Tuesday, December 31, 2013

High Resolution

I'm not saying I'm superstitious in even the least bit...but I will use the Chinese Zodiac to my advantage wherever I can.  Well, in a fortuitous twist of fate, it just so happens that 2014 is the year of the stately vigor that is the Horse, as opposed to the malicious slime that is the Snake of 2013.  Why not accept this as a sign of promise and resilience in the shadow of any doubt and regret? :)

This past year has probably been one of the most exciting and anxiety-provoking of my life, two qualities which often go hand-in-hand in my experience.  My hope for the new year is that I will release the lingering tension that has accumulated in my psyche and that I will reach a new, unobstructed high--a place where I can accomplish my every goal in a manner I feel good about, regardless of how anyone else may feel.  This year is about my professional and emotional development, not about a desire to appease others or to satisfy some truly illogical level of perfectionism.  In an unprecedented feat of organization, I write below my resolutions for 2014.

1. Become more organized (surprise, surprise).
While my intuition often tells me to delay the cleaning and systematizing until I finish that last page or that looming essay, my reason instructs me to prevent the unnecessary hunting and sifting through data and sanity by organizing my obligations in addition to my recreational activities in a timely and perhaps formulaic way.  This habit will also guarantee decreased tardiness in response and arrival time. 

2. Continue to foster communication instead of passive aggression with my compatriots. :)
Misunderstandings can easily manifest into contempt.  Save yourself the lifelong scorn and welcome open dialogue from the get-go.

3. Contrast outside compulsion with genuine drive to achieve a certain end.
Don't confuse someone else's intentions for you with your own--for yourself and for the world.  Do it your way with your say on your day.

4. Learn to appreciate moments more than memories.

5. Spend less time on social media (except when absolutely necessary, as when I need to post blog updates :) ).

6. Maintain high expectations of myself, but lower those of others.

7. Respect myself more, and never think for a second that I don't deserve the best for myself.

8. Take more time to be cognizant of and admire the favorable and shaping characteristics of those most close to me--proximity- and genetics-wise.

9. Publish a meaningful and consequential Legal Studies Thesis in March.

10. Study hard, and ace the LSAT in October!

And so proclaimed the New Years pledge, to build my strength and diminish the edge. 

Best wishes for an enlightening, an industrious, and most importantly a happy New Year!

Amanda :)

Top: J. Crew (old, similar here.)  Scarf: Express (old).  Pants: Ann Taylor.  Headband: Saks Fifth Avenue (old).  Coat: North Face.  Shoes: Nordstrom (old).

All photos courtesy of Sean Su.

Friday, December 27, 2013

FOMO* No More

She cradled connection as a child would a bear,
Afraid to be alone inside her little lair.
Reliant on the action, the fuss, and the buzz,
She yearned daily for attachment if only just because.
More disposed to day dream than to chase dream in independent feat,
She sacrificed some strength and dignity for a profile and a seat.

In newfound awareness of the petty mores she'd lately entertained,
She forged ahead of her own accord, a go-getter re-ordained.
Without a bias or undue ties to sway her every thought,
She arrested distraction in its tracks and go back she did not.
So while the world documented each idle stance for the sake of exhibition,
She carped the diem out of life, owing to nothing but intuition.

Make a move and reinvent fruition,
Amanda :)

Top: Topshop (old, but seen on sale rack in store ;) ).  Necklace: Topshop (old).  Bracelet: J. Crew (old).  Official Tumblebum Dog: Jellycat. :)

Photos by Sean Su.

*FOMO = Fear of Missing Out

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Time

Sometimes the lack of basic human compassion in our fellow man truly infuriates me.  Why, for example, do corporate bureaucrats get so caught up in materialistic ephemeralities while assigning no effort to what should be our greater collective cause: making life better--or at least tolerable--for all humanity.  That objective starts by treating every single one of those around us with at least the minimal respect and honesty they merit as human beings, and further, with the recognition they have earned in their individual pursuits.

Just a couple days ago I was discussing some of the perils of moral deficiency with a friend when we switched topics, and I made the comment offhand that "I've got nothing but time."  Not expecting such a seemingly innocuous statement to stir subsequent philosophical discussion, I continued to ponder the notion of time as one's only possession for the remainder of the day.  As usual, I induced quite a headache while engaging in this episode of reflective solitude.

Nonetheless, the resulting metaphysical discoveries were game-changing.  What can we really claim to own other than the dimension which measures and extends our lives?  Neither our clothing, our house, our car, nor even our pets can we consider ours.  These transient objects have laced criticisms of the materialistic lifestyle for a while, but few have gone further to question whether time or anything else is really in our possession.

Almost needless to say, we can't take our money or knickknacks with us to the afterlife, but who's to say we can even retain our bodies, our experiences, our personalities, our relationships, or our memories?  We likely maintain some manifestation of a mind in any sort of life after Earth, but is this preservation a product of ownership or of pure essence?  In other words, do we own our minds or ARE we our minds?  Science and intuition suggest the latter.

Status and connections may appear inextricable components of our thought process, but how can we argue for a perfect Heaven consisting of the caste systems and power trips that mar the Earth?  It seems as though at least certain components of our mortal identities dissipate upon entrance into limbo.  Regardless of how much we accomplish or how many lives we touch on Earth, if we can't retain our positions of hierarchy, we can't retain those of honor or admiration either, right?

Suppose all of these dreadful suspicions turn out to be true.  Suppose the altruism we bestow upon this Earth does not extend into Heaven.  Suppose all of our achievements, our awards, and our accolades are not even a distant memory.  Does this mean a positive, lasting impression on this Earth is unworthy of our time and energy?

While some pronounce faith in ever-lasting life, others believe the time we have on Earth precludes any subsequent life ever after.  Given this marked disparity in opinions of human life expectancy, it seems the only logical way to reconcile the differences is to treat this life--that which we all know and feel we have--as if it is our only one.  That's not to say you can't believe in God or Heaven because I, for one, am a Lutheran who most certainly does.  All this means is that you should respect the beliefs of others in granting them the most rewarding, meaningful lives you can in whatever way you can.  Furthermore, this means you should respect your own life--the one we are living here and now--by uniting in the flawed yet spirited collective human effort to create a forgiving, fulfilling, healing world that God himself would smile upon.

So you tell me, is time really all we've got?

Sincerely and dearly,
Amanda :)

Jumpsuit: Topshop.  Necklace: J. Crew (old).  Shoes: H&M (old).  Leggings: Paperdolls Boutique (St. Louis).

All photos by Eric Pan.
Hair courtesy of Bonnie Trunfio Boze.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Fruits of Our Labor

As I ring in the Holiday Season and the denouement of a long-fraught finals week with family (woe is me), I can't help but reflect upon the influences laid upon me by none other than my parents.  

Sure, the phrases, "Amanda, calm down!" and "You know, you won't be able to eat like this your whole life..." have been thrown around here and there, maybe on more than several occasions..., but all in all it's been a very pleasant and seamless transition back into familial living. :) Speaking of such enchanting word play, I now turn to the feature of tonight's blog, the author of these sweet nothings herself: my mommy.

Jokes aside, life hasn't been a cake walk for my mom.  For one thing, she has a relentless train of eccentricity for a daughter (ok, maybe not ALL jokes aside), and she's the only girl in a family with two older brothers.  If the fruits of her labor are any indication (and I, as one of them, like to think they are), it's pretty clear that my mom mastered courage, resolve, and grit in the face of oddity and uprising almost immediately from the get-go.

Picture this: I'm riding along in my automobile, my baby beside me at the wheel, I stole a kiss at the turn of a mile, my curiosity running wild (duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh)!  Just kidding...ALL RIGHTS RESERVED TO CHUCK BERRY, "NO PARTICULAR PLACE TO GO," 1964.  :)

Okay, but seriously, I was driving along in my automobile, my mommy beside me at the while, I popped a tire at the turn of a mile, my trepidation running wild (duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh).

Turns out I did have a particular place to go: The Missouri Botanical Gardens, with my mom...and my 80-something grandparents in town for the week.  Having never chauffeured the lovely couple before, I realize in hindsight that a split tire probably wasn't the best first driving experience I could have bestowed upon them.  Whoopsies.

Regardless, my mom took control of the wheel, so to speak, and offered to call AAA and wait in the parking lot of the Botanical Gardens while my grandparents and I enjoyed ourselves inside.  What a dynamite gal indeed.

As soon as we entered the gardens, my grandpa made a point of telling me that my mom is one great woman, and he wished there were more women like her, in his words.  As sexist as this admittedly seems on the surface, the core of his sentiment is nothing short of heartfelt and true!

My mom has always been a strong, passionate, intelligent, attentive, engaging, beautiful, empathetic, loving role model, and as much as I may annoy her at times, I hope she knows, deep down, that she and my dad are my absolute greatest inspirations in life, not just because they are my parents, but because they are integrity-driven individuals in a world seemingly predicated on conceit and avarice, at least at times.  My mom in particular is the most unwaveringly spirited, affectionate, altruistic person I know, and I can do nothing more than to hope I will someday embody those qualities to half the extent she does.

There's nothing like a mother's love. She's not a ghost or fleeting dove. Regardless of how deep my burn, she heals me up and helps me learn. Because of her, I'm empowered to soar, to rise above and strive for more. I couldn't ask for a kinder soul, to care for me and make me whole. Your expectations, I may not always meet. My approach to life may resemble retreat. But despite the way you viscerally feel, I want you to remember that our love is real. I will forever respect and admire you truly, especially when tides turn and life seems unruly. No matter who or what comes into my sphere, you will always be my role model, and I will allay all of your fears."

This poem I wrote at a delicate time, but the words still ring true and unite in sweet rhyme.  After many a month of heightened progress, I promise you honor, and to this I attest.

With love and laughs and all of my best,
Amanda :)

P.S. That IS INDEED my adorable dog SOPHIE (i.e. my mom's second and just-as-grateful daughter) in the third picture. :)

Top: Urban Outfitters (old).  Skirt: Urban Outfitters (old).  Shoes: Dillard's (old).  Flower appliqué: Self-made via Dierberg's Florist. ;)

All photos courtesy of my mom (besides the top shameless selfie). :)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

This Side of Prejudice

"I remember the first time I questioned my existence on this Earth. Disregarding all the philosophical dimensions of being and the state of nature more abstractly, I narrowed my focus to the reasons for which I was “here,” in St. Louis, Missouri as a five-year-old Caucasian girl in 1998. Rather than delving into the metaphysical question of “Am I here?” I asked myself, “Why am I here?” and “How am I here?” The immigration of my ancestors over the past 350 years explains the former. Unfortunately yet inevitably, some degree of collective white shame explains the latter."

With this paragraph, I began an essay discussing my proposed solution to the involvement of Northwestern University's founder, John Evans, in the Sand Creek Massacre (see Careful Inspection).  While I chose to focus this essay on the pragmatic remedies to be made with regard to Sand Creek, I now elect to delve into the issue raised quite deliberately in the final sentence: collective white shame.

On the one hand, I constantly ask myself, Why have I been so blessed as to benefit from the spoken and unspoken advantages given to non-first-generation white Americans?  On the other hand, right wing pundits and also the formidable, inspirational pride asserted by certain minority and social groups suggest that maybe no such significant discrepancies exist.

However, despite intimations of the contrary, I am convinced that America and certainly the world at large is not acting in complete accordance with The International Bill of Human Rights.

Perhaps my thesis studies on women's asylum procedures have spurred my recent feelings of guilt on account of my race, nationality, religion, political opinion, and membership in a particular social group (which so happen to be the five grounds for persecution according to the Geneva Convention).  Notwithstanding grave matters of human rights violations, the fact is that I've never in my life had to move from the nation I called home to a brand new one.  I've never been forced to learn a whole new language on top of my native one.  And most of all, I've never had to and will never have to live with the residual aftermath of these events and the ethnic, linguistic, racial or any other type of discrimination that accompanies it.

Maybe I'm blowing this whole concern out of the water.  Maybe I shouldn't feel so guilty for being who I am, for possessing the advantages that I do, for automatically bypassing hurdles that others face everyday.  It's true; I'm often way harder on myself than I need to be, and I've expressed considerable gratitude for my blessings and support for those who aren't quite as lucky.  Despite all the empathy and hope I've voiced, however, I can't help but feel ashamed not by what I have done but by what society has done thus far in order to afford white Americans this undoubtedly privileged status.  While disadvantaged individuals can certainly achieve remarkable success in the long run, why do they have to work twice as hard to get it as I do?  Sure, I have my own obstacles to face; we all do.  But race is something that just cannot be changed.

Lest I rack my brain to eternity on this issue, the only solution I can come up with is actually quite simple: to do everything in my power to encourage people of diverse cultures to spread their unparalleled knowledge and gifts, and to increase broader understanding of the advantages in melting the pot.  Though it's sometimes more tempting to commiserate solely with people like you, you could be missing something big, something life-altering by neglecting people who aren't so much like you.  I for one have gained what I would consider groundbreaking insight after coming to college, befriending the people I have and debating the people I haven't.  Furthermore, whereas some individuals choose to "erase race" and pretend as if no differences exist, I prefer to uncover and embrace the unique perspectives and lifestyles that only such variations can bring to the table.  The answer is not the erasure of differences, but the acceptance and welcoming of them.  Your brain is a lot more capable than you think; give it the chance to take in some challenging viewpoints and partake of meaningful new cultures.

Be not ashamed of the advantages you possess, but be open to the many ways in which you can enrich them through others and share them with the world.

Absorb, grow, and sow the seeds of community, yes, and of partition, no.
Amanda :)

Sweater: J. Crew (old).  Jeans: Bebe (old).  Scarf: Zara (old).  Shoes: Ann Taylor.

All photos courtesy of Alex Zhu.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Catch 21

Only two days after Thanksgiving and one day after Black Friday, I happily complete the trio of holiday merriment in wishing my brother and myself a very Happy 21st Birthday!  We deserve it, bro! ;)

Now that I'm 21, I am officially entitled to nearly all the privileges of any other adult: bar-hopping (meh), club-hopping (wheee!), ballot-hopping (relevant only pre-1971--see 26th Amendment history), etc., etc.  Unfortunately, I must defer the right to rent a car until 25 and the freedom to purchase Walgreen's compressed air until 40...

Nonetheless, there is no quarreling with the fact that something special lies within the advent of one's 21st year.  It's the feeling that almost nothing--physical or virtual--stands in the way of one's most destined enterprises.  

While I never cared for recreation of the alcoholic variety, I always sensed an inherent barrier between adults under and over 21, even within one campus community.  In imputing a great sum of youth misconduct to underaged drinking, society has encircled the under-21 populace in an overwhelming stigma suggesting irrevocable incompetence.  As a result, even the kids who work hard to combat such age stereotypes face latent and explicit hurdles in the form of continual skepticism and certain age restrictions by our seniors.

This milestone birthday entails not only a fully functional driver's license and weekly rendez-vous to The Mid but also a freedom that brings with it ultimate accessibility to the triumphs for which I have endeavored my whole life to achieve.

Nothing is impossible, but some generational seasoning never hurts to bridge the gaps. ;)

Patience is a virtue, and aging is an art,
Amanda :)

Top: The District at Hinsdale (old).  Necklace: J. Crew (old).  Coat: Saks Fifth Avenue (old).  Pants: Ann Taylor.  Shoes: J. Crew.

All photos courtesy of Sean Su.