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Archive for the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ Category

…spilleth away

this post by a friend reminded me of some couplets by Omar Khaiyyam, from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khaiyyam. Ah, how well I know the speed life takes, and how quickly it passes, and how difficult it is to hold onto a single moment. Life can change in a moment, take twists you never expected, bring you to a completely different place from where you started. The trick is to keep looking up and ahead, with hope and faith rather than despair and fatigue…to realize and accept what we’ve been given and live it as well as we can…

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter–and the Bird is on the Wing.

Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.

 Sometimes, though, its just so difficult.

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Tune Jo Na Kaha, from New York (rendered by Mohit Chauhan)

I had the chance today to return to my campus after the span of a year, which is a long time when you consider the chunk of time we as students spend in our college campuses. I always loved my college campus. As I’ve written elsewhere, I also grew to be deeply affectionate and grateful for my college itself, and the time I spent there was something I’ll never regret. My best memories are of the wonderful people I met there, my best friends, who are still such a constant part of my life.

And so, invariably, while walking those familiar paths I know so well, while taking the shortcuts and walking in and out of hallways and meeting dear professors and old colleagues, a deep nostalgia set in. Walking past the flowerbeds, around the fountain, down to the quad and past the green fields…walking past benches my friends and I had often accosted, past hillsides we had rolled down or just sat and chatted, past halls where we’d gather to do our homework, past the campus coffee house…past all these places that brought to life so many memories. I could almost see us there, almost see ghostly selves wandering around with me. I was struck with this deep longing of going back to that time. I wanted so much to be, once again, one of these students who walked around with a sense of belonging and a sense of ‘owning’ the place, which was something that had once belonged to me. Just for a day, I wanted to be the college student I was eighteen months ago, running around with a hundred things to do, holding on to a gigantic book and constantly smiling and waving at acquaintances as they passed me by. Stopping for a quick chat with a friend at the fountain. Taking a breather in the late afternoon at the park and watching the ducks go by. For one day, I wanted to go back to that time, or rather, to that feeling. It hasn’t been that long since I left that phase of my life, and yet, I already wanted to revisit it.

I got back to the car and, while driving around the campus, impulsively decided to visit a Chinese restaurant that was a favorite joint back in the day. A few of my friends loved this place, and I loved its dumplings and hot and sour soup. I wasn’t especially hungry; I simply wanted to relive that time, that taste, those late night take outs. I just wanted to vividly taste that past.

So I walked in and ordered dumplings and the hot and sour soup, and some veggie lo mein to go. All for still the same low cheap student price I remembered. And I sat down, contented and retrospective, to wait.

Ten minutes later a plate of the most unhappy dumplings I have ever seen were brought out. The soup looked attractive, but the dumplings were dumpy and soggy. Nevertheless, I dug in with enthusiasm. The dumplings lived up to their appearance: they were less than mediocre and not at all what I remembered. I had to slosh them in soy sauce for some flavor, and even then I managed only three. Turning more hopefully to the soup, I took a big gulp, almost burning my mouth, tasting something that can only be described as gelatinous water mixed with chili. It was, honestly, terrible. I only managed a few more bites before I just gave up completely, and sat there trying to figure out what had happened…

Did this food, which I once enjoyed so much, deteriorate in its quality? In one year, especially in the past economically turbulent year, had the owners compromised on the taste of their dishes? Had the chef changed?

Or was it that over the past year, my experiences with authentic food all over Asia and tasting true Chinese food had completely changed my expectations? Had the food always been this bad and I just didn’t know better?

I can’t tell you which one is true here, but while I sat there debating this, I took one more bite of the soup (since I hate wasting food) and the intense heat was like a slap that made things clearer. I’m always asking for signs and lessons from the universe and here was a huge one staring me right in the face. I had spent the afternoon mourning for a phase of my life that had passed by for good. I had been indulging myself in nostalgia, wishing myself back to a time that I had already moved on from. And the terrible food of this restaurant, which was just part of that mosaic from the past, was a reminder that I can’t go back. Here, in an unappealing manner on my plate, was clear evidence that I could never go back, and that my life had moved on (as it should).

It was in no way a sad realization. It came in the form of a calm, matter-of-fact, sensible voice, and it made sense. Yes, my collegiate life was beautiful…it had its ups and downs, its emotions and its upheavals, its celebrations and its joy. But…its over. And in the time that has followed I have had experiences of a completely different kind, amazing, wonderful, influential experiences that have changed my life. I differ greatly, in a very good way,  from the girl who came in as a freshman into this campus. I changed over my years as a student, and when I left, I continued to change, and life continued to move, faster than I could ever have imagined. It did for all of us, we all changed, we all moved on, and in the last month I had had the pleasure of seeing all my dear friends and being proud of the lives they are leading, the people they have become. I am grateful for and proud of the person I myself am today. I am wiser, I am calmer, I am more at peace with who I am than that child scurrying around campus. I am at terms with my scars, even proud to show them off, and so much more confident about where I am leading myself and all I want to do. Sure, I am moving onto another phase where I have again so much to learn, where I’ll crash and burn, where I’ll start from scratch and struggle and suffer, where there will be umpteen challenges…but it is still my future, and I will still be eager to be in it.

I can’t ask for the past to come back. I can cherish my memories, but I can’t, and I shouldn’t, try to relive them. That period should be remembered with joy, but never with longing or with a pointless desire to return, because my world has moved on. Just as we shouldn’t regret the past, we also shouldn’t hold it by its coat strings and beg it to take us back when the brilliant surprise of our future is waiting solemnly, hands entwined with the present, waiting for our attention. After all, that is where my attention is deserved.

It doesn’t matter what the real reason behind the disappointing taste of the soup or the dumplings may have been. The fact, I know, is that it wasn’t meant to taste the same to me. That time had changed, that person had changed, and so the taste, too, had changed. It was a sign, or rather, a marker in time.

And so I took a last look at the left overs, smiled, and left, driving away from the city in the late afternoon sun, peaceful with this new knowledge and a true sense of closure.

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Randy Pausch, who influenced the lives of millions of people with his Last Lecture, died today, Friday July 25th, at his home in Virginia. Everyone knew it was inevitable, but if its affected all the strangers who had been touched by his words and wisdom, like myself, I can’t imagine what his family is going through. I hope his optimism and love and all the energy he left them with can sustain them through this difficult period.

Looking over all the news articles today, I came across one of the quotes from the lecture that I remembered I had really liked. It is simple, true, and it urges you to have faith in each other as human beings.

“No one is pure evil. Find the best in everybody. Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you.”

This still continues to impress and affect me…I try to remind myself of it everyday, especially when I meet someone especially difficult. Along with these other words, which are truly words to live by.

“It is not about achieving your dreams but living your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.”

The dreams really will come to you. I hope the Pausch family recovers from their loss and continues to live their life well and work for their dreams.

Rest in peace, Dr. Pausch. And thank you.

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I was watching Oprah today and, because he’s everywhere on the news, Randy Pausch was on. Along with Dr. Mehmet Oz. If you haven’t heard of either, you haven’t been watching the news. Wikipedia ’em both. Randy Pausch is the famous professor dying of pancreatic cancer, whose powerful last lecture has become famous universally. Dr. Mehmet Oz and Randy were both on the Time 100 Most Influential People. If you still don’t know who he is, there’s a brief background below…

Anyway, I was touched again by Randy and how positive he remains, despite his recent congestive heart and kidney failure. Time is running out for Randy, but he is still trying to make the most of it. He is appreciative of the people who have appreciated him. His belief in karma remains strong. It was inspiring to see him. What really struck me was what Mehmet Oz said about what Randy had taught the world : “Hope does not lie in a great outcome. Hope lies in making sense of the things going on in your life.” Randy cannot expect that the ending will be happy…he will soon die, leaving his wife and three young children behind. Yet he is hopeful, not about miraculously living, but about the life that he has left, and he has chosen to live that time the best he can and leave behind whatever legacy he can for his children. That’s true hope, and that’s truly inspiring.

I like these lines from his reprisal speech on Oprah a lot too, in which he was explaining why he gave the speech. “Its important for you to know why I gave this talk. The talk isn’t just about how to achieve your childhood dreams. Its much broader than that. Its about how to live your life. Because of you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you. If you live properly, the dreams will come to you.”

*****************************************************************************************************************

Randy gave his ‘Last Lecture’ at Carnegie Mellon, soon after he was given his life sentence of 3-6 months. He’s beaten those odds, and continues to live the best life he can. His speech, now a national best seller, is full of inspiration, hope, and all about the stuff it takes to fulfill your childhood dreams, be who you are and learn to love your life. Randy remains very positive, despite his failing health, and has not lost his sense of humor. The Last Lecture was meant as a message for his children; however, it has reached out and touched literally millions of people across the world (thanks to the internet!). His story and his lecture has circulated intensively, affecting those who read it or watch it strongly and positively, with his optimistic, very funny, and life-affirming message.

(Watch the video of the lecture here)

(Watch the shorter reprise on Oprah)

Randy Pausch’s Homepage

http://download.srv.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/

Buy The Last Lecture here: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Lecture-Randy-Pausch/dp/1401323251

EDIT: One blog author has summed up some of the notable quotes from Randy’s speech. Check out this link: http://socialcapital.wordpress.com/2008/04/11/randy-pausch-notable-quotes/

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The Snowy Night 
[신화 (Shinhwa), Winter Story 2007-2008. Its all the buzz and excitement amongst the official and unofficial Changjo. According to their fans, 신화 has this strange capability of making people happy. I respect this band for sticking through for almost ten years despite being six very different people. I might not always love their music (except for a good beat here and there boy bands tend to be too pop for me)…Javabeans says it best here. But I love their bond, their friendship (real or not, they do an admirable job of marketing it and demonstrating it), their individual talents and perseverance, their maturity and humility and devotion to their fan base despite their fame and fortune, and their obvious hard work as musicians and/or actors. And, ofcourse, they’re all gorgeous 😉  Fans are beginning to dread their army enlistment starting next year, but before they leave they plan to release more music as a group, put up some concerts for their fans in China, Japan and Korea, and delight their Changjo with bringing themselves and their personalities to variety shows. Here’s to the Legend.]

It was ICY today. Its treacherous. I think I almost slid fifteen times today. Its pretty scary. I don’t like such days…I love winter, I love snow, but ice makes my heart all jittery. Never liked ice skating either. If I were to psychoanalyze myself, I’d say its all connected with my fear of not being in control…I can’t stand it, I freak out. My boot slips a little and my heart jumps in my mouth…I might know that its not going to be that bad, its just a fall, I’ll get up and dust off and be fine…yet, that brief moment when I think I’m going to tumble is frightening. So I came home before dark and got warm…and decided to give a brief update before I went back to finals cramming 🙂

I had a couple blog posts simmering in my head for a while, and I’ve noted them down somewhere, but I never did get around to formulating them out. And here we are in finals week, and I leave for my trip on Saturday. It doesn’t seem real to me, at all. I think until I’m exchanging currency or actually in the flight I won’t believe it. Its too surreal–am I really graduating in 3 days? Done with one more step? Done with college? And am I really free? Am I going to two foreign countries that I’ve never stepped in before, for an actual, normal, vacation? A trip? All by myself? It just doesn’t seem possible.

Before I can find out if it is real, though, I have to work on finishing up: three heavy duty exams and one very, very heavy duty lab report…alongside the joy of editing/revising personal statements. Which I’m happy to do in any other condition, but right now is a little bit much, but hopefully I can help as much as I can. Personal statements are just so hard, and I want to help because I know how terribly hard they can be, and I want these x people to not let that PS negatively affect their chances. I’m a bit flattered too, and at the same time I get stressed because I don’t want to do a half-hearted task of giving them advice. When did I become an expert anyway? I still hate my personal statement, and it took my wayyy too long to get it down anyway. Ironic.

Apart from all this, this term has been wonderful. I’ve had some great times. We had some great dinners, some great shopping trips, many movies, many evenings watching House and Pushing Daisies, warm walks in the cold weather, deep conversations, delicious food and drinks (note how I mention food twice. Do I love food or what), some random trips and drives, some stay-inside-because-its-too-cold-outside cozy days, some just sitting around and enjoying each other days. A perfect mix…and a lot to fit into seven weeks. I’m excited because my favorite season is here: Christmas!! I love everything in this month: the weather, the smell in the air, the excitement, the magical-ness of it all. I don’t care how capitalist Christmas is purported to be, or how much others complain about how its all commercialized…for me, ALL my life, Christmas has been a beautiful time. Warm, cozy, smelling of cinnamon and cookies and cakes, running along the tracks of carols. I love it.

More than anything else this term, though, I’ve taken every possible moment to just immerse myself in the reality of now. Of realizing how fortunate I am to have what I have, for what is coming and trying to be really, really happy with that. And to focus on spending every moment I can and making all kinds of memories with these beyond-wonderful friends I have. As cheesy as it sounds, sometimes I have to re-evaluate and wonder: me, who always had the worst luck in friends and gave much and got nothing, how did I end up with such amazing people around me? Thinking of anyone of them makes me warm inside, and here in this place I’ve found enough friendship, love, loyalty and affection to make up for all those friends who didn’t look back. If’ I’d shut myself up and given up, I’d have none of them in my life, and thats a scary thought. I think I can look at each of my close friends and say, hey, I’m not a bad judge of people after all. I’m glad they’re all in my life.

And while I’m getting ready to leave this place soon, it doesn’t feel as sad as I thought it would. Its not heart-wrenching. Because the best gift this place gave me were these people: the opportunity to know them, to be their friend, to be loved and to love, to be taken care of and to take care, to make memories, to share laughter and anger and tears and everything else. And I’ll be taking it all with me, wherever I go. And somehow, I feel very sure somewhere inside, that I won’t be letting these people go either. We’ll always be threaded together in someway. And even if we lose touch, don’t talk for ages, get too busy in our lives, I’m pretty sure that the next time we meet it’ll be completely normal. It’ll be right how it should be, for each of these people who are so close to my heart. I’m very, very, sure. So I’m not sad. I’m a little sensitive and anxious, but not sad. 

Friends like these, bonds like these, don’t disintegrate into nothing…now we are mature, now we are adults, and now we know the reality and limits of relationships and life…and so we take what we got, keep what we were given, and believe that there will be more–and only as much–as what is meant to be.

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I’d been planning to take some shots for a while, luckily I managed to finally do it just before the first snow fell.

(I really wish I could stream music now…my favorite tunes to match the mood…but the best I can do is upload em like this…Yay! thanks to merriwether I found another way 🙂 Click on the speaker. Let them play in the background for a calming, soothing effect, that should go hand in hand with nature-related pics :))

Ocean (April Snow) (I know its not fall-connected, but I love this piece when I go for walks)

Ha Yun Yun in Deul (Winter Sonata)

I love fall. It is the most beautiful, ethereal, lovely, graceful season, with vibrant colors yet a quiet magnificence everywhere. Anyone feel what I’m saying? I can never get over the symphony of colors…gold and green and red and violet and crimson, all these shades, in this naturally created blend….a feast for the eyes! I love New England for its gorgeous falls, and I’m really going to miss them!

Almost as much as I’m going to miss the first snow. The unexpectedness of it, the stillness, the quiet, the silent beauty as everything gets covered in a white powder. Wow.

Pictures can never do justice to how it looks, and feels, and smells. And not just because I’m a not-so-great photographer!

dsc02678.jpg

theroad

Love roads like this. Wish there were no cars, and just the rich gold colors endorning the walk….

bridge

snowonredleaves

Snow on red leaves!

firstsnow

Snow! 🙂

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Watch:

A 10 minute Japanese short film about a girl Mika and her dog Marimo. This film comes from the compilation of short films named All About My Dog (2005). Credits to director Atsushi Sanada, and solasura.

This video made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and also all lonely and sad. I miss having a dog so much. I believe I was happiest as a child when I had Rado and Kasha. Kasha was like a little gift from the universe, and she made me so happy…it was like being loved all the time, like having someone to make you laugh all the time, someone you were responsible for, someone you had to take care of. I liked that feeling. When Rado was a baby, he would let me feed him, play with him…my best memories. Rado kept us safe and sound, protected us from all kinds of harm…his barking is part of the soundtrack to my childhood. I was 11 when I bought Kasha, a dwarf Pomerian, with my own hard-saved money. She was my pride and joy, and my constant cuddle, and she never learnt anything. I miss her so much. I miss Rado so much. I wasn’t ready for another dog (or any animal) for a long time, but now there’s like this emptiness that I know only a dog could fill. Its enough to play a huge role in me deciding where I should end up in the next four years….I really want, need, a dog with me, a constant buddy, a constant comfort, all the time. Someone to welcome me home, who makes me feel loved and needed all the time, without any pre-set expectations, who won’t judge me or criticize me or advise me, but just be there for me. Who I can take care of, love and watch over, without any complicated arguments or convoluted emotions coming in the way. Just simple, pure, beautiful love….between my dog and me :). Like Mokin for C, who has always been there for her (caused trouble too, and he can be a handful) but he’s there and he loves her and cuddles her and licks her face to cheer her up. I need that too, and I think it would really help me and my emotional well-being to have a dog, because I remember what it was like. Its a lot of work, I know, and its difficult and can be painful too, but its so, so, worth it when you’re ready for it.

Yeah. I want another dog. I’m ready. And I think its important. I need another dog.

JUST MY DOG

He is my other eyes that can see above
the clouds; my other ears that hear above
the winds. He is the part of me that can
reach out into the sea.He has told me a thousand times over that
I am his reason for being: by the way he
rests against my leg; by the way he thumps
his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he
shows his hurt when I leave without taking him.
(I think it makes him sick with worry when he
is not along to care for me.)

When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive.
When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile.
When I am happy, he is joy unbounded.
When I am a fool, he ignores it.
When I succeed, he brags.
Without him, I am only another man. With him,
I am all-powerful.
He is loyalty itself.
He has taught me the meaning of devotion.
With him, I know a secret comfort and a
private peace. He has brought me understanding
where before I was ignorant.
His head on my knee can heal my human hurts.
His presence by my side is protection against
my fears of dark and unknown things.
He has promised to wait for me…
henever…wherever–in case I need him.
And I expect I will–as I always have.

He is just my dog.
— Gene Hill —

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