Good-bye, 28. It’s been great. (Pt 2– in which I fuck up a recipe and reflect upon life)

Today, I attempted, for the first time ever, to make something a bit more complicated than usual: Japanese cheesecake. And you know what happened? IT WAS A COMPLETE DISASTER! It was seriously like those fail videos. Everything looked fine up until I upended the pan onto my plate. The top of the cake looked golden brown, like it was supposed to. Then it hit the plate, and the entire “cheesecake” (read: more like a pan-ful of batter) went splat. I removed the parchment paper from the sides, and 1/4 of the cheesecake came with it.

At first, I just stood there in shock. Never in my life have I failed so badly at baking ANYTHING. Then again, never in my life have I tried to bake anything harder than chocolate cinnamon-swirl bread. I tasted a bit of it and immediately concluded 3 things: 1) I need to buy an oven thermometer and check the actual temperature of my oven, ’cause while it seems to bake lasagna and cookies just fine, I had to add on time for the cinnamon-swirl bread last time (although it was only about 10 minutes more than advised), and although I followed the instructions for baking EXACTLY, it was clearly undercooked. 2) Even though the recipe said “whip until soft peaks form”, the picture clearly showed stiffer peaks, so I should have kept on whipping instead of stopping as soon as I saw peaks forming in my egg whites. And 3) I need to remember to leave my cream cheese out so it’s room temperature next time, and I should probably try to use more cream cheese, ’cause this cheesecake/batter was kind of too sweet, and there was no cream cheese taste anywhere.

Overall, this was such a failure that I started laughing out loud in disbelief and from pure amusement. I can’t WAIT to try this again. Sure, I wasted an entire tray of eggs, almost a whole stick of butter, half a stick of cream cheese, and other random ingredients (like sugar), but I haven’t felt so exhilarated in so long. I felt like I was laughing at the mundane world, for lack of a better way to describe it. When was the last time I TRULY failed at something? I can’t even recall. Sure, there have been many small failures over the last few years, but nothing that registered as more than a little blip on my radar. I said during my interview for my current job that I’ve learned to fail and I’m not afraid of failure. And I wasn’t lying– I bounce back from rejection and failure pretty fast, generally. But my failures are failures that other people experience daily, too. “Normal” failures. I had my share of rejections when I was first trying to get full-day interviews to become an academic librarian. But I knew that my peers were experiencing similar rejections, so I didn’t mind. In my everyday work now, my emails get ignored by faculty, by other campus offices/partners, by students, etc., and while it bothers me, I know that others who hold the equivalent of my position at other institutions (and even my own colleagues) went through the same thing when they started and continue to go through the same thing when they’re trying to launch a new project or whatever. I guess you could call the failures I am 100% fine with living with comfortable failures.

This cheesecake incident? Not a “comfortable failure”, ’cause many people have tried this recipe before me and succeeded at it. New bakers, young bakers, other inexperienced bakers, etc., did just fine. But I failed at it. And it’s such a revelation for me. It’s like that moment in Mob Psycho 100 where Teru loses to Mob and is so shocked that 1) there is another esper out there, and that esper is better/stronger than he is, and 2) that he wasn’t excellent at something, despite not holding back on using his powers, that it changes his entire perspective on life and leads to a complete lifestyle change for the better. Now, I am not saying that I am used to being excellent at everything, ’cause that would be a lie, but I grew up being labeled as a “gifted and talented” child, and there are things that I’ve always been used to excelling at. I focus all my efforts on the things I’m good at and ignore the things I’m not naturally good at (and therefore don’t care about), like math, languages, sports, and cooking.

This past month, though… I turned 29, like I said in my previous post, I celebrated my birthday in a new state with new coworkers, I started exercising half an hour a day every day, I began teaching myself Japanese by painstakingly writing out characters over and over again in a notebook, the way I learned things when I was a little kid, and I started baking. Oh yeah, and I changed the way I teach to make it feel like less of a lecture and more of a “structured exploration of potential sources for research”. I am so out of my comfort zone right now, it’s not even funny. And yet I laugh whenever I think about it. I was watching Mob Psycho 100 last night, and it happened to be the episode where Reigen realizes it’s his birthday (I believe it was his 29th birthday), but he has no friends to celebrate it with and his life’s a mess. It really hit me then that I am now at the age where, if I were an anime character, I wouldn’t be the main character or one of the main characters’ sidekicks (those kids tend to be in their late teens or early 20s at most), but one of the “older/mentor generation”. So for example, other then Reigen, in FMA: Brotherhood, there’s Roy Mustang, who’s 28, and in Naruto, there’s Kakashi, who’s 27/31+, and in Attack On Titan, there’s Hange and Levi, who are late 20s/early 30s, and so on, so forth. I think I’ve been aware of that for a while, but it didn’t really register until last night. I was talking to my friend about it, and he’s in complete denial that we’re old now. He still identifies with the main characters/younger kids in anime/manga. But I think I identify more with the “adults” now. It suddenly makes more sense to me why these “older” characters who are supposed to have their shit together and be super responsible make questionable decisions and screw up all the time– they’re my age, and although I’m now a full-fledged adult, I’m still pretty young in the grand scheme of things, and I and everyone around me are really just trying our best and not always succeeding. This thought process also made me reexamine my own role in the lives of the students I work with. I’m old and somewhat experienced enough now to be there for these kids as the “adult figure” they can get support from and look up to. What a terrifying thought. That the world is passing into the hands of my generation. Or at least, is trying to be passed into our hands. It seems like the previous generations are holding on tightly for as long as they can. But they can’t stop the inevitable! Geez, am I ready to finally grow up? Probably not, but I’ll keep forging ahead like I always do. Fingers crossed!

Good-bye, 28. It’s been great. (Pt. 1)

I honestly can’t remember the last time I got a good, full night’s worth of sleep (7 solid hours). The past two weeks have been full of 4-5 hour nights and lots of coffee and green tea. It’s been insanely busy at work, and my nights have been filled with good books, excellent fanfic, fun games, some quality television, etc. I’ve noticed it’s harder to remember to write down how your day was when your day’s been pretty darn good. I’m more likely to rant and rave when things aren’t going as well as I’d hoped, but when the opposite is true, I tend to go “ehhh, I’ll blog about it tomorrow.” And then I don’t. Oops.

Can I just say that it feels amazing to be busy and productive again, though? I keep coming in to work earlier than I’d like to to prep for a class or make it to the desk (I’ve started picking up shifts at the desk) or a meeting on time and then staying late to finish the things I want to do. I get home late, stay up extra late because of a combination of insomnia and lack of willpower (one more chapter, just one more chapter), and then wake up after 4-5 hours of sleep to head back into work.

I glanced at my last post and saw what I wrote about never not being afraid to teach. I’m not ever going to be excited about it, and I’ll always feel a hint of nervousness while waiting for a class to start, but after my third class this semester, I noticed I stopped feeling stomach-churning anxiety the night before or the morning of a class. Simply put, I taught a class that did NOT go well, and suddenly, my brain went “well shit, there’s nowhere to go from here but up”. I also started to put together lesson plans that weren’t just a list of things to cover and instead actually tried to follow some sort of “natural flow that would make sense to a listener”. Do I still suck at teaching? Hell yeah. Do I suck slightly less than I did five classes ago? I would say so, yes. PROGRESS.

This weekend is my 29th birthday. I’d planned to spend the whole day eating junk food and playing Gakuen Heaven 2 (OHOHOHOHOHO, I’ve finally made it to the Joker route!) and reading fanfiction and Ninefox Gambit, but my coworker from a different department is moving to a different state and her going away party just happens to be on my birthday! I want to go and see her off properly, but I’m also incredibly lazy. And it’s my birthday. What do?! My mom was trying to encourage me to go, ’cause “you spend every night reading and playing games alone at home! Even if it’s not exactly a celebration for you, you should still spend your birthday actually celebrating SOMETHING with other people.” My mom thinks I am the saddest, loneliest single twenty-something-year-old and I just haven’t realized it yet. My other coworker thinks I should do whatever I want on my birthday, regardless of what I am end up doing. I agree with him and will see how I feel on the actual day.

I’ve also been invited to another coworker’s big 3-0. Again, the thought of giving up a Me Day to go socialize and be active (it’s going to be an activity-type party instead of just a gathering at a bar or something) makes me want to fall to my knees and wail. But I do want to celebrate these special days with these coworkers who I actually like and am pretty much friends with.

Stay tuned for the results… next time, on Insanely Predictable, Good-Bye, 28. It’s Been Great. (Pt. 2)…

Adulting is hard, working on weekends is a thing now, and my fear of teaching will never go away

This weekend has been too goddamn short. I realize it’s Saturday night and not Sunday night, but my weekend’s practically over already, and I spent most of it cleaning and doing laundry! The 3-day weekend last week was so nice. I made pasta on Friday night when I got home from work knowing that I had 3 days to have fun and didn’t need to immediately drop onto the couch and start watching TV like I usually do on Friday nights. But then my college roommate texted me about Togainu no Chi and … I spent all 3 days playing that at risk of my eyeballs falling out of my head (no lie, it was 35 hours or something, and I’m still not done yet). Regardless, I still leisurely cleaned on Saturday and really felt like I had time to myself and overall, it was an awesome weekend.

This weekend… I’ve been having trouble sleeping again, so I got in bed at 0400, tossed and turned and slept in bits and pieces until nearly noon, and then lay in bed reading BL manga and starving until 1730. I swear, there was a point where I was actually kicking my legs and fake-sobbing about how hard it is to take care of myself. I didn’t feel like cooking or cleaning or doing laundry, but I had to do all three. I still haven’t gotten around to cooking anything yet, but I cleaned for 2 hours (cut corners again and didn’t fully wipe all the countertops or move all the stuff off the bathroom counters to clean) and did laundry. It sucks how laundry involves endless tedious steps, such as sorting (I don’t even properly sort– I just do rags, regular crap, and delicates; PJs, t-shirts, jeans, and sheets all count as regular crap and my work clothes all go into the delicates load), moving stuff from the washer into the dryer, cleaning the damn lint filter, hanging/folding all the clothes, putting the fresh sheets back onto the bed (curse you, fitted sheets!), and repeating almost the entire process again with the next load. When will I be wealthy enough to hire a housekeeper to do all this stuff for me?! *Pitiful sobbing*

Another reason I feel like my weekend’s being cut short is because I know that I have to devote a day’s worth of work tomorrow to lesson prepping, ’cause I have to teach again starting Monday. I didn’t expect to have to start teaching until Friday, but a last-minute request came up and my supervisor asked if I could do it. Since I am a yes-woman now at work, I said yes, despite feeling extremely uncomfortable teaching anything without at least a week’s worth of time to properly panic. Actually, what really happened was that this professor requested a series of classes, including some on Monday and some at the end of February. The ones at the end of February involve quantitative data, which always freaks me out ’cause math. I told my sister about how I could either take one of the Monday classes, which are more general and b/s-able, but super last-minute, which always messes me up, or I could take one of the February classes, which involve material I don’t really know much about. She said “So it’s a choice between sucking without prep or sucking with prep?” I don’t know why, but that calmed me down a bit. If I’m going to suck either way, then might as well just start sucking now. Why bother putting it off? So I agreed to teach one class on Monday and one of the quantitative data classes in February.

However, a couple of hours after I’d convinced myself everything would be fine, my supervisor emailed me again and asked if one of my library assistant coworkers could come observe my Monday class to see how teaching’s done. *Sweat sweat sweat* I mean, of course the answer is yes– this girl helped me with LibGuides and navigating our new library system when I first arrived, and I would never say no to helping a colleague gain experience, but… I don’t know what I’m doing. What will she gain from watching me?! Eeeeeep! Code red! Code red! I have to at least be articulate and sound uber-knowledgeable now, lest I embarrass myself in front of a colleague! Students and professors don’t know about “our world” over here in the library, but someone who works several cubicles away definitely does! I can’t b/s anything now!

And thus, we arrive at the present, where I am working on Sunday to salvage my professional reputation and save myself from utter disgrace. I know in the back of my mind that they wouldn’t have hired me for this job if they didn’t think I could do it, but there are times I can’t help but wonder why it is that I have a higher rank/salary than some of my other highly-qualified colleagues who are library assistants and not official librarians do when they seem to do the same amount of work I do, minus the teaching and networking with faculty/other campus offices part. It’s not that they’re not capable of doing these things– it’s just not part of their job description. In fact, some of them have way more experience teaching than I do. More than once, I’ve thanked the heavens that I’m the youngest person in my department (that’s including the library assistants and the intern), ’cause it makes me feel better about not knowing jack shit. It also means that my colleagues are more likely to cut me some slack, ’cause I’m both newer and younger than they are. I can’t stay this way forever, though. For one thing, one can only be young for so long!

Oddly enough, reading BL manga involving salarymen and writers and editors and comic book artists and other workaholics in their late 20s and early 30s has made me feel less rotten about losing half my weekend to work. These guys never seem to stop working! They come in on weekends, stay late at night, head to the office after work events and parties to get more work done… and it’s not just ’cause it’s Japan, either– it’s really ’cause they have stuff they want to finish. I owe 3.5 hours of work anyways after coming in later than expected several days this past week and having to leave early for art class one evening. Oh yeah! Art class has started back up again! The class I’m taking this time is actually a lot of fun. While walking into work the next day, for the first time in a long time, I started seeing the world in terms of things I could draw and how they could be laid out on a page if this were a comic strip panel and so on. It was an exciting feeling.

Cooking Is Too Unpredictable, Ep. 4 (False Fried Rice)

Yesterday, I got up and resolved to not just heat up frozen BBQ wings for dinner again. Instead, I would finally use the rice in my pantry for the first time in 2 months or something, along with the pack of hot dogs I bought last week, and the leftover onion half and box of mushrooms in the fridge. I would cook enough rice that I could just box some with 2 hot dogs and have that for lunch every day this workweek. And then I thought I would outsmart myself and beat back my own laziness by doing the boring, time-consuming tasks, like chopping vegetables and cooking rice, early on in the day (this was around 1300) and just put the already prepped stuff in a Tupperware container to use later.

After I’d turned on the rice cooker and started soaking the mushrooms, I remembered I had carrots in the fridge, so I took out 2 of those and chopped them up to add to the vegetable mixture. Then I started eyeing the new, giant bag of frozen corn in the freezer that I’d just bought. And then… then, I realized that I was practically making some bastardized version of fried rice, so what the hey. Fried rice for dinner it was.

Once I’d chopped all the vegetables, I changed my mind about boxing them up, ’cause they were already all spread out and it’d be too troublesome.

choppedvegetables

Looked like I was gonna be having fried rice for lunch instead of dinner as originally intended.

I gotta say, I am the slowest cook I have ever had the displeasure of meeting. I chop slowly, ’cause I have no knife skills and I also hate when when things fly off the cutting board, so I try to be extra careful. I still end up spilling things everywhere when I go to scrape the chopped vegetables into the pan or pot or whatever (in this case, it was a pan). I sauted my vegetables for 10 minutes ’cause I remembered that’s how long it took to saute them last time, but I’d forgotten that last time, I was cooking the vegetables along with ground beef in the same pan. Whoops. So the onions ended up being a bit soggy. Oh well.

I microwaved my frozen corn while I attempted the arduous task of draining the liquid from my vegetable pan (I have no pan lid and I really can’t think of a way to do this that doesn’t involve liquid dripping everywhere). Then I used that same pan to fry my hot dogs (4 of them!). I then made scrambled eggs and set everything aside– OH YEAH, I forgot to mention that since I’d changed my mind and decided to make some bizarre version of fried rice, the freshly-cooked rice I had wouldn’t quite cut it. But I had no leftover rice to use. So I plated all the rice, cut the “rice dome” up into smaller “pieces”, placed the plate next to the window (it was really cold yesterday), and then took the whole thing and stuck it in the freezer.

I don’t know how effective that actually was, but it gave me cold, slightly hardened rice to fry up with soy sauce instead of hot, fluffy, fresh rice, so whatever, I suppose.

phonyfriedriceIf you’re thinking, “this kind of just looks like rice with some vegetables mixed in”, YOU WOULD BE CORRECT. I didn’t have dark soy sauce to fry the rice with (I didn’t even have Chinese soy sauce). I just had my sad bottle of Kikkoman, so I had to use that. The rice FLUFFIFIED again once it got hot, so it didn’t have that nice, firm texture. And I desperately needed some parsley or something. I had dry parsley flakes, so I used those. Pepper helped a lot. Overall, it was not bad, but hot dogs do not equal legit Chinese sausage and Kikkoman is no substitute for a good, legit Chinese soy sauce brand (at least not for fried rice)!

I now have a big mixing bowl full of this, though, and it was pretty good during lunch at work today.

Oh yeah, I was gonna have frozen wings for dinner, since I ate my false fried rice for lunch, but I ended up making some Kraft mac and cheese with ham and bread crumbs. Why bread crumbs? Well, for some reason, I thought bread crumbs were just automatically crunchy, so I threw them in, hoping to get crispy mac and cheese, but they just absorbed the milk, cheese, and butter and made my mac and cheese thicker and chunkier. *SIGHHHHHH* The end result also tasted way saltier than usual, but I can’t tell if that was ’cause of the bread crumbs or the butter (I can’t remember if I used unsalted or salted butter and couldn’t be bothered to check).

macandcheesewithbreadcrumbs

I tried to stop myself from having a beer with dinner, ’cause I’d had more beers than I normally do during my night out on Friday, and I craved Asahi but only had Blue Moon Belgian White (in terms of light beers), so it wouldn’t have been the same anyways. I had this internal debate for about 5 minutes, and then 1 minute later, I was walking back to the fridge to grab a Belgian White. I could hear my mom’s voice in my head going “You’re like a burgeoning alcoholic! Stop it!” But I have no self-control, so I had me that beer… it was not what I’d been craving, so I was left unsatisfied. And short my last Belgian White. *SIGH AGAIN* I really need to find a place in Texas that sells Asahi. And Chinese soy sauce. Or I can just go to a Japanese restaurant and order Asahi there. And then go to a Chinese restaurant the next day and order fried rice. Yeah, that’s a plan. Happy Monday, folks!

In the name of getting work done (aka introversion and self-isolation to the max… until after work, that is)

Ah, it is here– the last quiet work day before the break ends and all the students come pouring back onto campus. They finished re-tarring and painting my preferred area of the parking lot that they’ve had roped off for a week now, so I got to park close to the path up to our offices and enjoy the emptiness of the parking lot for the last time before Summer Break.

I’ve been forcing myself to religiously type up tasks into my bulleted Windows post-it note and mark them with a strike-through as soon as I finish them, and have managed to get through a huge chunk of things I’ve been pushing off ’cause no want to do. The emails, as predicted, took very little time considering the projects they’re responsible for kick-starting.

I’ve also realized that I have to forcibly shut my cubicle door and put on my headphones in order to get work done. I mean, I always knew I get distracted way, way too easily (see ADD/ADHD problem), so for a while, I did this regularly. But then I wondered if I was coming across as unfriendly and unwilling to be “a part of the office”. See, my cubicle is in a prime position for socializing and gossiping and being in the middle of things, ’cause I’m right next to the suite door and everyone in both of the departments that share this suite has to walk past me a gazillion times a day. People regularly stand in the hallway or open space on either side of my cubicle (the sides that aren’t against a wall or connected to my coworker’s cubicle) to talk and, more often than not, I get included. My boss has her headphones on about 60% of the time, but for some reason, she’s still able to hear when people are talking about something relevant to her and she’s able to join in on conversations easily. For me, the world is completely blocked out when I have my headphones on. I can’t hear shit, even when coworkers are calling my name, shouting questions at me over the tops of our cubicles, or knocking on my door. It’s all the way or not at all for me! Manic, hyper-focused tackling of tasks or hanging around socializing. I don’t know if it’s even possible for me to find a real, healthy balance.

My coworker and I are going out for drinks after work today, so I’m not just going to be sitting in silence by myself all day, which is what my mom is always worried about. I don’t know why she worries, ’cause everyone knows I talk a lot and my big mouth is always moving whenever the right situation arises. I’ve debated (internally) about whether or not to make going out for drinks after work with my coworker a regular thing, like I did with my college roommate, and I think she’d be open to it, but the truth is, she and I are both extremely introverted people who enjoy going out for drinks with friends and colleagues, but are just as happy going home to read or watch TV or play games (in my case) or cook/bake (in her case) or whatnot, so neither of us feels the need to regularly meet up and hang out. Although this place has a beer challenge where you can attempt to drink all these different beers and get them checked off each time to end up on their wall. I don’t particularly care about ending up on a bar’s wall, but there’s just something about seeing “1/100”, “10/100”, “50/100”, and so on that makes me want to keep going. Like the annual Goodreads reading challenges. “60% of the way through!” YEEEEESSSSSS!!!!! Yeah, I guess I do need to gamify my life in order to get things done.

I’ve been really wanting to catch up on my anime (both Tsurune and Run With the Wind have new episodes up, I need to watch the last episode of Dakaretai Otoko…, and I need to finally sit down and tackle the last few episodes of Banana Fish, which I’ve been putting off ’cause of Reasons) and, while the person uploading the Gakuen Heaven 2 playthrough has been very slow lately, I still have a few sections to watch, BUT….. none of that is happening yet because I’ve been watching British crime dramas using my sister’s free trials of BritBox and Acorn TV. I’m currently watching a show called Loch Ness (or The Loch, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on), which is like Gracepoint (I can’t say like Broadchurch, ’cause I haven’t watched that), but less emotional and with more annoying characters. Still, I want to know whodunnit! So that’s what I’ll be doing all of Saturday, probably. Along with cleaning my apartment. I was going to deep-clean it when I got back from Cali, buuuut I convinced myself that the place is probably just dusty and not actually dirty, since I cleaned it right before I left and no one except maintenance has been in it since. I did spot-clean (wiped the stove and countertops), but that’s about it. My sinks are gross, my floor is hairy and gross, meaning I’m gross… *SIGHHHH* No being lazy this week, I suppose.

Conversations with my therapist, motivation, and the ADD (ADHD?) life

Went to my second therapy appointment today. I still agree with my sister that I’m essentially paying just to talk at a trained mental health professional for an hour, but I also strongly believe that it helps. She did get me thinking about several things that I think I was aware of at the back of my mind, but chose to not acknowledge.

The first is that I am frustrated with my mom because I am aware there’s a knowledge gap between us (not exactly education-related, since she has a college degree), as well as a generational/cultural gap, and I am also aware that she’s trying to “catch up”, so to speak, but I don’t think she’s trying hard enough. I keep talking about my mom’s “wasted potential”, with complete disregard for her own feelings on that issue. I’m kind of like that with everyone. I get annoyed at my friends for throwing away or failing to seize opportunities, I think my sister could really do more with her life, I judge myself harshly for my own lack of motivation and not giving it my all every single day. You know that Jacques Cousteau quote, “When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”? I wholeheartedly believe that, so seeing people just be content with doing the bare minimum bothers me more than it should. It’s not even my business and it bothers me!

I don’t like how my mom gave up teaching (which was her dream/passion!) to be a housewife and it bugs me that she enjoys being a housewife who just cooks and cleans all day. Basically, I equate being a housewife with borderline unpaid servitude in my head, so I can’t understand ANYONE enjoying it. There are probably tons of happy housewives that would probably beat me over the head if they heard that, but it’s been years and I haven’t been able to shake that belief! I almost coughed up blood in disbelief and outrage when my college roommate told me she planned to switch to part-time work or quit working completely to raise kids after she and her boyfriend get married. I had to distance myself from her for a while so I could get over it. How could an independent, intelligent, capable woman like her (she’s way smarter and more capable than her boyfriend, even though he has the higher-paying job) just choose to give up her career to raise kids that her boyfriend wants more than she does herself?

Hmmm, my therapy appointment didn’t quite delve this deep. If anything, these sessions are worth it in that they force me to reflect upon my own prejudices and flaws at great length afterward.

The second thing we discussed is my ADD and my inability to complete what I’d consider the more “boring”, “small” tasks on my to-do list. I have emails I need to send out. I could have easily sent them out 2 days ago. I have not sent them out. Why? I think the thought of having to properly phrase my emails (they’re introductory emails to some pretty important people in their own orgs and departments) so that I don’t across as incompetent made me freeze up and not want to do the work. I’m imagining a little brat kicking her legs and flailing about on the floor going “I don’t wanna!” over and over again. That’s inner me right now! It’s funny, ’cause by NOT sending out these emails, horribly written or not, I am proving myself to be incompetent regardless. My therapist asked if I’m hesitating because I’m afraid of the additional work that will be generated after I send out these emails. It’s true that after the emails are sent, interviews and meetings and longer expository emails will have to be sent in order for the necessary articles to be written and the projects to be kicked off. But I don’t think I’m afraid of the work itself. I’m more afraid of the… I don’t know, gears that have to shift into the proper place for the work to get started? There are just too many variables! Someone could back out! We might not get approval for something! I’m a shitty planner and I have to be heavily involved in planning! My therapist asked if I’m afraid of rejection/failure/people saying no. Failure is a constant fear, always, but rejection and people telling me no? EH, that’s a part of life… is what I’ve always said and should believe. I’ve been rejected and ignored and told no so many times that I ought to be completely used to it, but I feel like I always need some time to recover from the bigger ones (like the ones that happened last semester). I didn’t realize that while I was at my appointment, though. Huh.

The therapist said I should start up my “journal” again. I think she meant the notebook I used to carry around at my old job at the public library where I would jot down all the tasks I had to do, no matter how mundane (like “respond to ____’s email”, even if it was just with a one-word response), so that I wouldn’t forget, but I’m also going to take it to mean spending more time journaling (or blogging. Whatever.) the way I used to do all the time back in the day. Journaling was a form of therapy in and of itself, really.

We talked a bit about organization (and my lack of it) during my appointment, too. I mentioned how I ditched the notebook after 6 months because I started actually remembering to do things on my own without looking at it, so I decided it wasn’t necessary anymore. Aaaaaand then I started forgetting things. Or rather, I didn’t forget, but I started postponing them. It’s the same with everything else in life. I downloaded an app to “gamify” my life, so I’d get points, pick up items, and progress on a map for each task I do in a day (my to-do list items, exercising, etc.), and I had fun using it for about a month. Theeeeen some of those things became a part of my routine/habit and I stopped using the app and uninstalled it. And now I am back to ignoring items on my to-do list, not exercising, not drinking milk… I guess those “habits” weren’t as ingrained as I’d thought. My therapist pointed out that I’m treating my efforts at organization the way people treat diets, which gave me pause, ’cause I hate diets because they’re not sustainable and therefore ineffective. But my life is apparently one big failed crash diet?! YEESH.

I’m considering getting a second job. Not ’cause I’m broke or ’cause I really need to get a second job (although being richer is always nice), but because I need to be busier. I think my brain either has to be in ON mode all the time, or it starts to get distracted and remains in not exactly OFF mode, but definitely in STANDBY. I was at my most productive when I was a full-time student in grad school, working part-time at a public library, interning at a university library, and completing my Capstone with an art gallery, all at the same time. My therapist told me to wait a couple more months (I’m not even at the five-month mark yet for my current main job) before I start thinking about picking up an extra job; she’s concerned about insane stress levels. I would probably be stressed, but I would also feel more fulfilled. Don’t get wrong, I love having time to read manga, watch anime, play games, watch British crime dramas, watch the Olympic Channel, watch soccer matches, read books, etc., BUT… the STANDBY mode thing is just so frustrating to be stuck in. It seriously affects my productivity at work. Then again, not getting enough sleep (this damn insomnia!) most likely doesn’t help with that, either. I hate to say it, but despite loving my flexible schedule and ability to set my own hours and the independence this job affords, I need more structure to my life. I need routine to function properly, and I need to be given tasks to do sometimes. My therapist suggested designating some “set” days (probably Mondays, in my case, since there are so many meetings and set reference hours on Mondays) where I follow a strict routine and then setting aside some other days (like Fridays) where I can come and go as I please and be more spontaneous. That might work. I am the most unspontaneous spontaneous person ever, so I have to plan to be spontaneous. Ain’t that hilarious?

Insomnia, presentations, and the call of the Golden Arches

My brain is so slow and sad right now from severe lack of sleep. My insomnia was troubling me before the holidays, so when I got sick and was popping Nyquil every night, I was almost relieved to be able to get a full 7 hours of sleep before work each day. Of course, I was coughing and blowing my nose so much that I felt like shit anyways, but damn, I miss being able to sleep. I slept a decent amount (about 6 hours a night) over in California, but I kept waking up early ’cause of jet lag. I finally got used to PST again and it was time to head back to Texas. Now I’m jet-lagged once more and my insomnia is back in full force. I haven’t been able to sleep before 0500 since I got back. Over the weekend, that still sucked, but wasn’t as bad, ’cause I was able to sleep in AND I didn’t have work, so I just spent all my time lying on my couch watching the Gakuen Heaven: Double Scramble walkthrough I mentioned last time, reading doujinshi, and marathoning Shetland.

Today, it was hell. I slept a total of 3.5 hours and even reading an article is a struggle. Still, I managed to sit through 2 meetings and sent out all these emails. I have a presentation tomorrow morning, so I have to be here on time for once and I can’t be sleep-deprived! I don’t even have my outline for my part of the presentation yet. My supervisor and I briefly went over what each of us would say, but I need to have my bullet list in order to feel prepared and assured. Which is why I am heading home at 1800 instead of staying till 1900 like I was originally planning to. I’m going to stop by my beloved McDonald’s for a whole meal, shower, and then work on my presentation for two hours and go to bed. I was supposed to make a teensy bit more effort to “eat healthy” this week to make up for my grease and alcohol-filled 12 days in California, but that ain’t happening. In several of the doujinshi I read last night before bed, they were eating at McDonald’s (and really enjoying themselves), so at 0430, when I was lying on my stomach fake-sobbing and frustrated from being unable to fall asleep despite having gone to bed at 0100, I was craving McDonald’s so, so bad. YUUUUMMMMM…

My main question now is… when do I exercise? That is one thing I have attempted to do a little bit of every day since I’ve been back. I didn’t move the entire time I was on holiday, so I’m really feeling the sluggishness and achiness that comes with lack of movement. Ideally, I’d exercise, shower, then eat McDonald’s, but I ain’t going back out after I get home and my food will get cold if I wait to exercise and shower before I eat. UGH, WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO HARD? *First World problems*

The holidays, BL visual novels, yaoi anime (a new year, the same me, with minor adjustments)…

Ah, finally back from my extended holiday stay in my hometown in California. You know what was strangest about this trip? Not once did I see the ocean! Not even a glimpse! I was in a car driving alongside it many times, but it was always blocked by buildings. I wanted to drive past the buildings and just stand on the shore looking out at my life-long love for a bit, but… I didn’t have a fucking car. *SCREEEEECH* I had to leave my baby back in Texas, so I spent my entire break being chauffeured around by my sister and my friends. Don’t get me wrong– I am grateful that they were willing to pick me up and take me places, but there were times I wanted to do little things, like drive 5 minutes to the library or drive to the mall to see if they still have my favorite lipstick shade, revisit the old haunts alone… and I couldn’t do it and I felt so frustrated.

That’s not to say my holiday sucked, ’cause it didn’t! I saw most of my friends who are still in the area, I spent time with my family (including relatives from a different part of Texas who decided to come over last-minute), ate a ton of good food that I can’t get back in Texas, drank a shit-ton of beer, including pints and pints of Japanese beer that I haven’t been able to get ahold of in Texas, I watched an entire British mystery series with my sister like we used to do back in the day, AAAAAAND… I played four different BL games. *CACKLE* I was worried that my Christmas and New Year’s wouldn’t be relaxing because of the hustle and bustle that inevitably comes with traveling during the holidays (even if you’re just traveling to your hometown to stay with your parents) and preparing for big dinners and get-togethers and hang-outs with friends… but (and I believe the lack of a car helped with this) I ended up having quite a bit of down-time where I was just lying around on my parents’ couch while they were out visiting friends or running holiday-related errands and my sister was out partying with her friends and my friends weren’t forcing me to go out with them ’cause they thought I was out with my family, and I spent all of that time on my phone playing BL visual novel games.

My sister and friends judged me harshly for it, but I ain’t even ashamed. Once, I might have been, but I took such a long break from BL that coming back to it recently was refreshing. I will thank Dakaretai Otoko Ichii Ni Odosarete Imasu and Youtube for really reawakening my interest in this sometimes questionable genre. Youtube seriously just randomly (or not so randomly) recommended me a clip from the anime, I previewed it, I liked it, and the rest is history. I never watched yaoi anime, even back in the day when I was in my late teens and yaoi wasn’t as mainstream and I had to download scanlated copies of popular yaoi manga ’cause I couldn’t read Japanese and you couldn’t just go online and easily read yaoi the way you can now; the quality was always so bad and the animation/voice acting were, more often than not, awkward as hell. Fast-forward 10 years and the quality is still low, but the animation’s gotten a bit better and the voice acting is still a bit awkward, but much improved! At least it felt that way for this series. I actually read part of this manga a few years ago, but stopped ’cause it was kind of rapey and disturbing. The anime uses bright colors and cutesier animation and removes the rape-that-turns-consensual-ish scene completely, so while there are still some incidents of sexual harassment, it’s now more “acceptable”; I have to use a different set of standards when it comes to yaoi, ’cause we all know how it usually gets! So with the changes, the anime is actually quite cute. Super corny and cheesy, but cute.

I was waiting for the last two episodes to come out when I was recommended a BL game. I didn’t end up playing whatever game it was that was recommended, but I did download another game, Your Dry Delight, which is set during prohibition and surprised me with its witty dialogue and fun characters! I’d only played one other BL game before that, and it was during undergrad with my roommate on her Nintendo DS. That one was one of those dating sims(?) where you attend an event and run into all these dudes and you pick which one you want to pursue and then go on dates with him. What we both remember from that experience was that the guys were cute, but the choices for interactions/dialogue sucked (GIVE ME THE ANSWERS I WOULD GIVE AS AN OPTION) and the story was cringe-worthy. It did make us laugh a lot, though.

Your Dry Delight is more of a visual novel, so most of the time, you’re just reading a set story and, once in a while, you get to pick how you want to react to a particular situation. It’s a very short game, and the ending is the same no matter what you do, which was a bit annoying, but it wasn’t a shitty ending, so I guess it’s acceptable. It felt like playing a game that was still in beta mode, but it got me interested enough that I went and looked at Argent Games’s other offerings and ended up playing Chess of Blades, which is another visual novel game with a fictional historical setting. In this game, you play as Rivian, the son of a famous and well-respected nobleman who’s forced to attend the king’s five-day birthday celebration in his parents’ place and hates every bit of it. Can I just say, first off, that I adore Rivian? He’s as antisocial, grouchy, and sarcastic as I am. But he’s also incredibly endearing and, as one of the other characters describes him, “delightful”. The story options don’t just revolve around romance– depending on which route you’re playing, there’s a different mystery to “solve”, and your love interest just plays a big part in helping you figure out what’s going on… or at least, is somehow involved in a major way. There are plot holes everywhere and some of the resolutions are just bizarre, but they do a good job building up to the climax, especially when the developing romance (and it’s a developing romance regardless of which route you choose) is interwoven with the main story. Basically, by the time the main story starts to fall apart, you’re already invested in the pairing and just want to see them get together, so you don’t care as much about the plot holes. Fine with me! I’m playing a BL game, not the next Nier: Automata.

Anyways, Chess of Blades is my favorite of the games I played, but I also like Red Embrace, which is another Argent Games production (I’ve decided I will play pretty much whatever this company releases, ’cause I really like the way they write their characters and dialogue)– I’m more than halfway through that one. On the side, I’m playing one of those free games where you can either wait to reload on points or pay to progress faster (I ain’t paying, so I play a teensy bit every day) called My First Love Story or something like that (this one is a total guilty pleasure– it’s the most basic high-school romance ever, but it’s cute). The English translations aren’t perfect, so I’ve chosen the wrong dialogue option due to my confusion as to what they actually meant, but whatever– I’ve already gotten enough points to go down the “Favorable” route, so I’m set, bitches.

Unbelievably enough, after years of ignoring it, I tackled the absolute monster that is Dramatical Murder: Reconnect. It’s such a weird game. I’m pretty sure all the loose ends in the story would have been tied up if I’d bothered to sit through all the routes, but NAHHHH… I got through the Koujaku route (childhood friends, comforting, cute), the Clear route (wholesome and cute), and the Noiz route (extremely gratifying and adorable). Gotta say, Noiz was my favorite. He was more of a challenge, unlike Koujaku, who’s Aoba’s (oh yeah, forgot to mention, you play as this blue-haired guy named Aoba) childhood best friend and already close to him, and Clear, who is utterly devoted to Aoba from the start. Honestly, though, the best part of Dramatical Murder: Reconnect is probably the sex scenes. Whoever wrote those should win an award. A+. Way to redeem a game.

At the moment, I am watching a playthrough of Gakuen Heaven: Double Scramble, mostly ’cause I don’t know how to get my hands on an English copy of the game, and ’cause I’m lazy and cheap and impatient. I want good endings delivered to me! I don’t want to puzzle out which choices lead to good endings!

Can you believe that I actually went back to work today (yeah, I know, it’s odd to return to work for just one day, only to go straight back into the weekend, but I like the feeling of easing back into the everyday grind instead of being thrown back into it next Monday to work a full and busy week)? I tackled a sizable chunk of my to-do list, too. I also realized I’d misread an essential set of instructions in regards to the committee I’m chairing and am now weeks behind and scrambling madly to fix things, but I swallowed my pride, gritted my teeth, and sent out the necessary emails. The only way to move is forward! And now I’m heading home to watch more of my Gakuen Heaven: Double Scramble playthrough. And marathon more of my British crime drama using my sister’s new BritBox subscription. Hello, weekend!

Cooking Is Too Unpredictable, Ep. 3 (Baked Salmon)

So I’d never in my life cooked fish of any kind. The most I’d ever done with fish beyond eating fish that someone’s already cooked for me was dump canned sardines in tomato sauce out on a plate and mix them with onions and vinegar/water to make this.

But I’d eaten nothing but instant noodles and peanut butter sandwiches for so many days in a row that I started getting that creeping feeling of death approaching my door to knock on it, so I asked myself “What’s reasonably healthy and extremely easy to cook and doesn’t just consist of vegetables?” (’cause I was kind of sick of eating corn and spinach and mushrooms, too, and those are half the vegetables I eat, ever). Ground beef had just gotten recalled, I don’t know how to choose pork cuts to purchase, I don’t know how to cook bone-in chicken and I’d just had boneless chicken breasts… the only option left was fish. But I generally dislike fish unless it’s raw (the exception is canned sardines).

So I was left with one option: salmon. I do like salmon, but I’m very picky about how it’s prepared. If it’s one TINY bit too dry, it’s just no good. Did I have faith in myself to cook it so it was perfect and not too dry or undercooked? No. But I was feeling quite ambitious. So I found this recipe for Baked Salmon Fillets Dijon on AllRecipes that only required the salmon itself, salt/pepper, butter, dijon mustard, and BREAD CRUMBS! YAHOO, TIME TO USE SOME MORE OF THAT GIANT CANISTER LEFT OVER FROM THE CHICKEN PARMESAN.

The hardest part of this whole ordeal was honestly choosing the fish. And by that, I mean deciding where to buy the salmon. I mean, Wal-Mart has salmon. But is the salmon from the grocery store better? In the end, I ended up heading to the grocery store ’cause the recipe asked for 4 4-oz fillets (that’s 1 pound total, right?), and Wal-Mart didn’t have any 1-pound packs left in their fish section. When the guy handed over my slightly-more-than-a-pound salmon fillet, I was like IS THIS IT? It looked and felt so small. How was such a small piece to serve 4 people (and by 4 people, I mean me, 4 times)?! I had the opposite problem with the dijon mustard. The smallest bottle is still pretty sizeable, and the recipe only asks for a thin layer to be spread on top of each salmon piece. Well, shit, I had to get a whole bottle anyways, so now I guess I’ll have to keep making baked salmon fillets dijon until I run out of dijon mustard and bread crumbs.

Anyways, after I got home and figured out how to cut up the salmon (should I cut it the long way and then in half again or cut 4 short pieces?), I realized the pieces were actually bigger and thicker than they’d looked, and 4 of them might actually feed me 4 times, especially since I wasn’t going to eat them alone.

salmonwithmustard
Look, it fucking filled up the entire 9 x 13 inch pan I have!

I don’t own a brush or anything, so I just used the back of a spoon to spread a (thicker than recommended, probably) layer of mustard on top of the salmon.

sugarandbutter
In the video on AllRecipes, their bread crumbs-and-butter mixture looked a LOT runnier than this.

It was kind of hard to evenly spoon the bread crumbs and butter onto the fish AND get it to stick to the edges, but I did me best.

readyforoven

Honestly, the finished result looked the same. My favorite thing about this recipe, though, is that it only took 15 minutes for the fish to bake. My mom happened to call right before I started and told me that salmon in general is super fast and easy to make, so I foresee lots of baked salmon in my future.

finishedsalmon
The only way I could tell this was the After picture and not the Before is ’cause there’s melted butter pooling there.

I wonder if I was supposed to grease the aluminum foil before I put the salmon in (skin side down, as the recipe states), though? Half the skin came off on the aluminum foil when I removed the first piece. The others came off, but it could have been easier.

AND THEN CAME THE LAST STEP: PREPARE THE INSTANT NOODLES. Okay, yes, I was supposed to stop eating instant noodles, but I was really craving some Indomie Barbeque Chicken noodles (I’d been eating Shin Ramyun and Cup Noodles), so I quickly fried some up, along with two eggs (which I accidentally broke) and some spinach and then set the salmon piece next to them on the plate and VOILA! DINNER!

salmonwithindomie
Yuuuummm, that grease.

The verdict? It could have been a bit less dry (wahahahahaha…), but it wasn’t bad. One giant factor I didn’t consider, though, ’cause I’m an idiot: I hate mustard. UGH, HOW COULD I FORGET SUCH AN IMPORTANT THING? I think that, since the recipe only says to spread a thin layer on top of the salmon, I sort of brushed it aside as a “it won’t make a difference in the taste” sort of thing. But the mustard was strong. Maybe next time I’ll use Japanese mayonnaise instead. But that damn bottle of dijon mustard will sit there forever if I do that! Not to mention– where do you even get Japanese mayonnaise around here?

I already talked about how fast it is to make this, so what about cost? Everyone’s always talking about how it’s more expensive to eat salmon for dinner as opposed to another fish or chicken or something, but I bought this regular ol’ Atlantic salmon fillet and it ended up costing like $9.50 or something. I already had the bread crumbs and the other ingredients, so I only had to buy butter (but I figure everyone else has butter in their house already) and dijon mustard. However, you barely need to use any of the mustard, so in the end, you end up spending like $2.50-3.00 per serving, depending on what you want to pair your salmon with. It’s really not bad at all. LOL, still cheaper than getting something from a cafe or the overpriced convenience store downstairs at work.

Overall, I was quite pleased. Mostly because it was easy, honestly. Easy to make, easy to put away (I just put the lid on my 9 x 13-inch pan and then stuck the whole thing in the fridge), easy to clean up. My laziness and impatience know no bounds, and I didn’t have to work hard or wait around long to get my food, so that’s always a huge plus!

Being sick has allowed me, the snail, to finish both Haikyuu!! AND Run With the Wind, believe it or not

Ugh, I’ve been out of commission for days due to illness. HEALTH IS EVERYTHING, FRIENDS. WITHOUT IT, LIFE IS CRUEL AND MEANINGLESS (I say as I eat chocolate and cookies and everything I couldn’t eat when I was down for the count). I’m still not at 100% yet, and my nose is cracked and peeling all disgustingly from where I kept blowing my nose and repeatedly rubbing against it. So this whole week was pretty much wasted, work-wise. I took Monday off, came back on Tuesday feeling a bit bitter, worked an event outdoors, came back in yesterday feeling awful, went home early… and mysteriously felt better around about 2000. It was the strangest thing. Was it the new Dayquil box I bought (I’d been using Dayquil Severe from the combo box before) that did it? The shin ramyun with eggs and spinach that I decided I’d eat ’cause I was sick of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup? The 2 days’ worth of ginger tea sipping? GOING HOME EARLY? WHAT WAS IT, BUDDHA? THE MASSES DEMAND TO KNOW!

Anyways, what’s even happened this past week? I finished (or should I say, caught up with) the Haikyuu!! anime. Still haven’t caught up in the manga. My friend says the anime’s on hiatus for 2 years. I wonder if season 4’s coming anytime soon. But even if it’s not, at least they waited till after the Shiratorizawa match to stop. Not gonna lie, I had my doubts about one volleyball match stretching out over 10 eps (it reminded me of why I don’t like DBZ, with its insanely long battle scenes), but I also didn’t know that volleyball finals matches were 5 sets long, so 10 eps made a lot of sense in the end. I didn’t feel bored at all during those 10 episodes, so no complaints from me.

Right as I was finishing up Haikyuu!!, I started watching Run With the Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru). I actually learned about this anime from my favorite anime Youtuber, KrisPNatz, who reviewed it on his channel. It’s still on-going (currently at 11 episodes), but I have SO MANY good things to say about this anime, I don’t even know where to start. I’ve said before that I follow certain sports (soccer, swimming, diving, gymnastics, figure skating, speed skating, skiing, snowboarding, basically any winter sport, etc., etc.) in real life, and I really enjoy sports fiction, which obviously includes sports anime. While I’ve found the sports anime I’ve watched entertaining, the only ones that have felt realistic and true to the sport, so to speak, are few and far between.

Basically, I’ve divided them (roughly) into “Anime with a sports setting” and “Anime about a sport”. Run With the Wind definitely falls into the latter category. It reminds me a lot of Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, where he talks about running being a constant in his life and influencing his writing, and the mindset of a runner/the connection runners automatically have with other runners because of their shared obsession. I can’t say I really understood, because I HATE running, and in my head, people only suffered through runs because they wanted to lose weight or be fit or something like that. Buuuut after I read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,  I did stop thinking that my friends who regularly jogged in the evenings were crazy. I still thought the people running in the rain who I drove past all the time were crazy, though. But Run With the Wind kind of made me change my mind on that as well.

So one constant I’ve seen with all sports anime is the fact that all the main players in a sports anime are already participating in the sport (doesn’t matter if they’re good or not), or are naturally talented/gifted and get roped into joining (or are already participating), or are at least willing to learn/improve (even if they suck) so that they can participate in the sport. This is NOT the case with Run With the Wind. The main dude, Kurahara Kakeru, is a naturally gifted, fast runner who was somewhat known in the world of high school track. The other main dude, Kiyose Haiji, is a runner who got injured and is still recovering, but is determined to put together a team to run in the Hakone Ekiden (this huge college marathon thing that takes place around New Year’s). These two are the only ones who know what the fuck they’re doing. The rest of the eight team members Kiyose pretty much forces into joining his track team have absolutely no interest in running and fight back every step of the way. Well, there’s one guy who ran track for a bit in high school, but he wasn’t good and he quit early. And there’s another guy who’s one of those sunshine-y, Tachibana Makoto types and is more willing than the others, but has no experience running. Everybody else… I wholeheartedly agreed with Kurahara, who thinks that the whole thing is a train wreck waiting to happen and doesn’t believe that there’s any way this ragtag group can manage to qualify for the Hakone Ekiden. BUT! But… over the course of 11 episodes, I am now convinced (and I think Kurahara somewhat is as well) that it might be possible. Because somehow, some way, these guys are starting to learn to LIKE running. They’re starting to get a feeling of ACCOMPLISHMENT with every tiny improvement (30 seconds faster than last week, so on), and that, coupled with their teammates’ support and Kiyose’s boundless passion and enthusiasm, has enabled them to stick to it!

I’ve heard friends say over the years that they watched a soccer anime and wanted to play soccer, watched Prince of Tennis and wanted to play tennis, watched Haikyuu!! and wanted to play volleyball, whatever. I feel like with those animes, there was a lot of emphasis on 1) starting young, and 2) having some sort of knack for it, and the main characters seemed to possess some almost superhuman abilities that I just couldn’t see anyone I knew replicating in real life. With Run With the Wind, I actually started wondering if I might learn to enjoy running if I ever decided to pick it up for some strange reason. It just made that possibility seem… realistic. UGH. I hate running. I can’t believe an anime is making me second-guess that feeling.