Becoming Photogenic

nicola-perantoni-251“You’re not even a little pretty, who would look at you.”

“Why are you so ugly today?”

“What a fat ass.”

“So chubby. Try eating less. Exercise more.”

The words that come out of mouths can hurt a lot worse than any slap could.

But then again…

“Why do I like you? You’re cute, super outgoing, you give amazing hugs, plus, you’re beautiful :)”

“Lily, you are too cute.”

“Actually you have such an amazing personality that awhile back I was surprised no one liked you.”

“You’re cute, smart, and charming.”

Today, I am happy with who I am and how I look, but it took about seventeen years for me to finally feel this way.

Most people have had that point in time in life where they feel insecure, when they don’t love themselves. Identity is something most people struggle with as they grow up, and I was no exception.

All throughout my childhood, I was made fun of for my weight and body shape. I never loved myself, never liked the way I looked, never liked seeing myself in pictures. I was never happy with my appearance. I had glasses, my clothes were average and never really flattered my body.

So after seventeen years, what changed to make me “become photogenic”?

It wasn’t one single thing that changed who I was, or as my friends put it, made me glow up and have a transformation.

My first step was getting educated. I was at the highest weight I had ever been in my life, and when I hadn’t grown taller in four years, that really made a difference to me. I took an online physical education class. Of course I always knew of the importance of exercise and healthy eating, but somehow having it clearly stated and spelled out on a screen before my eyes really made me take it to heart. So I started having a regular exercise routine and set goals to reach. Although this didn’t do much for my weight, it did help my fitness.

The second step was my eating habits. I had a bad habit of snacking a lot, mostly when I was bored, not even hungry. I got a job, where I would have six or nine hour shifts and couldn’t snack. Although I only worked on weekends, this habit of just not snacking uncontrollably transferred into my weekday life as well, and I would stop having my large after-school snacks, which usually consisted of cheesy and salty foods. I started becoming more health conscious of what I was putting into my body. The snacks I had were the unhealthiest part of my diet, and changing the quantity and quality of what I put in my body made me drop twenty pounds over the course of a few months.

Third, I finally figured out my style. I got a better sense of what clothes were more flattering on my body, and developed more specific preferences colors and design.  I felt better about the clothes I was putting on because my body would look more shapely in them. Style helped a lot. Even if looks are somewhat superficial, looking good on the outside certainly did make me feel better on the inside. It was simple: I dressed nice. I looked nice. I felt nice.

One of greatest movie cliches that happens to the main female lead: getting a makeover, which mainly consists of just switching out glasses for contacts. This happened to me, and it made a huge difference in my life. I always hated the way I looked in glasses, and was always self-conscious in them. Getting contacts was my cliche movie transformation, and I loved it. The switch did wonders for my self-esteem and confidence. Of course now, I’m also fine with the way I look in glasses, but I do prefer going lens-less.

I met someone special. No, not in that way. I met a bodacious, confident girl. She was open and in tune with her sexuality. She knew how to let loose and have fun, and when she wanted something, she went after it. Her outgoing nature definitely rubbed off on me even in the short time I spent with her, and I came more out of my timid shell and became more accepting of my crazy and oddball personality.

I never thought much of myself before. I never thought anyone would ever find me desirable, and when someone actually did, I was surprised beyond belief. Once the shock wore off, I was extremely flattered. This experience helped me believe in my own abilities, and that I was actually likable as a person to others.

Today I can say that I am beautiful. Inside and out. And it took a long while to finally believe that. I appreciate myself, even if at first it was only aesthetics, but now I also love myself more as a person. I became more confident and more outgoing, which encouraged me to be brave and try new things, like talking to new people and opening myself up to them.

This isn’t a guide on how to be pretty. It’s my story of how I finally came to embrace myself as a person and be happy with my identity. For everyone, it’s different. And especially the people who accepted me, ugly duckling or swan, really made a difference in my attitude about the world.

And as for photos, I pretend I’m photogenic, and then I am. Don’t ever think, “I’m going to look awful,” because then you will. Life is a camera, and even if there are bad photos that come out, you can still have a good laugh about it, move on, and hope the next picture is better.

Just smile!

“You really glowed up this year.”

 

 

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Teenage Rebellion

From time to time, everyone looks back on their past and youth. What they did, how they acted, who their friends were, and how their lives were in general.

I vividly remember the years I was a teenager in high school. I was happy and carefree a lot of the time, but I was also angry and spiteful, especially toward those in my family. For inexplicable reasons, I always felt the need to talk back and make things more difficult than they should have been for my parents. Though I was content most of the time, my mood was prone to change by 180 degrees by the slightest provocation. I was irritable and easily annoyed, getting hugely pissed off with anything my family did wrong. I either wore a stone cold mask of indifference or had a scowl on my expression, and constantly shooed everyone out of my room because there was no such thing as too much alone time.

Even at the time, I knew my behavior made little sense. I never acted this way outside of the home or around my friends, and my parents were nothing but good to me. Of course now that I’m older I’ve mellowed out, but I can’t help but still be bewildered by my attitude in my younger years.

As I observe the youth of today, I realize this more common than I realize. Socrates once said, “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” It has been over 2000 years since Socrates’s time, and it seems that nothing has changed much. Adolescent rebellion is natural as a way of finding independence and identity, and nearly all of us have been through it at some point. All I can really say is: teenagers, try to be good to your parents; they provide you with so much love and take care of you the best they can. And to parents, and my parents in particular, you are doing the hardest job in the world raising children; thank you so much and try to bear with us rebellious teenagers.

The Senior Home

A few weeks ago, I came home from performing at a retirement home for the elderly. We played music for the senior citizens to them to enjoy and be entertained. As I was driving to the home, I wasn’t expecting for the simple performance to be one of the best experiences of my life.

The interior of the home was quaint and cozy, with high hung chandeliers and a generous amount of windows, filling every room with rich natural light. My group and I started rearranging chairs for the audience, setting up our stands, and warming up our instruments. After about fifteen minutes, most of our performers had already arrived and the audience started filing in and taking seats.

When everyone settled down, our organization president and introduced us to the audience. As he spoke, I looked around and observed the individuals I would be performing for. The crowd was mostly composed of females, there was one woman sitting on the side that was hard of hearing, there were a few individuals sitting in wheelchairs, and there was one sweet old couple sitting in the front holding hands.

And finally it was time to perform. My small trio was first to play. It was nothing too hard, a simple and  pretty song that was quickly over. The next set of performers, a duet between a singer and pianist, took the floor and proceeded playing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley. I leaned back in my chair and braced myself to listen to one of my favorite love songs. Once the smooth, rich singing started, I was pleasantly surprised to hear low, gruff voices from the audience join in on the lyrics. I glanced over at the audience and my heart absolutely melted when I saw that the old man, hand still clasped to his partner’s, was singing along. I admit that I teared up at the sight, and then started lightly singing along to the song as well. It was quite emotional, seeing an old couple (who I presume were married), still together, still in love, and truly living up to the vows: “Til death do us part.”

As the performances continued and I observed the audience, I couldn’t help but wonder how often their families visited, if they were happy, or bitter, or sad in their last years or simply bored. Some were in wheelchairs, some had hard hearing, which made me think of the elderly in my own personal life and their futures, and made me so grateful for my own youthfulness and healthy body. It honestly thrilled me when one of the old ladies called us performers “youngsters.”

I’ll admit that the idea of retirement homes has always somewhat scared me. I know and heard of old people who refuse to be put into a home. Family unwilling to take care of them or that they don’t want to give up their individuality and freedom. I can’t help but wonder if this will be my future. Will I have my own home or live with someone else? Would I be willing to check into a retirement home if need be? Will I find someone to grow old with like that sweet old couple I saw? Will I be happy, sad, bitter, bored, or regretful in my old days? Will I even be able to walk, hear, or see? At my friend’s business, there are a lot of old senior citizen customers. And every once in a while, I hear that one of them has died. I wonder how is it like to grow old, and have all your friends die? Friends you made in high school or friends in the retirement home?

Despite all my morbidity and gloominess wondering about my future, these people made my heart swell. Made me smile, laugh, and tear up. I had such respect for them.

The smooth faces of our youthful performers are like the blank pages of an unwritten book. The creases in the faces of those who had lived over seven decades are the lines that fill up pages and they tell a wonderful story. It tells of love, loss, pain, and joy. Many of those in the audience looked very content and fulfilled. Imagine the wisdom they have to share! Aging is not only inevitable, but a privilege.

 

oldcouple

Bowling

Yesterday I went bowling for the first time. I’ve never been good at sports, or really anything physical, so I thought I would be terrible, maybe even miss every shot.

I put on my shoes, grabbed an eight pound bowling ball (I know, I have noodle arms), and braced myself for failure. I stepped forward, I swung, and let go.

bowling

I knocked down nine out of ten pins.

Okay, so maybe I’m not that bad, I thought.

The rest of the night went pretty well. The dark lighting of the bowling alley, the upbeat music, and the pleasant background chatter of other bowlers really gave me positive vibes. I danced, chatted, and took many, many pictures.

A few times as I was bowling and watched my ball creep down the lane, if I thought it was going to be a failure, I turned around, not wanting to see the end results. And every time I turned around, I saw my friends and ran to them, watching their expressions to see how my throw did. Sometimes they cheered, because my ball actually did pretty well despite my doubts, and sometimes they didn’t, and I knew my doubts were confirmed.

At one point during the night, one of my friends pointed out something: that bowling could be a metaphor for life. As cheesy as it sounded, I really do love and appreciate metaphors, even the overused ones. So yes, tonight I found out that bowling was a lot like life.

We bowl. And though the ball is heavy, greasy, and dirty, we still have to try. We take a shot and let go of the ball, hoping that it will reach our goals and knock down some pins. Occasionally, we’ll get a strike, and other times, we’ll miss completely and get no pins at all. Sometimes the ball would curve and nothing turned out like we thought it would. And if I tossed the ball and thought I would fail, it was comforting for me to turn around and find my friends, always there for me. Even though we were in a competition, we still cheered each other on.

Each of my friends got a strike that night. And though I didn’t, I will keep trying. Keep holding that heavy ball of hard work, keep trying to hit my goals, keep hoping, keep taking risks, taking shots, taking chances. Because someday, we will all get strikes.

Like a One Night Stand

Last night, I came home, got out of the car, and opened my garage. I expected nothing out of the ordinary to happen as it was a typical Saturday night. As I walked to the garage door, I heard a meow and a cat appeared from out of the shadows and approached me without hesitation. It was a little on the skinny side and had no collar.

I could tell it wasn’t a feral, as it wasn’t skittish or frightened when it saw me, and I could also tell it was a little hungry. I went inside the house and fetched a bowl of water. I brought it to the cat, who was walking around and yowling loudly before I gave it the water, which it immediately drank. I stepped out of the house then went to go buy some cat food. When I got home the cat was still there, still meowing, and I poured it some cat food.

Though the garage remained opened, the cat did not appear to have intentions of leaving anytime soon. So for the night, I decided to leave the garage open a crack to give the cat the option of leaving in case it was a neighbor’s outdoor cat or staying if it had no home and wanted food and shelter.

I ran the possibilities in my mind. If the cat was indeed a stray and wanted to stay, I should try and find the owner before trying to adopt it. I would have to get it to a vet and get it groomed and cleaned. Overall, I was quite excited at this furry ball of possibility.

The next morning, I went to check on the cat. Its food bowl was completely empty, and there were a few single fur strands in the water bowl. I looked around the garage, looked under the car, and I meowed out loud. The cat was gone.

And now I felt disappointed. This almost felt like a one night stand. The cat used me for food and shelter for a night and then left without saying goodbye. And I felt like a clingy girlfriend with too many expectations.

So farewell mystery cat. I’ll keep an eye out for “missing pet” posters, and you’ll always be welcome in my abode.

End of Another Summer

So it’s the last day of my summer vacation. I’m both sad that my break is ending but I’m excited for what the year is going to bring.

This summer was definitely the best summer to date. I met dozens of new people, learned new skills, gained experience, strengthened ties with friends, discovered new interests, the list could go on. Truly the best summer ever.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that I have said this pretty much at the end of every summer. It gets a little repetitive, but it’s true, and that means every year my life is getting better and I’m growing as a person; that’s the least I could ask for.

So to anyone out there who’s still enjoying their last bits of summer, I hope you’ve had a good one. And here’s to even better summers in the future, cheers!

Clocks and Time

Clock
If you are reading this, know that you are time traveling. To be precise, you are traveling at about one second per second.

Time is a reliable constant in all our lives. There are clocks scattered around our homes. They give us indicators of when to wake up, eat, do activities, and go to sleep. However, time isn’t a constant of the universe, it’s relative.

According to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, time slows down as speed increases. When I first heard about this idea, it was hard to wrap my head around, and it still is.

Take for example, the Twin Paradox, a thought experiment in physics. There are a pair of identical twins. One stays on earth, and the other ventures into space in a high speed rocket. The one in space travels for years, and when he returns back to earth, he finds that his counterpart has aged more.

If you’ve ever taken a physics course, you know that the acceleration of gravity on earth is about 9.81 m/s². Gravity is weaker at high altitudes, which means the speed is lower, which means time goes faster. One experiment has shown that clocks at higher altitudes, those high up in mountains or flown in jets, run faster than those left on the ground. This means that time passes more quickly for people living in mountains than people living at sea level.

Before you get your hopes up about living a longer life by residing at low elevations, these studies have shown that for every twelve inches of elevation, only 90 billionths of a second are added to a lifetime. If you really want to age more slowly than everyone else, try traveling near the speed of light.

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Feeling Defined

A few weeks ago, my test scores were released, and when I saw them, I got a drop in my stomach and felt awful about myself. All I could think was: I’m an idiot. Where am I going in life with grades like this? And etc…

And as I was feeling down, I remembered something my teacher said a few months back that went a little something like this: Whatever grade you get,  it’s not the end of the world. Don’t let them win. You are so much more than a grade or a number.  

And even as I recalled these words, it was hard to feel empowered with my low grades fresh in my mind.

As time passed, I finally realized the truth behind my teacher’s words and accepted that I was not defined by those grades, and people are not defined by numbers. My parents still loved me, my friends thought no less of me, and really nothing changed.

For anyone else who’s feeling defined by numbers, don’t be. When I think back on my life, I don’t remember the grades I got or the numbers and percentiles that measured and compared me to others. I remember the friends who accepted me, I remember the good deeds that others did for me and that I did for others, and I remember feeling accepted by everyone, regardless of my age, ethnicity, gender, religion, and least of all, my grades.

You are not defined by a low grade, a rejection, or failure. You are defined by how you pick yourself up and persevere in your goals and life. Numbers are used to measure, and there’s no way the complexity, intelligence, and personality of anyone could ever be measured by mere numbers.

Driving

Drive

I’m still learning. I’m still making mistakes. I’m still driving.

I remember the first time I drove; it was scary, and nerve-wracking, and I hoped to dear god that I wouldn’t piss off the other drivers on the road by making a mistake. I was always aware of the other cars near me, especially the cars that were tailing me. Often, I gave into peer pressure I most probably made up in my own head and sped up and matched the speeds of all the other cars around me, who were clearly going over the speed limit. That’s another thing I learned: no one really drives the speed limit.

I grew to like driving. There was something about being in control of a two ton hunk of metal that was calming. Taking control of the wheel felt somewhat akin to taking control of my life. I can drive where I want, when I want, and I don’t need to depend on others for rides anymore. I found freedom in driving.

Another thing I loved about driving was that I never felt queasy while doing it. I have a history of car sickness, and my parents had to learn to drive very smoothly, as in nice turns and no abrupt breaking, whenever I was in the car. However, when I was the driver, I found that I could to anything I wanted and not feel an ounce of nausea. Of course, I still drove with awareness to the other people in the car with me, I didn’t want them to feel queasy. Being in control of a car, knowing every move it made because I commanded it, and being in deep focus on the road took away my car sickness.

Of course driving isn’t all fun and freedom. As I was learning, I found that whenever my parents yelled at me for mistakes, I lost confidence, became more cautious and nervous, and then made even more mistakes. To me, driving is all about caution and confidence. You shouldn’t be a wuss on the road, but don’t be so confident that you make moves you shouldn’t or break the law. Be considerate of others, and always, always, be careful.

The Very First

This blog was started spontaneously after seeing a 30 Day Blog challenge posted on Pinterest. Do I plan to blog regularly? No idea. I don’t even know if I will ever log on again after tonight.

But this is something new. Something exciting and something bold. Maybe this blog will be a failure, or maybe it will be an enormous success. Either way, I learn something. Hopefully.

I think my blog posts will be pretty much about anything I desire. Mostly just tidbits and anecdotes from my life.

It is late at night, and my bed beckons to me.