February: Drifting

My eyes open on their own, greeted by beige popcorn ceiling—a familiar sight for the past month, and yet. Yet, something is wrong. Curiosity fills in the gaps left by drowsiness, sending tingles through my fingertips. It’s quiet—too quiet; a deafening silence; a loneliness that permeates every breath and bone. I peel back the curtains and rays of understanding refract through the glass window.

I’m Alice falling down the rabbit hole, I think. An illusion of perspective: everything outside is still but appears to be floating upward. But this is not some fantasy world. Perhaps I’m in the silent outer space, specks of light orbiting around me. An illusion of distance: not fireflies stuck in that big bluish-black thing, but balls of gas burning billions of miles away. But that’s not right—the gravity here is 9.8 m/s2. I must be in the ocean, submerged fathoms beneath the surface, watching air bubbles swim to the surface. The silence is an illusion of sound: not less of it but traveling faster and through a greater density. But no—I can breathe. I turn to familiar memories: the white specks swirling and carried upward by the wind must be cottonwood seeds. However, it’s not spring, nor am I in Seattle. I’m in Washington—the city, not the state.

And then it strikes me: It is snowing. The white flurries are simultaneously thick and light, not falling but drifting uncertainly, caught in a tug of war between gravity and air pressure.

When I try to capture the view on my phone camera, I frown at the result. Through the screen, the snow has shrunk both in size and wonder, camouflaging against the abalone sky. The ground is disappointingly charcoal gray. The snow disappears as soon as it touches concrete, as if it was never there.

I initially chose this scene because of its unusual visuals. Snow, especially when the flakes are large, usually falls downward. When I looked out the window and saw the flurries suspended in the air, with some even floating upward, the experience was otherworldly. I wanted to record the scene on my phone for this assignment and to show to my parents. But when I tried, the result could not do the real view justice. It was hard to see how large the snowflakes were and even more difficult to see that the snow was drifting instead of falling. Because the snow melted as soon as it touched the ground, it hardly even looked like it was snowing. Moreover, the video could not capture my emotions: a synthesis of awe, tranquility, and excitement. Knowing that the snow and my emotions were ephemeral—that they were unique to that moment, the failure of technology was even more frustrating. Despite all the advances in phone cameras, I do not think they will ever be able to imitate real experience. But what if I could store this memory using words instead? While thinking about how to write this paragraph, I realized that the actual visuals of the scene, though important, were less so than its intangible elements and ambience. Video recording technology was not the right tool because it is limited to the physical world. Yet, my first reaction was to turn to my phone. My dependence—our dependence—on technology and the inevitability of its limitations will lead to disappointment if we forget that the real world exists in language, human emotion, and the present.

A Scene of Writing,” an assignment for my Experimental Essays course this Spring 2021 semester. The assignment called for two paragraphs: one that describes the scene to show the significance of what is happening, and another to reflect on and explain the significance of the scene.

Attempt to capture the drifting snow on my phone camera

Monthly favorites:
  • Article: “Chronicles of a Bubble Tea Addict” by Jiayang Fan — a personal essay on how the transformation of boba in the U.S. parallels the transformation of the multifaceted Asian-American experience.

Part of being Asian-American—a subtle trait, if you want to call it that—is the fear of being judged for losing one’s Asian-ness while failing to earn acceptance as a real American. Assimilation, in other words, is an impossible process of pouring oneself into another while holding onto a sense of self. It is tricky to judge from the outside a transformation that largely takes place within.

  • Book: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman — a charming, hilarious, and emotional novel with one of my favorite main characters of all time.
  • TV Show: Flower of Evil — a thriller Korean drama with some of the best acting I’ve ever seen.
Recent Life Updates
  • I’ve developed a grocery shopping addiction. The week red seedless grapes were on sale at Whole Foods, I went four times
  • I got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine! It was super quick and didn’t hurt at first, but 12 hours later, I was groaning every time I put pressure on my arm.
  • I’ve been working on establishing a new flow for this semester. My courses are much harder, and I entered the semester with the same relaxed mindset from the fall. After receiving a disappointing grade on my first assignment in Chinese and crying several times, I decided that I needed to get myself together. Thankfully, the crying episodes have decreased significantly in these last few weeks.
  • Since I don’t have my graphite drawing supplies, I’ve been dipping my toes back in digital art! It’s surprisingly time consuming

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