There Is No Time To Grieve

I used to sit and dream of these moments.

I used to light cigarettes in hopes that the smoke would push my memories of you deeper into the abyss. But I could still feel them, lingering there like the faintest whisper of my name. I prayed—prayed to whatever was worth praying to.

I was a fool for you.

But heartbreak makes for good poetry material.

There is no time to grieve.

Life keeps going no matter how slowly you breathe, no matter how long you stare at those pictures: the ones of us holding hands, the ones of us smiling, the ones of you pretending you were in love.

I hate thinking about the time that has passed. Not because I dread the memories, but because they were all too sweet. Four years is a long time.

Four years is an eternity in the blink of an eye, it’s the moment your lips meet mine,

it’s every breath I could not breathe.

Sí, Io Sono Cinese

There is scrambled shouting, explosive laughter, elders sitting calmly at the head of the table, and an excess of food.

Between heated conversations concerning career paths and the whereabouts of long lost relatives, it’s clear I am at a family gathering located at an overly embellished banquet hall. Aunts and uncles whose names I cannot recall are reminding me of how little I used to be and how I may not remember the precious bonding moments we shared. I turn a blind eye to embarrassing jokes by my father and laugh hysterically at my cousins’ attempts at keeping up with the Joneses. As a twenty-year-old quickly approaching her senior year in college, I now crave times like these where dozens of relatives are able to spend one rowdy evening together around the dinner table.

The majority of my adolescent life consisted of early Saturday mornings at Chinese school and the constant nagging of my mother to speak my native tongue, Mandarin.

While my parents tried their best to integrate their heritage into American traditions, the scales tipped rapidly to and fro. My reluctance stemmed from the inconvenience of speaking two languages and the unforgiving realities behind Asian stereotypes. Fortunately for this hyper-emotional budding youth, growing up in the Bay Area bubble meant Asian supermarkets and popular Boba joints were plentiful and no one thought twice about the color of your skin. I was raised in a house where everything new had to be tried at least once (including all sorts of questionable foods). My best friends at school were Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican; the list goes on. Race was never an issue in a world where minorities were abundant.

Almost immediately after heading East for college, I noticed a dramatic shift in perspective.

Dumbfounding questions were thrown my way from strangers in alignment with their generalized ideals of the Asian culture. Being inept at most types of mathematics, snide comments about how I wasn’t really Asian if I was bad at math left permanently stunned creases along my forehead. Was being a Chinese female raised in America really that outrageous? I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Despite the blaring differences between my physical appearances and that of others, many people would tell me—but you’re not like most Asians. And they were right. But I’m also not like most people. I enjoy red and purple hues in my hair, yoga and long hikes for fun, and ear-splitting electronic music. I quickly began to question my motives. Had I deliberately created a barrier between my heritage and myself?

During my time abroad I experienced racial prejudices far beyond the run-of-the-mill jokes.

Being harassed by locals in several European countries clouded my initial excitement of true cultural immersion. In order to combat the slanderous chants and surly glares in what would be my home for the next few months, I quickly picked up the Italian language and used it habitually. When my family came to visit at the end of the semester, it was as if the locals had upped the ante. I could always feel their eyes prying us apart from the hundreds of people walking by. There were close encounters but we managed to return home safely, tongues raw from biting back our words. There was no reason for me to be ashamed of my genetic makeup, yet it stung that these people saw me as nothing more than a color.

Being Asian by heritage means I am the one responsible for bringing about change.

People will put you down based on their petty misinformed bias, but there is never an excuse for ignorance. I am Chinese by birth, American by choice, and if you only see me for how narrow my eyes are, I only see you for how narrow your mind is.

Strength

Poetry by Karen J. Wang

2 January 2016


Strength does not feel like iron bars growing in the place of soft flesh.

She’s more like shallow breaths and balmy temples.

Show me strength disguised in a cape and shield,

And I’ll show you faint and dark scars across my chest.

Strength strikes with a vengeance at night.

She is crippling, abusive, and so damn heavy.

Dry throat and fuzzy head, I’ve grown an interest in ceiling fans and carpet.

Strength sings you to sleep at night with the pattering of tears on the pillow

and shakes you awake at odd hours just to scream, “You Are Alone”.

People are talking and I can’t hear a word they’re saying,

So I count the beats of my heart with the ticking of the clock in the other room.

Strength feels like forgiveness on the tip of your tongue

held back by memories too painful to recall.

But I’ll play them over and over and over until my vision blurs

and even your name sounds foreign in my voice.

Strength does not feel like “I’m my own superhero”,

She’s more like silent screams and tears hotter than my bath water.

Finding My Groove

Originally Published on March 24th, 2015

I’m consumed in a shroud of darkness.

Students in pleated skirts, shiny cufflinks, pressed ties, and black monogrammed binders flutter anxiously to and fro across the campus quad. Like marching bullet ants, I catch glimpses of furrowed brows and muffled conversations concerning summer internships and the like. On days like these I feel trapped in the leather bound coffin I created around myself, listening intently, palms sweaty, as the locks click shut.

I’ve been creatively inclined since before I can remember.

My aspirations as a child strayed far from academics while gravitating towards anything involving construction paper and colored pens. To my parents’ frustration, every favorite subject line in the About Karen section was always art. As I progressed through the adolescent years, I immersed myself in whatever I thought seemed fit: makeup artistry, fashion design, studio artwork, and even modern dance. While friends, faculty and my greatest supporter, my older sister, reinforced my efforts at school, the looming shadow of disappointment from my parents fell heavy upon my ego.

My gears began to grind as I reached the ripe age of 17 and it came time to choose a university for the next chapter of my life.

I was catapulted into the realm of college counseling, SAT’s, subject tests, AP’s, campus tours, and endless essays describing why I felt worthy of attending X University. The problem was—I didn’t even know what I wanted. East Coast or West Coast? Large campus or small campus? Liberal Arts or a specialized degree? People demanded answers and I was in no position to give it to them.
Conveniently enough, my older sister had been accepted into Bentley University a few years prior and raved about its prime location and small class sizes. While I must admit Rachel and I often act like the poster children for the idiom “two-peas-in-a-pod”, we couldn’t be more unalike. I admire her ability to excel in areas I could never enjoy, specifically accounting, but my vines reach far beyond the boundaries of a textbook.

The pungent stench of my overworked motor infiltrated every nook and cranny of my senior year, quickly spreading to my bitter attitude and disdain for my parents.

Art school was out of the question and dinner table conversations turned sour at the mention of my future. Since I failed to provide a good reason for staying close to home, my parents were set on me heading east. After several months of dead-ended arguments, my fate was sealed in a padded blue and white envelope labeled “Bentley University”.

Suppressed by the horrors of GB’s and directionless Gen-Ed’s, my preliminary years were filled with the relentless banter of my inner conflicts.

Peers and mentors always asked me the same probing questions, and each time I gave the same lackluster response. “Yes, I am from California. No, I don’t know why I chose Bentley. No, I don’t know what I want to study. I’m sorry if you’re disappointed by my answer.” Confused looks from strangers were prompted with the stinging phrase, “Then why are you here?” Without the security of a background in accounting or finance, I felt the net unravel from beneath me. I was lost in a world I didn’t recognize.

It wasn’t until the beginning of my junior year here at Bentley that I finally found my groove.

With the opportunities presented by my study abroad experience, my fire for graphic design and writing rekindled, giving me new hope in potential career endeavors. Like misplaced pieces shifting in a jumbled Rubik’s cube, I can hear the gears begin to readjust. The opportunities were there all along; I just had to work a little harder to uncover them. While I chase longingly at new aspirations, I am comforted by the fact that I’m not completely alone. Though I still fear the day my multicolored hair resorts to its natural hue and the shards of metal are removed from my ears and face, support from loyal friends let me know these acts of individuality have not gone unnoticed. My efforts to stand out in a crowd make me the odd one of the bunch, but if that’s the case then hey, so be it. At least I’m living on my own terms.

Buy Experiences, Not Things

Originally Published for the Bentley Vanguard on March 3rd, 2015

Jim has one winter coat. The coat is black, properly insulated, waterproof, and provides ample warmth. There are no tears or defects to the coat. The coat also matches most of Jim’s daily wear attire as well as his business formal suits. Being fully aware of the condition of his coat, Jim proceeds to purchase two additional coats during the winter season from his local retailer. What was the motivation behind Jim’s decision?

Our distorted concept of necessity seems to stem from the insatiable hunger for more. Perhaps as we delve deeper into the notion of need, we begin to realize that necessity is completely subjective.
Basic human needs include the essentials to survival, namely food and shelter. Anything above these two categories is generally superfluous, whether it is designer brand clothing items, a flashy new car, or a summer home. As I’m sure you’ve all heard before, most things that provide happiness are intangible, items or events incapable of being bought or sold. But how often do people truly take this advice into consideration when making decisions? Is it the need for material possessions that pave the way for our career choices and fundamental motivations?
James Hamblin from The Atlantic states,
“Nothing material is intrinsically valuable, except in whatever promise of happiness it carries”.
While I wish I could take credit for this quote, I readily support Hamblin’s thought process. In the interest of disproving the unfortunate reality of consumerism, we might take into consideration the potential of experiences through material possessions.

Ergo, it’s not about the money, it’s about how you spend it.

While we consistently find ourselves daydreaming about our next paycheck, directing our efforts towards financially supporting our lifestyles, property and ownership are made-up constructs implemented by society. The earth is not yours to own. You may feel a strong emotional connection with an object or a person, but it will never be yours to keep. The flow of nature insists on the eternal recycling of resources and energy, eliminating the concept of yours and mine. Buddhism, founded on the Four Noble Truths, emphasizes the dangers of attachment that may lead to suffering. While realistically, someone may not always be fully free from attachment, a material item should not be the person’s end goal.

We value happiness highly in our lives but the path there is a long and winding one.

While I admit I cannot provide you with the formula to happiness, I truly believe your goals and aspirations will manifest themselves in the most unexpected ways possible. At the end of the day, clothes tear, technology becomes obsolete, and that sweet new BMW of yours will eventually stop running, but memories will last a lifetime.

For All You Know, I Could Be A Robot

Originally Published for the Bentley Vanguard on February 18th, 2015   

140 characters. You are given 140 characters on Twitter to formulate an articulate stream of consciousness. In a world of infinite scrolling, status updates, to-do lists, one-liners, and part-timers, these snippets of awareness are all we get to express our inner demons. We live in a time where conversations are held through radio waves instead of voice boxes. Our attention spans are far shorter than this introduction and if I haven’t successfully captured yours, then I’ve completely lost you.

I’m standing in front of the David in Florence, Italy. Yes, the David. But I’m not staring at the stunning size, the smooth creases of his sling, nor the majestic expression smeared across his face—No. I’m taking pictures of the dozens of tourists taking pictures of Michelangelo’s incredible feat. In an age where nothing can be seen without the frame of a camera, it’s “photos or it didn’t happen”.

With the explosion of the technology era, we are able to take shelter under the convenience of an emoji in lieu of words—or time for that matter.

There is a constant battle of who can say the least but still get their message across, the loaded subtext of a simple “K” weighing far more than we could have ever imagined. We have become mechanic shells of the highly intelligent creatures we envision ourselves to be, obsessed with the fast-paced backbones of reality. We can’t even walk to the bathroom without our eyes glued on our iPhones, as if one look away will catapult us into virtual oblivion.

Can someone tell me—is this real life?

We’ve become trapped in these bubbles we’ve created for ourselves. Declaring love through our devices, we are not in a relationship with each other rather the glowing LCD screens radiating against our blank faces. We stare at phones longer than we can bear to gaze into each other’s eyes and choose to keep our thoughts silent, fearing exposure.

My brain often feels like it’s short-circuiting.

It has become nearly impossible to concentrate on a single task for more than ten minutes at a time, not to mention the constant bombardment of notifications demanding my attention. We can’t sit still. We bounce back and forth between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, in hopes that we find solace between the folds of an electronic page. We think prescription drugs will help us focus, but that’s only mediating the symptoms not solving the pressing issue. This constant refreshing of the same click-bait feed has my eyes glazing over. I think Buzzfeed articles are the driving force against intellectual stimulation. These repetitive, unsubstantiated, shallow lists lack purpose and ultimately attempt to stretch information that could be presented in as little as one paragraph. Carefully numbered lists make me feel like I’m being spoon-fed information, as if I’m too simple minded to question the validity of their statements. Then again perhaps in this too-busy-right-now world, we are only able to digest articles such as the “14 Celebrity Transformations to Give Us Hope” and “11 Epic Facts About Lefties”.
The idiocy is palpable.