"Oye, que paso?"
(If no one got it, it's an In The Heights reference. And I think no one got it.)
And when I looked at everything I had yet to finish this week with final IB exams in another eight...
I was suffering a burnout. Burnout from what, I'm not quite sure (to be very honest), but it was a burnout indeed; I couldn't concentrate in school for the entire day and had zero motivation to crack on with work. And when my mum reminded me that I had to get started with work, that was it - I went up to my room, flopped on the bed and started crying. Then I took a nice fat 2 hour-long nap (which thank God no one woke me up from) and woke up feeling much, much better.
And that's when I realised: we do deserve occasional breaks and do-nothing-days, even if deadlines are a few weeks away. It's funny - we always text phrases like these to our friends, telling them it's okay to just lie down and let time tick away, and yet we ourselves fail to heed our own advice. Or maybe we choose to block it out, perhaps out of the fear of being unproductive. But that's the thing - we can do that. We can not do anything. We are allowed to be unproductive, to bask in our own unproductive-ness, and to be at peace with being peacefully unproductive.
Humans were created human for a reason - we aren't robots, we don't comprise of machinery and mechanical gears, we were never geared to have a production yield of a hundred percent, 24/7. We are a grisly mess of guts, emotions, fears, yearnings, knowledge, conscience, thoughts, dilemmas - everything that makes us living, breathing, feeling creatures. And sometimes all this just gets too much. It catches up with us, and we forget that sometimes, it might be better to just succumb to it. I'm not saying we should completely immerse ourselves in our wallowing and sink down into the deep unknown (that would be dangerous and counterproductive), but sometimes we have to let ourselves be pulled along just beneath the waves, and allow them to embrace us, just for a moment.
Which brings me to...
The Pit of Wallowing
In here, we can cry, we can wail, we can rant, or we can just do nothing and float along (refer to illustration above). Like a little stray piece of seaweed, we are suspended near the surface of the water, close enough to the top to see the filtered rays of sun, but far enough at the bottom to mute the buzz of the ever-changing world above until the raucous hubbub becomes a gentle hum. And it is in here that we can find peace amidst the tumultuous, raging storm (otherwise known as life). We learn to listen to all our worries, fears and anxieties, and choose to let them go. Of course, there is a danger to this - being swept up by currents of despair and sinking into the blue hole at the endless bottom of the pit - which is why we can't stay in the pit for long and need others to hold ourselves accountable for re-finding our footing once we've gone under ('friends', 'family' - hope these words ring a bell!).
But when done right, having bathed in the water of the pit of wallowing, the negativity gradually sloughs itself off our skin and descends to the bottom, just like a piece of sediment. And when we're finally done, we lift ourselves up, feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and renewed, ready to continue our hike up the mountain of life.
Love, Ashley x
20 Scientifically Proven Ways to De-Stress Right Now, by Meredith Melnick
Top School Stress Relievers for Students, by Elizabeth Scott
Stressed? Tired? Burnt Out? Take A Pause, by Rodger Dean Duncan
I am a person of colour. It is, admittedly, a strange feeling to realise that I am encompassed in that umbrella term - a strange feeling that most of you reading this will probably share, with the majority of you being from the same culture, ethnicity and country as I am.
All my life, I've been surrounded by people who look like me - ethnicity-wise - and I have grown up in an environment where I belong to the majority race, something that I realise I've taken for granted, having (fortunately) never been shortchanged due to my race. And then I grew older, travelled wider, and realised that outside of Asia, I'm considered the minority. I never once thought that that term would be used to describe me in any way, but the truth is that it is. And along with that categorisation came the unspoken label - "P.O.C.", and with the label came the assumptions, the stereotypes, and the subtle racism.
It's the sort of racism that you don't feel too offended by the first time - the kind that is disguised as a compliment and completely unintentional, the kind that you smile at and laugh off and occasionally even thank them for, the kind that makes you stop in your tracks and wonder, five minutes later, Why did the sweet lady at the cookie dough shop even ask me that? - the most poisonous kind. Because you never realise it's there, until you slowly begin to understand the implications of what was said to you, and the indignation creeps in ever so slowly before gnawing away for the next three days, creating a nest of resentment. Something like 'Your English is really good, where did you learn it from?'
And this is what concerns me the most - unintentional racism. If you so much as thought, Yes, I've had that said to me before, then you've been a victim of unintentional racism too, whether you've realised that beforehand or not. And chances are, you probably have. Now, the above example is just my own experience with unintentional racism and merely one of the many, because such racism can take many different forms - and, more often than not - is used with humorous intent. Racism is not a one-way street, it comes from people of many different ethnic groups and is directed towards people from just as many other ethnic groups. People often hear about racism and think that it must be from a majority group to a minority group, but that's not true, because racism is defined as 'the unfair treatment of people who belong to a different race', and all races and ethnicities are capable of exhibiting such behaviour towards another. Members of minority races can be racist to members of other minorities, or even the majority race, and it would serve us well to remember this when we make meaningless remarks - something even I am guilty of from time to time.
Which brings me to one of my points: racist slurs. As a teenager in high school, I have the same fears that most other teenagers do - losing my friends, being judged by others around me, being labelled as overly-sensitive and uptight, etc. - and all these fears have stopped me, time and time again, from speaking out against casual racist comments that have been thrown around carelessly by my own friends (who, I know, mean no harm). And I am embarrassed to admit that most, if not all, of the time, I have forced myself to turn a blind eye to such language, feigning ignorance and oblivion, with the but-I-know-they-didn't-mean-it mindset (a highly dangerous one, might I add).
But the recent cold-blooded murder of George Floyd has once again spurred the world into action, and me along with it. The fire of racism is being fed by small, seemingly harmless jokes like these, and will raze everything to the ground unless we take a firm stance against such behaviour. We might not intend it, but those (rather poor) attempts at humour are part of the reason why people still see racist behaviour as acceptable, when it clearly is not. By using or not speaking out against usage of the n-word, for example (or any variations of it and other forms of derogatory language at all, regardless of lack of malicious intent), we're propagating racist sentiments and partaking in the spread of casual racism. And by using it as a joke, we're downplaying the severity of one of the most hate-filled, shameful periods of American history, as well as trivialising the plights of all who suffered through it, which is disrespectful in every sense of the word. And most definitely not okay.
Being part of the ethnic group that has been highly targeted in recent months due to xenophobia should have made us more aware of the impacts that our statements have on the groups of people they concern, but the collective fury that we directed together against Chinese-oriented racist sentiments seems to have dissipated when it comes to our treatment of other races. Hypocrites, indeed.
But unintentional racism goes way beyond bad jokes and name-calling - it enters the territory of cultural dilution. To many of us in the East, if someone asked us for our race, we'd identify as Chinese, or Japanese, or Korean, Thai, Indian... the list goes on. But ask someone from the West, and they might simply refer to the whole lot of us from the East as Asian. And ask someone white from the West, and we might become just a small composition under the umbrella term 'people of colour'. You see where I'm going with this - as we zoom out further and further on a demographic scale, our cultural identity becomes lost in the sea of colour, eventually becoming one of two blobs: white, or not-white.
And this is where I draw the line.
For those of you who stubbornly insist that white superiority no longer exists - wake up. The very fact that terms such as 'people of colour' are still being used to separate the global population into 'white' and 'not-white' is proof that white superiority is prevalent. And the very fact that terms such as 'people of colour' are being used by politicians and prominent figures in statements addressed to specific ethnic groups such as black and Latinx folk shows that there are many who simply lump the not-white's together in a bland monochrome, as artfully described by Jason Parham.
But we are more than one singular colour, and should not be labelled as such. We are each different, defined by our unique cultural heritage that sets us apart - we are far richer, and far more diverse than the term 'people of colour' gives us credit for. 'People of colour' had been coined to be a safe, non-racist alternative, and its emergence as a go-to term was well-meaning. But what people don't realise is that continued usage of this term deviously, inconspicuously sketches seemingly unnoticeable lines between the whites and the not-whites until the lines are layered on top of each other and a glaringly obvious divide is formed, cementing the foundation of an us-versus-them mentality that was unknowingly created by the 'POC' label. And now that we know this, it's high time we destroy that foundation, to dig up the seeds of casual and unintentional racism before they're allowed to be sown any further.
I am a person of colour. But that does not, and should not, define me. Because beyond that, I am also Asian. And I am also Chinese. And I am, undoubtedly, still myself.
Love, Ashley x
What We Get Wrong About 'People of Colour', by Jason Parham
These are the images of George Floyd you should see, by Alisha Ebrahimji
The Death of George Floyd, In Context, by Jelani Cobb
One of the mottos that I always try to live by (apart from the basic 'have courage and be kind') is 'give thanks and be grateful'. This has less to do with my Catholic upbringing, and more with attaining happiness, satisfaction and contentment from my life at any given moment. In various studies conducted over time, correlations between gratitude and improvements in mood and overall emotional well-being have been observed (once again, the Psychology student in me raises her head). Which is why, in trying times such as these, it is important to strive to remember the good that could arise from this situation, which is often overshadowed by the complaints we generate while holed up in our black hole of self-pity and bleak isolation! So here are some of my reasons to be grateful for the Great Pandemic of 2019-2020 :)
1. Increased family bonding time!
On a normal school, my schedule looks somewhat like this:
Like many other households in Singapore, both my parents work, and they often come home sometime between 7-9pm due to their work or personal schedules. Meanwhile, my sister lives an ocean away in the UK, expending her brain cells on a Master's degree in Chemistry, and on weekends, with my (and my parents') various enrichment activities, we barely see each other from morning 'til night. Basically, the only time we're all at home is from 12-8am, when everyone's snoozing away. Even the sacred mealtimes, once a treasured, untouchable hour of conversation over food, have been forgone in the light of work and other commitments.
However, with the rapid closing of schools, services and offices, I've once again found myself surrounded by my family, a sight that's been absent since a solid few years ago. My dad works from home, my mum quit her job (unrelated to the virus), and my sister got sent back across the ocean. And the communal mealtimes, once a rare sight to see, are back with a vengeance. Indeed, my family life has been fulfilled in so many ways that wouldn't be otherwise possible - we now spend hours lounging in front of the television, catching up over dinner (or lunch, or breakfast) and pampering our dog (who, I must say, is very happy with the attention he's been receiving). Our previously quiet, empty house, has had life and vigour breathed into it once more.
2. Cleaner seas, rivers and air!
The conservationist in me must include this!! Like many tabloid and news articles have mentioned, carbon emission and air pollution levels have plunged dramatically in the widespread efforts by governments to clamp down on the spread of the coronavirus. There has been an estimated 25% decrease in carbon emissions in China the same four-week period as the previous year, and air and road traffic in the UK has also dropped by a massive amount (Source: NBC News and The Guardian). Meanwhile, the death toll on animals as a result of vehicle roadkill will surely dip, with less cars on the road as more containment measures are implemented. Animals have been spotted roaming freely in places around the world where they have never been previously seen, and the invigorating scent of fresh air (with the occasional cigarette smoker) has once again permeated the neighbourhoods. But, as always, we have to be aware of the efforts countries and companies might take to recoup the many economic losses that have been suffered once the crisis subsides, which might overturn any successful steps we have taken towards sustainability. Already, bills are being passed in the United States that relax enforcement of laws passed to regulate pollution, and others might follow as the Earth is set back into motion.
3. More sleep...
On a smaller, more personal level, the implementation of home-based learning has definitely boosted my sleep levels. With the school day starting at 8.55am and no travel time needed to take into account, I've been waking up about 2.5 hours later than I normally do, and the added few hours of shut-eye have done wonders for rejuvenating the mind. My normal five or six hours of sleep have now been extended to a healthy eight hours, making me feel more in control of and in tune with my brain, which is no longer focused on the constant, plaguing question of 'How should I best take a nap without my teacher noticing?'.
With all the negativity and complaints that have been circulating on the internet and social media about not being able to hang out with friends or go to malls and cinemas, I hope that we all remember to always be grateful for the blessings that we have, no matter how small and insignificant they might seem.
"Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, His love endures forever."
- Psalms 107:2 -
Love, Ashley x
P.S. Fellow theatre kids will have (hopefully) noticed that the theatrical play 'What The Constitution Means To Me' inspired the post title.
What should a student do when her two-week-long break from school extends to become five weeks long, you ask? Why, waste time, of course.
Things I've been up to during the break include catching up on K-dramas, reading books and (most productive of all) finally creating a blog! So here it is - my personal record of things I do, thoughts I entertain and places I've been. Stylised 'littleasianone'. What's with the name? Ah, the name, yes. The name that's kind of, almost, somewhat borderline-extra. Here goes.
For starters, I'm short. And always have been. I can't exactly recall a time in my life when my line of sight was not at everyone else's shoulder height, and I have come to accept that it shall forever remain that way. But also, I'm extremely proud of my Asian, Chinese heritage. By 'extremely', I mean I would never ever choose to be of a different ethnicity. I hail from a little village in China where everyone shares the same surname - a village that my great-grandparents left behind in order to seek a better life for their children, as well as a town in Malaysia that my other set of grandparents grew up in. I've never known any of my great-grandparents personally, but I'm grateful to have both sets of grandparents in my life to this day. I guess a lot of my love for my heritage comes from the culture and values that I've associated with it - that of respect for elders, community before self and familial ties. Perhaps it's the way I've been brought up, but those aspects of my culture make my life all-the-more rich with meaning and value, strongly influencing who I am today.
But I digress too much. Next - why did I choose to create this? Well, I've always wanted to have a place to capture my life on documentation, that's both easy to share with others as well as not just an unreadable page of scribbles (i.e. aesthetically pleasing, to a certain extent), and with this well-needed break from daily academics came the realisation that I've missed writing. Not writing in the sense of essays, reports and analyses (which are all too present in the IB), but writing for my own personal enjoyment, about things I truly care about (this is, of course, definitely not suggesting that I don't care about writing for academic purposes and believe that such writing is a waste of creative energy... right?). And so, on a whim, from midnight to four in the morning, I - with my technologically inept brain and hands - toiled at the 'editor' domain of Weebly to come up with some semblance of a blog, with results that, I must say, have turned out to be relatively satisfactory.
Just kidding. I love my blog. Hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing thus far :)
Love, Ashley x