. For the first time in my life, I have a chance of being accepted and going to the school, but for the first time in my life, there’s a chance that all my hopes of going to that university will be crushed (for a while at least, I know I’ll still have grad school).

The application process was a blur now, but I remember lying in bed and thinking, for hours and hours: is my application adequate? Are my essays good? Are my extra curricular activities balanced?

I’ve managed to put everything aside for a while and apply to other universities (Emory, Georgia Tech, Washington University in St. Louis, and several other Ivies are among the list), but now that decisions are finally coming, it’s like reality just hit, and I’ve got all sorts of feelings I can’t even begin to comprehend. Is it excitement, nervousness, anxiety…? Moreover, what will hold for me in that email that will be sent tomorrow at 5:00pm?

Regardless, my fate is sealed. My name is in the system, somewhere, along with the words “Congratulations” or “We regret to inform you” (is that how they reject applicants?). Worrying won’t change anything.

I want to imagine myself at Harvard. I want to imagine myself getting that acceptance letter. But it feels so wrong (too arrogant? too cocky?), and in a way, it feels like I’m “jinxing” myself (I’m not superstitious, I promise). On the other hand, it also feels wrong to imagine myself denied: I’ve worked so hard the last four years, and I will continue to work hard… (so please please please, Harvard (and all other universities), can you see that?) so I don’t want to be negative, and I want to believe in myself. I know by imagining myself denied, I’m not giving myself enough credit.

One thing that is (slightly) comforting, though, is that I’ve lived my last four years the best I could. I’ve done everything right, from my test scores to my class choices to extracurricular activities and to publishing my book. I have no regrets. And if Harvard rejects me tomorrow, I’ll know that I tried, and the system was just not in my favor. I also know that whether they take me or not does not define me as a person. Failure is a part of life, and all I need to do is make something positive out of it. I can’t make this promise that I won’t be disappointed or sad… but I think that is the mindset and the thoughts I need to keep in mind should a rejection come my way.

On a lighter note, my game plan for decision day and the subsequent ones (approved by my literature teacher and best friend) involve tons of chocolate. If I get accepted, I eat chocolate. If I get denied, I eat more chocolate. I can’t lose. ;)

For those of you who applied Early Action to Duke, Stanford, UPenn, MIT… your decisions are coming out soon too! I wish you all good luck; I will certainly be crossing all my fingers for you. But for now, all we can do is prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I will write soon!

Distorted Reality?

Having spent about three years in the Taiwanese public education system (and having Asian parents), I often compare education systems between America and Taiwan. No public education system is perfect, of course, but one particular thing stood out to me. It’s the attitude for failure, and when to encourage students.

Growing up in my family, I am rewarded only if something I did was truly exceptional. No extra allowance for earning an ‘A’ (As good grades are the norm and what was expected of me), and when I failed, my parents didn’t tell me “it’s okay, sweetie, you tried”–they tell me to try harder. Bottom line? My parents expected nothing less than perfect of me. Not “my best,” but “the best.” They have never sugar coated the truth. When I was little, I had to work on my penmenship. If my mother did not like my work, she erased it all and I had to try again. If she was not satisfied with something I did, she tells me to redo it, go back to square one, and make sure it’s perfect the second time around. This concept has served me well. I am ahead of my classmates, and I settle for nothing BUT the best.

I found that American education was almost entirely the opposite. Teachers were forgiving (“here’s a generous curve on this easy test because 60% of the class failed” or “three day extension on this assignment because I guess you all are behind!!”)–not that I’m complaining about that, but this would definitely be the biggest difference between the two education systems. It’s nice to have a sort of a “break” from constant working and worrying, but I feel that sometimes because of this mindset, teachers are giving students a sense of a distorted reality (ex, saying that something is great when it actually isn’t) and not preparing them for the real world.

Example: today in orchestra class, I was well prepared, of course, (as I always am), and the music wasn’t too terribly hard. The second violins, however, were struggling with a particular sixteenth note passage (that the first violins, my section, easily aced). The teacher isolated the second violins and worked with them for about fifteen minutes. After that, she put both first and seconds back together. My section and I were on point, while the second violins, even after fifteen minutes of practicing, were still dragging the beat.

The teacher commented on how much the seconds have improved. “It sounds great!”

But here’s the problem: they were still dragging. In my eyes, the seconds were still wrong. Obviously, they need to find time to practice on their own. Obviously, they need to be more familiar with what they were already assigned. When I pointed out that the seconds were still dragging, the director replied, “well it sounds better! Be optimistic.”

But why should any of us settle for “better?” Shouldn’t we all try to strive for perfection? In Taiwan, these kids probably would have had their grades docked; the teacher would not have waited to practice for 15 minutes with them (it is something they should’ve done LAST WEEK!) Moreover, when the 15 minutes passed and they were still messing up, any teacher in Asia would have sent them out to practice by themselves… NOT tell them that “it sounded better.”

Sure, it’s “optimistic” (and I believe that we should all be optimistic at the right situations), but this mindset will certainly not work in real life. Say you were building a tesla coil, and instead of reading the instructions and doing the research, you decided to chill and go to a party instead. When you made the coil, you messed up (due to your own lack of preparation) and forgot to ground something. Can you say “yay, at least I tried?” No. You can’t. You’d be dead.

Similarly, in the “real world,” an employer is not going to give you a gold star for “trying your best.” If you were a doctor, a careless mistake due to your lack of preparation can kill or seriously hurt someone. A miscalculation in statistics or finances can hurt a business. Being optimistic in these situations would not help at all. Maybe I’m taking orchestra a little too seriously, but I think we should always hold ourselves to a higher standard, not settle for mediocrity and the idea that “A is for effort!” Real life certainly does not work that way, and I believe that American education systems should offer the students the harsh truth instead of a false sense of security.

Hello!

It’s always pretty awkward to write the first blog post on a new blog because I almost never know what to write. This is not my first time blogging, but it is the first time that I intended to keep a personal blog going. (I bought a domain and everything, so hopefully that happens. I’m determined!). I will definitely be posting regularly (at least weekly!) about the going ons in my life, what I’m writing, reading, etc.

To start off, here’s a list of some random facts about myself.

  • I’m from Taiwan, but I’ve been living in the United States for eight years now.
  • My favorite TV shows include Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Once Upon A Time, and House MD.
  • I’m a cross country swimmer and runner.
  • I’m a senior in high school (college application stress, yay!)
  • I play the viola and piano.
  • I started writing when I was around… 15? Before that, I was a roleplayer.
  • I love chocolate. And tea. And books. (Hence the blog title.)

Yup. So this is my little corner of the blogoverse, and you’ll more likely than not read all about my musical ramblings and my book ramblings and my problems as a writer and just you know, teenage girl problems. (:

I hope you’ll stick around with me!

Cindy