letters to lana del rey (32)

Dear Lana,

If Parmenides believed that he was indistinguishable in essence from the world, then where did feelings of alienation came into existence? Is that part of the world too?

I’ve been thinking about the idea of unwinding today. It seems quite a core nature of modern living. You work, you go home, you unwind. The act of unwinding is to distance yourself from your work, knowing that you will return back to work in the morning. If you are not working you are not unwinding because there is nothing to unwind; you cannot unwind that is not wound in the first place. If you do not work, you are lounging. Unwinding can only come into existence through working, and it is through working that time unwinding is considered to be precious. If you do not work, then the value of unwinding is not apparent because all moment is considered to be a moment of unwinding. At a certain point, unwinding loses its value.

Lana, I’ve often heard that time speeds up when you grow up. Psychologists often assign the lack of additional new experiences to be the biggest contributor, but I also think it has a lot to do with this routine. Various acts of unwinding take our attention away from work, and when we work our attention is devoted to work. There is less to time do nothing because our free time can only exist in relation to our working time.

You remember in the beginning of Facebook when people used to play Flash games? There were popular games like Farmville and Mafia Wars and Backyard Monsters. I played all of these games quite a bit, but specifically I remember this game called Restaurant City. It was disbanded in 2013 when Playfish was acquired by Electronic Arts, but I remembered that I poured so much time into that game in middle school. It wasn’t like other restaurant games where you had to time yourself to create food. There wasn’t anything you needed to do per se to make your restaurant function. All you need to do is occasionally feed your staff and open your restaurant. I was coming out of my Flash games phase when the game was discontinued, so it didn’t affect me as if I were in the peak of my interest, but it was still sad at the time to have so many hours I put into my water-themed restaurant thrown away. Now, Facebook no longer supports Flash games, so all of these games including Farmville and Mafia Wars and Backyard Monsters are all going to be disbanded. What was it all for? When I played these games, I didn’t expect them to last around forever, but there’s some part of me that wished I had something to show for it. After all, it is me pouring my time into something. While I was playing these games, I had something to show for it. In Farmville, rice took 12 hours to grow, so I would log in the same time every day after school to harvest and replant my rice. Then, I could use the money I earned through farming rice on various decorations on my farm. I don’t even remember what my farm looked like, but it was sexy as fuck. I remember the game kept on asking me if I wanted to take a picture and share it. I would always click no, but now I wish that I had clicked yes, so I have something to show for all the work that I put in.

Back then, I used these games to unwind. I’m not even sure if that was what is was because I did it more as a desire to game as opposed to a desire to escape the difficulties of school. The time that was put in them… where did it go? Sometimes, I find a bit absurd that you are able to put in so much time in something without anything to show for it. Back then, I used to angst over the impermanence of friendships and relationships. Now, I’m thinking about all the time I used to unwind — how there’s nothing to show for that too. I suspect that’s why I like creating things so much. You can point to something and say you did something. And with the advent of cloud technology, it could truly last longer than most things in life.

letters to lana del rey (31)

Dear Lana,

In the beginning of the summer, I was reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce. Even while reading it, I was pretty bored. I remembered it was a precursor to Ulysses, but that’s about it. If you asked me what happened in that book, I would have no idea.

My grandmother suffers from anterograde amnesia, and it is very hard for her to make new memories at this point in her life. I’ve told her that I graduated college at least a dozen time by now, but she cannot retain the information. At one point, I remember she was watching television, and she kept on watching the same episode over and over again. It was one of those family sitcoms that was filmed 30 years ago in China with characters that seem quite antiquated nowadays. She seemed entertained, and she kept watching.

I was thinking how we do a lot of things in our lives to relieve boredom. There is an entire entertainment industry out there built to create media that keeps us entertained. In many ways, I think this trait is the pitfall of humanity. Between people who create entertainment and people who consume entertainment, what is left for the rest of society when we eventually reach a state where work has become obsolete?

I used to think there was some sort of permanence to consuming art or literature or music or media. Once you consume it, you cannot unconsume it. What you consume becomes a part of you, and you should be able to draw upon it at will. I realize now that there is no permanence in consumption. Everything is momentary, even things that make an impression on us. Sooner or later, we forget what we consume. We forget what happens in movies quickly, and we forget what happens in books even quicker. Then, we are forced to consume it again and again until we remember. It is an endless cycle of consuming then forgetting and then consuming and forgetting again.

I was thinking back to my grandmother watching her Chinese sitcom, noticing the parallels between her cyclical viewing of her TV series and the human condition at large. It really is one episode after another episode and then back an episode because you forgot what happened in the previous episode. I remember I watched the last season of Sherlock twice — once this year, and once when it came out — because I completely forgot that I watched it at all. I didn’t remember the plot or the characters throughout the first two episodes; it was only until the last episode, during an especially cringey explosion scene, that I remembered I had watched it in the first place. I can’t help but wonder how much other media out there is privy to the same experience.

I guess it all boils down to a sense of confusion. If we eventually forget everything that we consume, what’s left of there in life? Just an attempt to escape boredom through entertainment, only to forget how we spent our time being entertained, followed by the same fear of boredom again. I wonder if there’s more to life than that.

sponsored by spotify premium

What is given
What is not
A basket of shrimp poppers tied in a knot
A motorcycle brigade on City Ave.
Trampling slow
Like pitter-patter of rain in a storm

Foggy day
From foggy nights
It is hard to get up tonight
A mug of tea
Is not enough
Caffeinated like a limp pool noodle

A string of floss
Spread thin
Like a layer of cream cheese
Licked clean
Like in elementary school
When ice cream was dip for chips

An airplane
Flies above
I drink my smoothie
Head rests so low

letters to lana del rey (30)

Dear Lana,

There’s some weird satisfaction I get when I sit crisscrossed on my bed. It seems like something people do when they are young according to some indie films I’ve watched.

I was listening to Nina Nesbitt’s “Still Waiting to Start” again, and her reflections about the intense feelings she had in her youth seem more intense than ever. Drinking in the park really seemed liked the most wild experience I’ve had back then, and now it seems so far ago. In many ways, it echoes to this life I had but also did not have. It was a life I wished had more moments like that, but that part of life is already over. It was so temporary, and it is only at the end of that life I realized how to navigate that life. In so many ways, I feel like I’ve been waiting for life to start for me. I wanted to realize this aesthetic of what I wanted life to be, and I had come so close at one point in realizing it. Now, life has moved on, and it’s a different part of life that I navigate. I am still waiting for the last part of my life to start while waiting for this part of my life to end.

Things are familiar now. I arranged my room in a different fashion, but the world as a whole seems more familiar. I have faith in my ability to reside here. It is more welcoming than it once was. It’s less cold. It’s winter, but it’s less cold. It’s comfortable.


At the intersection of 40th and Locust, I found myself at
an intersection. It is the intersection of 40th and Locust.

Where have I found myself here before? Surely, I’ve seen it
in a dream. With grey signs in the night sky, cold mosquitos itching
at my skin, I took my hand out of my pocket and reached for
the sky.

It fell on my lap, like I could willed the fall of the sky. And here,
I was presented with the decision to control the sky.

I could let it fall, like it befell me, or I could lift it up, like Atlas
guiding me towards revenge. The choice was too tempting
to forget about the sky, but the sky stared starry-eyed
at my face. Even when I wasn’t looking, it continued to stare
at me like an antelope slurping up water from a lake.

I never saw the color of its pupils; I only saw the color
of clay. It is red, like loom, fruity like coffee from the tropics.

What keeps us alive? Is it the warm sensation of rain
dripping down our backs? Is it the locution reminding us
that we are surrounded by others, that eventually we would
find someone that makes takes the other out of another?

It seems so strange that the world was built this way. Another
color the world could have been was red.

I want a red world, but I found myself on a blue marble.

It hurts to watch the sky ask me for forgiveness, just as
it was to watch the sky exist at all. Why is the sky blue?
It would be so much easier to view it as a void. I prefer a
black space to a blue sky. It seems far more appropriate.
If the night sky was an absence of light, wouldn’t it
be more prettier,
be more precious
if it found itself another home?

letters to lana del rey (29)

Dear Lana,

I realize that I’m not too attached to any idea of being young. I feel that a big source of anxiety for adults is losing their youth, but that’s something I don’t really care about.

Being inside most of the time, I notice that I started to gain some weight around my thighs. Normally, that would bother me, but there’s nobody left to impress. Gaining weight is also a natural part of aging. It is a lot easier to maintain weight when you are younger. There’s chronic pain that sprouts throughout my body nowadays. Sometimes, it bothers me when I am trying to do something productive. Most of the time I could shrug it away, but it is becoming progressively harder to nowadays. I guess this is also a part of aging — more pain. I don’t really like this part of aging.

Time genuinely flows faster. I am more capable of doing things in my life, but there is also less time to do it. There’s this weird paradox — I used to waste so much time when I was younger and feel like I have accomplished so much; I now am able to accomplish more than before, yet I feel like I have not done anything. In this way, I feel the universe is profoundly incongruent. There exists a disconnect between doing and feeling. You can either feel like you have done something, or you can actually do it and feel like it was never enough.

I find it interesting that humans are given a choice when they crash land on Earth. You can either choose to remain at the crater in which you are born, or you can move around to find a better crater.

Everyone is given a place at birth; some are born far more fortunate than others. This disconnect is so ingrained in society that it seems antithetical that the world could have been designed like this. I feel that it is very easy to yearn for a life when you were born with everything that you do not have. It would make life easier, wouldn’t it? It seems human. It seems so far-fetched, like some promised land dangling in the corner of your eye. But when you turn around to look for it, you realize that it wasn’t there; it was just a construction of your mind wandering in the emptiness of the world, latching onto a thought that would allow you to get through one more day.

The more I grow up, the more I am convinced that life is nothing more than a set of physical sensations. I’ve tried to convince myself that there’s something more to life than about phenomena, but I’m not sure I can anymore. The world seems more alien beyond what is around me. I used to believe that this sensation would go away, but the more I think about it, the less I am convinced that it will. It is a feeling that breeds with adulthood, there is not a -hood after adulthood.

beep boop bop boop

I ate 90% dark chocolate on a Wednesday night. It’s half way
through the week. My life is on stilts, tinkering
with the thermostat like an icicle dangling on the branch
of a tree. With five drips of powder, a keg of lime, I
poured myself a gin and tonic. I laugh at myself
because someone told me awhile ago they liked this drink.

I used to hate the sound of children laughing. It’s okay now
that I’ve gotten older. I used to hate the ice cream truck
as it strolled down the corner. It seemed so long ago I had
all of this irritation inside me with no where to
pour it
apart. I now find another way of holding it in.
It holds itself in like the carbon in a diamond.
It reinforces itself like cobwebs on steel.
It is this other life I have — the one I have now — where
my experiences in the past seem like a dream.

Just kidding — I still hate
ice cream trucks.

letters to lana del rey (28)

Dear Lana,

It’s harder to fall asleep than it once was. Did I drink too much tea? It might be time to whip out the decaf again.

I started flipping through your book of poetry, Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass. I’m feeling pretty delirious right now, so I don’t actually remember anything that I read.

I was reflecting on how I was able to sleep all those years ago in college when I had exams every other month. Drinking coffee at 9 PM was such a vibe, yet I still somehow managed to make it to bed by 2 AM. There’s no way in hell I could do that anymore. I shutter at the thought. My adult body wouldn’t be able to handle it. Lame. I like the routine of sleeping around midnight to wake up for work in the morning. I would listen to the latest episode of The Daily with Michael Barbaro, and then I would get along with my day. Any disruption to this pattern annoys me. I’m not particularly excited to have this habit taken away.

I was thinking — I’ll be moving to New York in a couple of months. Since I’ll be in New York in my twenties, I’ll be living in a cramped apartment once more. It’s New York, and it seems to almost invite the idea of “being young”. If this was freshman year of college, that might’ve excited me. Seeing as though this isn’t freshman year anymore, I just want to stay inside and do things that old people do. Lame.

I feel that at some point, I’ll probably feel some pressure to do things that young people do. Ugh, why? My body aches all over from doing nothing. People treat the fact that you only live once as a justification to do as much as possible during your youth. At one point, I think I subscribed to this idea. Nowadays, I don’t really care about what I miss out on. Being young is tiring, and I don’t like to be tired. I’m already as tired as it is, and I don’t want to do anything that would make me even more tired. Not having to worry about school is great. Adult life is so low stakes. All you do is work and chill. Sounds like the dream.

Lately, I don’t have energy to do anything. But it’s like in an anti-depression way. I’m too happy to feel the need to do anything to distract myself, so I’m just tired all the time. It’s like being in a state so blissful that I just constantly melt into a puddle all the time. I don’t really spend that much time internally anymore, so I just notice things like how tired I am or how my stomach hurts more than usual or how my thigh gap is been replaced for storage of Chinese takeout from these past couple of months. Thinking about the nature of existence and the metaphysics of love and sadness is so lame. It’s so… I don’t know, 2018? Either way, I can’t imagine myself ever touching those subjects again. I don’t know how I could have possible had interest in such lame topics at one point in my life.

Honestly, Lana. I just want to sleep and nap and drink red wine on my patio on Sundays. I have been obsessed with the idea of a covered patio lately, so that’s something I want to work towards in my life. That is my future — a covered patio.

letters to lana del rey (27)

Dear Lana,

Today, I was re-reading Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality thinking about how often we associate events that are individual with theories that are universal. I personally find a lot of Freud’s writings on repression and sublimation to be quite relatable; the entire reason I started writing (I mean, genuinely writing) in the first place was because I was angsting over this girl who didn’t like me back some time ago, but it seemed that this habit has evolved quite a bit since then — but in the most predictable manner possible.

In Infantile Sexuality, Freud talks about how susceptible to impressions we are in our youth, which is simultaneously a time period about which we remember the least. Sublimation serves the role of addressing repression in a way that allows us to continue functioning in society. That got me thinking — if I was just more successfully socially or romantically or academically when I was growing up, would I still feel the same need to bridge the gap between repression and reality through writing and music and art? Maybe, instead of spending my evenings drafting these weird letters, I could actually spend time other than figuring out the source to all of my neuroses.

Maybe if I accomplished more socially or romantically or academically as a child I would feel less of a need to prove something to myself. It would be so easy just living life, consuming media and eating food and figuring out what “passion” to pursue next. It is living towards something as opposed to away from something. It is living without the need to compensate for something you missed out in the past, living with some sort of unpredictability that is only possible through living without the need to relegate neuroses. It would be a genuinely unpredictable life because it would be living without having a definitive causal relationship with your past. I wonder what it would be to live like that.