It’s been about six months since I’ve stepped off my college campus for the last time. Having just started my first job, moved to a new city, and rented my first apartment, I can’t help but feel butterflies as I tumble through this disorienting transition. Before all this novelty settles into routine and habit, I want to document my latest thoughts and learnings about life here.

1. Making it through 16 years of school is like swimming a frenzied race in an Olympic swimming pool. Making it through the rest of your life as an adult is like swimming a race, too, but in the Pacific ocean.

My life up until now has been molded from inside a giant pressure cooker. I was shuttled back and forth between piano lessons and tutoring camps my whole childhood, and through high school, I had few priorities beyond achieving academic success and getting into an elite college. My peers were all doing the same. Despite my complete lack of agency through it all, I didn’t have to think about any of the what’s or the why’s. …

Short and sweet

I watched a computer science lecture on functional programming today. I admit my mind was pretty blown upon learning about this whole new way to approach programming! It also hit me how useful these concepts are for data analysis. Two summers ago, I had a research advisor who sang the praises of functional programming techniques in R, so much that she’d write impassioned rants on Twitter about how for loops and R programming shouldn’t mix. Now I know what she’s talking about ❤

I spent the evening joyously reading through some advanced R manuals. I’m excited to get my hands dirty with a new analysis project so that I can practice more with these sleek techniques — it’s like I’m in on a cool new secret or something. …

Still sheltering in place.

Today, I scoured the internet for tips on how to be a better writer. Of the dozens of listicles I read, here were the points I found good and tractable:

  • Write regularly, and turn it into a ritual
  • Find a writing partner or workshop
  • Don’t revise as you write ( I’m currently super guilty of this)

Becoming a member of a small writer’s group or critique circle would be such a profoundly helpful opportunity, so now I’m actively searching for one. To get my feet wet, I joined a few large Facebook groups for writers (10-minute novelist group, The Write Life Community, and Blogging Boost). …

Another week rolls by in Quarantine.

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Gloria’s miscellaneous shit: before and after

My sister and I did a massive kitchen cleanout today. Now, this was a big deal for us — I can count the number of times we cleaned certain cabinets over my lifetime on a single hand. We have this one shelf that sat above the kitchen counter, which, if it would ever receive a name, would be “Gloria’s Miscellaneous shit”. Rummaging head-first through the chaotic mess was like exploring a dusty time capsule. I exhumed expired tea canisters from 2012, a packet of soybean flour from when I was still in high school, palm sugar from that one time I tried to make a sticky rice dessert, among other things. We ended up repurposing the shelf space to house our 20-year old collection of mismatched tableware sets (which all used to sit in the dishwasher, an appliance we never actually used to wash any dishes). The shelf was disorderly, but it had so much character and sentimental value to me that I whimpered every time I threw something into the trash. …

Sheltering in place, gracefully

The coronavirus pandemic has been thrust upon us all, and like the rest of the country right now, I’m sheltering in place. As the world fights for its life, I’ve been spending a LOT of time couch-potatoing, eating, and following the news — rinse and repeat. In the shadow of all the immense hardship and grief that people are experiencing, groaning about my boredom at home feels almost irresponsible.

It’s easy to throw up my hands and exclaim that there’s nothing to do while stuck indoors 24/7, though what’s probably more accurate is that I’m simply not being imaginative enough with what I do with my time. …

Bringing to you one of my favorite Neuroscience papers ever

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Pictured: Walter White, from the Netflix show Breaking Bad

Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, is faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis shortly after his fiftieth birthday. Knowing the burden his illness would have on his family and that he had only a few months left to live, he decides to take matters of supporting his family into his own hands… by entering the underground methamphetamine business. Breaking Bad’s premise is disarmingly innocent at the start. Walter decides to keep just one secret, and we see him wrangling with his conscience when he’s forced to say his first cover-up lie. …

Not-so obvious insights that I’ve learned as a young adult who can legally drink now

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1. Stop being so hard on yourself

Being tough on oneself is a motivating mindset useful for self-improvement, though while dialing up the intensity, a line gets crossed at some point that flips it into an incredibly demotivating (and painful) one. Perfectionism and a tendency to feel guilty a lot is the reason why I shut down in the face of some personal challenges, procrastinate on important tasks, and have a rather constipated creative process. Knowing this, it’s an important challenge to learn how not to be my own worst enemy. …

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Gloria at Chuck E. Cheeses, her favorite place ever

Identity struggles are a natural part of life for people who’ve grown up wedged between different cultures, yet I don’t see it being discussed enough among my Asian-American peers. It’s a gift to be able to grow up in a bilingual household or to get to celebrate both cultures’ holidays growing up, though it can come with the burdens of feeling that we don’t really belong anywhere, among other things.

I was born and raised in New Jersey by my two parents and sister who immigrated to the US from China during the ’90s. The angsty insecurities of being an ABC (American-born Chinese) I’ve accumulated over my lifetime had followed me stubbornly into adulthood, even while I seemed to be overcoming many of my other personal challenges over the years with relative ease. This became the main reason why I chose to study abroad in Shanghai this year — the idea was that by thrusting myself into an environment where I literally couldn’t flee from engaging with Chinese people, I’d accelerate my growth as a Chinese American. Short takeaway is: it worked! Living in Shanghai for four months has helped me face a lot of my personal battles. …

What China today looks like to a Chinese-American student studying abroad in Shanghai

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if you know, you know

As a child raised by two Chinese immigrant parents in the US, I knew little about how life was really like for mainland Chinese people. I’ve spent over two months now living in Shanghai for my study abroad semester, and I still remember a lot of things about China that startled me at first, as an American. From adjusting to the new practical realities of life in China (pedestrian etiquette, bargaining, using public restrooms, etc.) to also recognizing the intangible features of Chinese culture that are distinct from American culture, I carefully took note. …

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Here’s a thing I noticed: Using your phone camera to document the things in your life is a lot like using a highlighter when studying.

I think of going through life and going through papers as similar processes: in both cases, you’re faced with the formidable goal of relishing and remembering the content you come across as fully as possible. People use a lot of techniques to absorb the content that they are studying. Some people swear by using highlighters: they help make key points stand out and help the reader commit these better to memory. By analogy, lots of people pull out their cameras to commemorate life’s milestones: from graduations to family reunions. …


Gloria Feng

Writer, Cog-Neuro Research Assistant @ Yale. Presenting my thoughts about self-development and life as a former college student ||

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