A Race Against Time

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Photo by Jiyeon Park on Unsplash

It came down to the wire this year– yesterday was day 29 of NaNoWriMo.

I had 35,777 more to go.

There’s something about having a goal, one you know you’ve reached before and that feeling, the one that doesn’t let you be less than what you’ve been. I didn’t want to lose this year, I had to reach the goal. 50,000 words, I had to reach it.

I started on day one. Now I may have missed days 2-7, but I promise, I started on day one. By day 2, I was behind.

It’s not that I didn’t know what I needed to write, that wasn’t it. I’ve had this story in my head for a while, one that allowed for the collision of so many different worlds to come together into one incredible novel that only makes sense once you turn that last page. Then that “oh” moment makes you sit back and wonder how you got from the start to finish in the first place.

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Photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

That’s the kind of moment that makes you want to read a book again, right after you read it the first time, because somehow there’s got to be more.

More. There’s got to be more. That has been my writing process.

It’s been a struggle to catch up once I got behind. Every day I wrote a little more and a little more, but it didn’t feel like enough. i wasn’t even going for the substance of my writing, no, that isn’t the point of NaNoWriMo.

The point is to hit that 50,000, because if you do, that means you’ve been writing. Consistently. Unless you’re one of those people to knock it out in under a week, the idea is to hit that word count because you’ve spent thirty days creating one world and one story.

It’s about the commitment to creating something that hasn’t been put on paper yet.

So did I commit?

After weeks of making late night time for writing, among the studying and the constant reading, I kept going. At first it was hard to find the story, to figure out just what I was trying to say. They say that the characters choose their lives and we’re not allowed to change their story once it’s set.

Whatever happens happens, we put our pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and let the story come as it may. I committed to writing a story, all those words in one month so I could meet my goal, but even more so, so I could create a world.

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Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash

And here we are, November 30th, the final day of NaNoWriMo.

I’m at 35K words, just short of 50,000 by a few days of hard work. I haven’t written a single word since yesterday, well, I don’t plan to before the clock turns and strikes the first of December at 12am. I am not a winner for National Novel Writing Month this year and I’m okay with that.

Because I realized that as of right now, my finals start on Monday and there are things beyond my story that need my focus. Writing for me will always be a priority, but so will my studies.

Besides, believe it or not, my goal for the month wasn’t hitting 50,000.

I wanted to get that novel started, the one I’ve been thinking about for months. I wanted to find that space where I knew my characters and I found the story I needed to tell, that was my goal— in 35,000 words, I found that goal. I didn’t need to keep going.

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

It isn’t about consolation or even technically “losing” NaNoWriMo. I’m on track for my studying and all the readings I’ve had to do, and I found my story.

For me, that’s a success.

So with an unfinished novel and a busy two weeks ahead, happy Friday everyone. I hope you find your own success today, even if all that means is changing your perspective.

Good luck.

 

A Thousand Splendid Suns– A Book Review

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Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash

After a day of classes, studying, outlining, a nap, and other finals prep, I have a Bookworms post for you today.

This is one of my favorites, a book much like the dedication to Afghanistan in The Kite Runner, this one is a focus on the lives of Muslim women. As one of the stories I have grown to appreciate the most over the years, here’s what I’ve got.


A Thousand Splendid Suns– Khaled Hosseini

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Photo by Karl Magnuson on Unsplash

If you have read The Kite Runner, Hosseini’s writing style should feel familiar among the streets of Kabul yet again. Set in Afghanistan as the wars break overhead and the Taliban takes over the realities so many knew, the main character Mariam introduce the readers to her own world.

As a harami, what many also know as Jon Snow’s bastard status, Mariam is treated terribly from the very beginning. She is the first character we meet within the novel, and through her eyes, we are introduced to a Muslim culture not often seen in mainstream media.

Throughout the novel, there is love, hope, combat, hardship, and family, but most importantly there is endurance. Mariam’s existence itself is a defiance to what many other characters believe is “proper” or “right.” From a young age, she is forced to face tragedy and misfortune head on, her life dependent on how well she followed rules. The way Hosseini weaves the concepts of political control and cultural gender norms is done seamlessly through his characters; he does so to prove a point, one I hope you find if you read this book.

As women, Mariam and so many others are seen as subordinate. But they do not stay that way.

Beyond endurance, there is also a focus on education– in order to have a more productive and focused society, we need to have educated people. This idea is fostered by the character of Laila, someone bound to Mariam and her own life by unfortunate circumstance. As Laila and Mariam’s fates intersect, they come to love, hate, and rely on one another as the story unfolds. Though they are not related by blood, this book brings to question the concept of family and resilience: just how strong can someone be when they are not fighting solely for themselves?

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

The characters and images in this novel are half the battle, as they make it easy to slip into the pages and get caught up in the story. Though their lives are something I have never come close to living, there are still many ways to connect to these characters and their experiences. Whether it’s the fighting spirit Mariam turns out to have or the devotion of Laila, the narrative perspectives of these two women are what drive this story forward.

As the second time I have read this book, again closely following Hosseini’s other work The Kite Runner, I got the chance to read it with a larger perspective and understanding of the world than I had before. No matter your age or the life you live, this book is an incredible opportunity to step into the streets of Kabul for a short while and understand what it means to live to see a thousand splendid suns hiding behind the leaves.


See you Friday.

Food for Thought

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

After a few days home and what I’d like to call a healthy amount of food, another week is gone from 2018.

Thanksgiving is a holiday for food, friends, and family, one where we are supposed to be appreciating everything this life has given us. Even more than that, it’s also a pretty good time to play catch up on work and get a start of studying for finals. After all, I’m still a college students and I have exams coming up in two weeks. That and a word count to catch.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving itself or have changed the holiday to truly just mean appreciating the family and love around you, I like to take a step back from the holiday and recognize that these are a few days off to spend wisely. Of course I’d like to say i’ve been productive with my schoolwork, that’s not the only thing to focus on. Whether you watch a movie with the fam or even take a trip up  to the apple orchards, this holiday is a good reminder—slow down and take it all in while you’ve got a moment to.

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Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

For a lot of people, the holidays this year probably aren’t like the ones they’ve had before. After all, we have to consider the amount of lost homes and people that have impacted both Southern and Northern California. The season of giving really took it to a new level when restaurants opened their doors and cooked for the masses, simply trying to provide for those who have unfortunately lost almost everything. While for a lot of people, no routines were disrupted or or shopping traditions changed, for some this holiday has been a difficult one.

But at the hands of so many volunteers and kind people this year, it was made a little easier. And I’m thankful for the people like them.

With thanksgiving now behind us, I’m sure holiday lights and trees will be going up soon, as parents start their holiday planning and children start counting down to Christmas. Since this is my second to last post of November and Thanksgiving itself is over, I’m going to do something a little different.

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Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

I’m going to leave the rest of this post for you to fill in, to think about everything you’ve done this year and what you’ve grown to be thankful for.

I want you to think about that and put it in perspective, after all there is only so much time left in 2018. If there are things you still need to do, do it. If there are people you need to see, make it happen. And most of all, understand that Thanksgiving is over but there are things to be thankful for every day. So put your thinking caps on and consider it for a little bit…


And I’ll see you on Tuesday.

Heading Into the Holidays With Good Intentions

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Photo by Jed Villejo on Unsplash

Without Friday classes today, this is the official start of my Thanksgiving break. Working here on campus means a lot of things, including having to work one of our breaks; looks like Nick and I are sticking around here until Wednesday. As much as I love being able to go home and get out of this place for a little while, there might still be a bright side to being here.

Because without the distractions, the friends, or the classes, I’ve made myself a goal— by Wednesday, all my final papers, projects, and homework due by the end of break will be done. At least that’s the goal.

As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions right?

Speaking of good intentions, remember when I said I’m doing NanNoWriMo?

Well the goal is to get to 50,000 by the end of this month, and well… I am about 15,000 words behind as of today. Sure, I plan to catch up over this break and put in a lot of hours at my computer, but that is a really high deficit right there. With the month already halfway over, it’s a pretty daunting task to try and catch up at this point.

So what do you do when you’re crunched for time and there’s almost no way to make it?

You start from where you’re at.

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Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash

It’s like trying to get over a cold or the flu, recovery won’t happen in a day. It takes a lot of sleep, medicine, hydration, and time for your body to catch up. Getting through all my work this break will take about the same, plus some real motivation to get back to where I need to be. Cause let’s be honest, there’s a lot to do and only about 5 days to do it all.

The older I get, the more I seem to remind myself that a break from school isn’t really just a break anymore—it’s extra time to fill with all the things you’ve been meaning to do on top of all the things you should have been doing in the first place. It’s the time for fun and the time for productivity, mix in a little bit of family and travelling and well… That sounds like break to me.

There’s this balance I’ve been trying to find, between working hard and fun/self-care. I definitely haven’t found it yet, but I’d like to think I’m getting closer. At a certain point, self-care truly just means using your time wisely and setting yourself up to succeed with whatever you’ve got on your plate. Even if that means sleeping at a more reasonable bedtime than I ever do and actually managing my time properly.

Moving into Thanksgiving break here, I’m hoping to find a better way to move forward with my work and responsibilities. As of this week, I just committed to something huge for the rest of the school year involving Orientation Team; on top of my own personal goals along with the homework and my grades, I sometimes question whether or not I can handle what’s coming next.

I guess the only way to find out is to take it on head first and go from there. For now, I plan to settle into this next week of no classes and try to set myself up for success. Hopefully these good intentions lead me to something good.

So happy Friday, and I will see you all next week. For those of you travelling, be safe and I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know I’m thankful for everyone who keeps up with me every week. So thank you and happy holidays.

Setting Fire– Poetry Place

Happy Poetry Place day!!

So this one is a little different today, it’s actually a short story made up of haikus. I wanted to return to haikus for a little bit since they are surprisingly versatile and I also wanted to try to tell a story… Plus, California is on fire so that’s partially what I started off writing about before spinning it into a metaphor for something else. SO without further ado, here’s what I’ve got for you and I hope that you like it. Please do let me know what you think.


Setting Fire

Your meandering
smiles haunted me for a while,
and then you were gone.

But a fire lit
with a match to my mind and
now it won’t go out.

With all my eggs in
one basket…so what happens
if that basket breaks?

If the seams pull tight
and the hope breaks right down the
center, it must mend

with time we don’t have
and care we cannot give you.
There’s only one way

through, from something that
burns you from the inside out,
everything’s on fire.

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Photo by Dave Michuda on Unsplash

And one day you hope
to wake up and find out that
somehow the fire’s been

put out. So when the
morning comes and the sun sings
to you, just maybe

you can breathe in the
air, among the ash and the
past, you find a hope

that maybe this time
that basket finally held
and that fire burned

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Photo by Paul Wong on Unsplash

itself out. Welcome
to today: the first day of the rest
the rest of your life.


I know it needs work but that’s what writing is all about after all, the editing process. So if you have any suggestions or a quick comment, let me know! And I will see you on Friday.

Living on the Border– What Happens When That Line is Crossed

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Photo by Phước Lộc on Unsplash

I woke up yesterday morning, walking to my 7am class, the way most of us “millennials” do— trying to use coffee and twitter to drown out the noise of the snoring I could be doing, were I still in bed. But instead, I was walking through a cold building, dragging my feel to class, only to finally look down at the lit screen of my iPhone to find the news of Thousand Oaks staring back at me.

I wish I was surprised.

Because these things seem to happen, far too often, something I’m sure the few unlucky enough to go through this shooting and the Las Vegas shooting know only too well. So I sat through my first class of the day wondering about the trauma, the people, the lives…

How would the news twist this one?

Was the shooter white, would it become another not-so-subtle attack on race?

Would it be blamed solely on mental health, on the system?

What’s wrong with our system?

So I sat through class, nodding along and taking notes with hands only sort of conscious of what I was writing down. Then I left that class to go to another one, only this time, I was waiting for a text back.

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Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

We talked through the readings and went over what a writing center looks like, my leg bouncing and fingers constantly tugging at my pen for the next hour and a half; I was only halfway paying attention. Because it took me a minute to think about where Thousand Oaks is, to realize how close Borderline was to Pepperdine, to Cal Lutheran, to the college student friends I had who just might have been at that bar on college night.

Just like everyone else, I had to wait.

I didn’t want to find out through Facebook that another person died, not again. I didn’t want to sit in class and think about the 10, the 11, the 12 people who lost their lives.

I didn’t want to think about the fact that one of those people could have been one of my people.

I was lucky enough not to have to think that for too long— ironically Facebook was the bearer of good news this time when my friends checked themselves in safely.

Even while I was relieved, immensely so, I also worry about how it feels to be a parent in this day and age. You’re supposed to be able to send your child to a daycare at a preschool and not worry about the big what ifs: what if they they don’t come home, what if someone breaks into the school, what if they have a gun? What if I never see my child again?

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

People send their children to work, to worship, to college, into the real world, so they can understand how to live. This is what sets them up for the rest of their lives after all, this is when the living really starts. At least it’s supposed to.

I will never understand why or how things like this happen, let alone what we’re supposed to do after it does.

Because life goes on, even when it feels like it shouldn’t. Some people woke up this morning not missing loved ones lost, not wishing this reality was just a nightmare. People are going to work or to class or to school today, just like any other day. Some loved ones are accounted for, some aren’t, yet plans are still made for Thanksgiving, planes arranged for break, and people go on with their lives.

Tonight my PCE (Pilipino Cultural Exchange) family gets to welcome in over a dozen new members to our ranks, and tomorrow we all get to eat good food and celebrate our togetherness as one big club. Our lives go on, not thinking about how easily this could have happened in our town, at The Grad, or even to one of us visiting Borderline last night.

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Photo by Angelo Pantazis on Unsplash

That’s the thing about what happened, about what keeps happening: nothing changes. Not really. Sure, we get a little more scared and a little more worried, or maybe we hold people tighter for a little while. And we keep that up, until we don’t.

Personally, it’s a little exhausting and I sometimes wonder what it’ll be like to raise my own kids— would this have gotten better, worse?

I don’t know where we’re going from here, but something has to change. And I guess our lives will go on whether or not something does. For most of us.


I’ll see you on Tuesday for Poetry Place.

Challenge Accepted– NaNoWriMo

Another week has come and gone and a very busy one at that— just in case you were wondering, about last week, I did decide to take the high road after all. Sometimes that’s the only way to do it, and maybe it wasn’t even worth putting the emotional effort to be hurt or angry. This year I’m at least learning that it’s our choice who we keep close, am I right?

Beyond finally learning more big things, there are three others that get me truly excited these days: free food, cancelled class, and more sleep. Lucky for me, we turn our clocks back this Sunday so I get a little bit of that last one to start off the next week.

Which is perfect, because it’s finally November… Do you know what that means?

Various kinds of pies will be eaten, a few more exams will be taken, hopefully more sleep will be gotten over break…

And maybe if I hit my word count, a new novel will be written (started). Because it’s National Novel Writing month (NaNoWriMo).

Officially, the month started yesterday and every single day, the word count needed to hit that incredible goal is 1,667. If you miss a day, that word count doubles. Because one way or another, if you want to win nanowrimo, you’ve got to hit 50,000 by the end of this month. And well…

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Photo by Photos by Lanty on Unsplash

I just missed day one.

That’s the thing about having a goal; if you miss a day of it whether it’s working out, reading a few pages every night, or remembering to sit down and relax every morning before work, it sets you back. And you are the only person who can make up for it.

Right now, 50,000 for me is quite the lofty goal. If you remember from last year, I was able to hit that word count but it was a real scramble down to the last few hours. Well, the last hour. But I threw myself into it because I needed something to focus on, some other place to put my mind for a little while, and I could get that much closer to finishing my book in the meantime.

Don’t you have things like that too?

I think there are a lot of times in our lives, things we get ourselves into, not just because we want to but truly because it’s what we need. Think of it like exercising— just because you should doesn’t mean you will, but we (should) do it anyway, for our own good.

Considering what’s going on in my life, the things I’m already doing along with maybe remembering that I should actually take care of myself, adding a 1,667 word goal to my days isn’t the kind of stress I need. But as weird as it sounds, it’s the kind of stress I want right now. I miss the creativity, the process of writing something other than academic papers.

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Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash

Maybe it’s not the kind of thing I should be taking on right now, but I could use the distraction, the goal to set. Even though it’s work, it’s also a break— the best kind really. Because I’ve been so caught up in all the papers and readings and work and interviews that I haven’t had time for anything else. One thing this month does is literally force me to take the time if I’m going to hit 50,000. So I guess that’s what we’re going to do— commit and hope for the best in whatever comes next.


Wish me luck everyone, I know that I’ll need it if I’m already behind. So have a great weekend, find your own challenge this week, and I will see you Friday.