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Post-Election Feelings

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Sometimes on weekend mornings I wake up and find myself lazily fascinated by the image of my partner's sleeping form. The innocence of resting lips curved into a dreaming smile, mussed hair and arms drawn close.

The night of the election, after CNN had all but called it, I trudged to bed still half-unable to believe or accept it. Neither of us could sleep. When I thought about the election and looked into his gentle eyes I felt two emotions intermingle painfully--a rush of dread and fear, a Will you be safe? 

I felt the visceral desire to hold him close, as if my arms and that room's four walls could be permanent guarantors of safety. I have never felt this pit in my stomach before. That has been my privilege. The parents who have told their black sons in decades past to step off the sidewalk and never look a white woman in the eye, the parents who still have to have conversations with their children about racialized police brutality today--this has been a feeling they have kn…

Data-Driven Everything

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My boyfriend wears a Fitbit so regularly that once, scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I mistook a friend for him—all I had seen, with half the picture cut off, was an arm and the grey, Flex-model Fitbit on the wrist.

I view the thing as half object of intrigue, half handcuff: while the data it collects (on everything from steps walked to sleep patterns) is interesting, it seems like such a lot of work to scroll through it all.

I admit that I’m a hypocrite in saying this, though. My phone’s built-in Samsung Health app counts the steps I’ve walked and can measure my heart rate. With various other tracker apps, you can note menstrual cycles, food consumption, the number of liters of water you drink in a day...it goes on. It would seem that if it exists, it can be measured.

On a larger scale, this love affair with data—what Berkeley geography graduate students Camilla Hawthorne and Brittany Meché termed “fetishized numeration” in their Space & Society article—is visible in corp…

Locker Room Talk

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Facebook group chat:

girl: f**k i need to vent about men
so tonight was the last IM speed soccer game of the semester and f*****g no one shows up except for me, M, and J and it's like 2 mins to the game starting or we forfeit
so M is calling ppl up being like get your asses over here
we forfeit bc AC and BT show up at berkeley time but we're like "ok let's scrimmage"
other team is a bunch of really big guys and then theres M, J, B inexplicably in dark eyeliner and eyeshadow (for halloween costume i think??) and little ol' me ok so we're very clearly outmatched
but nbd, we start playing
from the moment we begin playing the other team keeps on saying things like

"pass that like a MAN"
"come on DON'T PUSSY OUT"
"SUCK MY DICK"  
to each other
and im just over here thinking... wtf guys
the whole point of everyone being outraged at donald trump for his whole "grab them by the pussy"  thing
is that that s**t is supposed t…

Neither Here Nor There

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"我不想我的肤色写我的--我的--uhhh--怎么说 'destiny'?" I said, frustrated, during one particularly angsty phone call with my mom. I was trying, clumsily, to say "I don't want my skin color to write my destiny." But there was one little problem--I didn't know how to say "destiny," and I wasn't even sure if my grammar was half-correct.

That clumsy declaration sums up my simultaneous attachment to, and flight from, the language that is my mother's mother tongue. Lots of children of immigrants can relate to the feeling of running away from the language their parents speak, seeing it as foreign, yet another thing to mark them as "other," or just inconvenient. I had a French neighbor who would speak French to her sons only to hear them respond in English: they were the blonde-haired mirror images of my sister and me in our rebellious childhood. We were Chinese school dropouts, tired of having to make the trip to Kirkland on Saturday mornings …

Spectating

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All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players - Shakespeare, As You Like It

The other day, I vented to a friend about how nervous I was for an audition for an on-campus improv group. I wasn't optimistic about my chances. He asked what was so hard about improv, and I said that, at least for me, it was hard to get out of the sense of being a spectator of myself.

"So...you're just looking at yourself?" he laughed.

I spectated, then, I guess; I saw my words through what I imagined to be his eyes, heard my own words a little distorted. "Being a spectator of myself." Suddenly it sounded like something vain, like a preoccupation with staring at your own glossy reflection in an imaginary mirror, always hovering above you.

"No, not just like that," I said defensively. "Haven't you ever been in a conversation with someone where you find yourself seeing yourself from the other person's eyes, except it's not really the…

I'm With Her

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When I watched Hillary Clinton's speech at the DNC, I teared up. I'll admit, not as much as I did for Michelle Obama. But when Clinton said, "Tonight, we've reached a milestone in our nation's march toward a more perfect union: the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for President," I found myself remembering 2008. 
In 2008, I was a ten-year-old girl who desperately wanted Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee. My family was neatly split down the middle: my mom and I backed Hillary Clinton, while my sister Adrianna and my dad backed Barack Obama, who I derided as "too young and inexperienced" (the irony of this opinion, in contrast to the sentiments of my 2010 TED talk, does not escape me). My dad would listen to Obama and Clinton soundbites on NPR while driving the family van. I asked him on one of those drives why he was supporting Obama. He said with a thoughtful frown that Clinton's seeming hawkishness--her vote for I…

Misadventures on Indian Rail

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There's a boy maybe my age walking on the platform, wearing no shirt and the dirtiest pair of pants I've ever seen. There are four long scars across his chest, as if someone had taken a knife to his skin. His hair is matted and he looks like an old sepia-toned film strip, the way he's covered in dust and moving, as if in flickering slow motion, in the cursed heat. It's something like 100 degrees in Agra, but it feels like more on this railway platform. The boy jumps onto the tracks.

"Look," my friend from Berkeley says in shock, "he's eating food off the ground!" She stares at his retreating figure, bending down to pluck scraps dropped by passengers or food sellers balancing baskets of fried foods as they cross the tracks. Food and people share the tracks with waste: rotting shit surrounded by flies. A lean monkey follows in the boy's footsteps and starts foraging.

We are standing on Platform 2 waiting for a train that seems it will never c…

Delhi, Day 3

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Delhi, Day 3: 108-degree weather and what Google likes to call "extreme dust" makes you run out of clean clothes pretty fast, so I went on a lone excursion to Fabindia to buy some new clothes with the plan of calling an Uber both ways. I checked out as the store was closing, went outside, and then tried to call my ride home. A lot of shops, not just the clothing ones, were starting to close. Their lights, that illuminated my position, turned out up and down the block like dominoes. There are different kinds of night: Times Square night, where the lights never dim and people never disappear, and real night, where lights go out and the city blocks belong to men. It felt like this street's night was just beginning.

I decided to call the driver. He picked up, but promptly rattled off a string of Hindi words I didn't understand in response to "Hi! Where are you?"

"Uhhh....uhhhh...tum kahaan hai?" I asked, having no idea if that was correct or not. I …

waving at things

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It is a fact universally acknowledged that little kids enjoy waving at things -- passing trains, cars, ferries, planes -- much more than adults, and I was no exception. I recall one time vividly -- I was eight years old and small, small enough to cram into the Dodge Caravan backseat that was supposed to seat just two people with my sister and a friend. While my dad harrumphed about traffic and the questionable legality of our seating arrangement and other Adult Things, his hand steadily on the wheel as we drove across the floating bridge into Seattle, I craned my neck back to look at the car behind us. I waved frantically.

And then, miraculously, the lady with blonde cropped hair driving the car behind us waved back.

I nudged my sister and our friend. "Look! She waved!"

The three of us all then began waving even more vigorously, and she waved back more, and then she opened her sunroof. We saw her slim, white hand emerge from the top of the car, suddenly waving like a kite l…

Racism close to home, Part II

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My junior year of high school, I made friends with two seniors -- friends of my sister's, really, who I managed to co-opt by the desperate accident of looking for people to sit with at lunch on the first day of school. I'll call them Ted Zhang and Damon Chen for the sake of privacy. I got to know them pretty well over the course of a semester, because every morning Damon would drive up to my house, Ted in the passenger seat enthusiastically bobbing his head to whatever throwback mixtape was in the CD player, and I would clamber up into the back seat, like I was just the kid sister being picked up for school.

The first thing I noticed, from the day I sat next to them in that crowded cafeteria, was that they looked alike, but had ways of speaking and acting so different that sometimes they seemed like fraternal twins half-trying to disavow their blood. All those mornings we rode to school, Ted did most of the talking. He'd casually toss around comments that I'd wince at…

Racism, close to home

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I'll freely admit that I don't really follow sports, but the headline "NFL Star Visits Gym He Wants to Buy, Employees Call the Cops On Him" caught my eye because it happened in my hometown of Redmond. Growing up, I walked past the RAC (the gym Chancellor was looking to buy) frequently on my way to QFC or Starbucks or the Bella Bottega movie theater -- a part of the landscape I thought of as home. The recent event with Kam Chancellor puts into stark relief that racism, too, was -- and is -- part of that landscape. 

In his monologue at the Oscars, comedian Chris Rock repeatedly asked, "Is Hollywood racist?" He finally answered his own question with the line, "You're damn right Hollywood's racist...Hollywood is 'sorority racist.' It's like, 'We like you Rhonda, but you're not a Kappa.'" What he termed "sorority racism" stands in contrast to more obvious and extreme forms of racism, like burning crosses in some…

Notes on a rough patch

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Content warning: suicidal thoughts.

I hit a rough patch the first semester of sophomore year. A rough patch kind of like the one I had between the ages of twelve and fourteen--it consisted of a lot of ugly crying, daily journaling (which I mentioned in this TED-Ed blog post), and wondering if things ever got better. Things did get better. Oh, of course there was high school heartbreak and the laborious applications to 14 (!) colleges that deserved its own circle in Dante's Inferno. There was coming back to my triple in Unit 3, my freshman dorm, and throwing myself on the ground to cry because I didn't feel like I could make it up the ladder to my bed. There was losing myself in the sweating, frenetic crush of people at parties because sometimes numbness felt better than feeling so much.

But all of this angst, I figured, was situational. Every time I recognized the hollow feeling, a sort of stranger in the night I had known so well from the age of twelve, I called it something …