Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stand among the stars

I've often had insecurities about being the mousey one in a group of beautiful, successful, popular, essentially-good friends. These thoughts threaten to pull me under especially when my life seems to be lacking a clear direction and I'm feeling like a failure.

Remember when Ron Weasley's insecurities got the best of him? I can totally relate.

The last time this happened, I tried to remind myself that these friendships I have aren't based on pity or manipulation. My best friends have never tried to use me or boss me around. They don't invite me to hang out with an 'oh alright, you can come along' attitude. They're my friends because, for reasons I sometimes can't understand myself, they love me. For the past six months, I've been informed in various ways by the people I left that they were missing me, and by the ones I reunited with that they'd been looking forward to see me. Aside from my own anxieties, I wasn't given any reason to think that these were merely perfunctory.

I tried to remind myself that there are so many reasons about why these are my friends. We have things in common, we enjoy each other's company, and perhaps we're not so unequal as I sometimes think.

Besides, would I want a different set of friends? No. I've had friends who dragged me down, clouded my head with their pessimism and lack of effort in everything. I didn't like it.

The people I've surrounded myself with are the kind to encourage me to forge forward and try to beat the obstacles because they do the same. Their hard work and success push me to strive for the same because - when I quit feeling sorry for myself and apart from my own life goals- I just don't want to be left behind. They're good friends to me, and a good influence.

It's not easy to be outshined, but I'd rather be surrounded by stars than be in the dark. Some days, or someday, I may shine just as bright.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Favourite books of 2013 a la Priscilla

Since I always love getting book recommendations, I thought I'd share some of mine here. These are some of the wonderful books I got to read last year:

Pi Patel becomes a castaway after a shipwreck that cost him his entire family. He must learn to survive the Pacific Ocean and Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger that is his fellow castaway.

I've heard about Life Pi for a very long time, but it wasn't until my book club picked it as a topic that I bought it. I expected it to be difficult and maybe tedious due to the philosophical nature, but it's only a little difficult and not at all tedious. I adore books that make me believe in the fantastic, and Pi did just that.

"If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?"

Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, and his own undercover detective work, Eating Animals explores the many fictions we use to justify our eating habits-from folklore to pop culture to family traditions and national myth-and how such tales justify a brutal ignorance. (Goodreads)

I could never explain just how brilliant this book is. It doesn't set out to guilt meat-eaters into being vegetarians (though it comes very close to converting this meat eater and convinced Natalie Portman); it just lays out all the facts and stats and points out the deliberate forgetting of where our meat comes from and the process it goes through until it reaches our table. That sounds boring, but I promise you it isn't. I had a hard time getting through it because at times the topic is uncomfortable to read, but I'm glad I did. 

“We can't plead ignorance, only indifference. Those alive today are the generations that came to know better. We have the burden and the opportunity of living in the moment when the critique of factory farming broke into the popular consciousness. We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?” 

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Creatures once extinct now roam Jurassic Park, soon-to-be opened as a theme park. Until something goes wrong...and science proves a dangerous toy. (Goodreads)

When people write off popular fiction as shallow, I think of my experience with Jurassic Park. I didn't expect it to be good at all; I never watched the movie (I hate large-animal-eating-people movie) and expected it to be a plain old thriller with man-eating dinosaurs, despite my parents' constant recommendation of Michael Crichton. My bad. What I found most fascinating was the theme about the ethics of science -- if you could do something, should you? It's a little tough going if you - like me - are unfamiliar with dinosaurs and dislike gore, but stick with it.

“But now science is the belief system that is hundreds of years old. And, like the medieval system before it, science is starting not to fit the world any more. Science has attained so much power that its practical limits begin to be apparent. Largely through science, billions of us live in one small world, densely packed and intercommunicating. But science cannot help us decide what to do with that world, or how to live. Science can make a nuclear reactor, but it cannot tell us not to build it. Science can make pesticide, but cannot tell us not to use it. And our world starts to seem polluted in fundamental ways---air, and water, and land---because of ungovernable science.” 

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. (Goodreads)

If we read to know we're not alone, then I've found the perfect book for me. I could relate to so many things, and I learned plenty too. I can't recommend this enough for the introverts out there, and for extroverts who want to learn more about what it's like for those on the other side of the spectrum. 

“Or at school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell”—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.”