elements of Sappho

[What came out of an assignment in DS Literature to complete a fragment of Sappho’s poetry.]




so poignantly poised, you will remember

calamity for we in our youth

did these things


yes many and beautiful things

ineffable and inevitable

we lay close on the ground and stared for hours

wanderer Continue reading



Today I feel ancient and unrestored, too many layers of cells on my ability to feel—but I’m terrified of what it means to cut the last threads on a supernova—there are thrashing whales in death throes underwater—there are balloons I fill with questions, watch them float up endlessly—there are remnants of automobiles sloppily sand-covered, my feet sawed into blood—there are algorithms I entangle my arms into and struggle with single—there are hours of crucifixion, every gasp a back-distorting, gut-knifing labor—there are infinities of unlearned and unfelt things—there are ways to medicate and blinder my perception of them but if I’m not writhing I always feel like I’m missing something. Continue reading


The weather today was the gently cool kind that draws you out into the courtyard to breathe, sink into a hammock. That’s where I’m at right now, reflecting on the absolute craziness that has been the past two weeks.  Continue reading

Graduated: Advice to High Schoolers

As I prepare to enter my first year of college, it’s a time of high emotion and intense reflection—especially on my four years of high school. For this second installation of this post-graduation series, I’ve compiled the advice I would have given my starry-eyed 14-year-old self. It’s advice I would give anyone who’s starting or progressing through high school. Enjoy!




The little gradations in grades don’t matter. Seriously.

You’ll sometimes hear graduates give this advice to current high schoolers: Grades don’t matter! Grades really don’t matter! To a certain extent, it’s absolutely true. Small gradations don’t matter—in colleges’ eyes, the difference between 94s and 97s is negligible. The only thing it does is affect your rank, which colleges don’t weigh heavily anyway (sometimes they totally ignore it) because each (ranking!) school ranks students using a different system. Westlake High School ranks students differently from Westwood High School, and Austin schools are very different from Chicago schools.

I knew all of this as I progressed in high school, but that didn’t stop me from freaking out when I got a 93 on my first APUSH test. Or studying for four hours before every WHAP test. Or studying my butt off and stressing myself to exhaustion the entire week before each Linear Algebra test.

Don’t do it.

Not worth it.

When you hear people give this kind of advice, you probably think something along these lines: It’s easy for them to say that grades don’t matter. But they are where they are now because they cared a lot about grades during high school. If they had taken their own advice about caring less about grades, they wouldn’t have gotten into these colleges. So I have to keep caring. Continue reading

This Culture

Today, I was washing the dishes when my mom’s phone rang—I yelled her name, and she came to pick it up. It was Mrs. Q. Aw, they haven’t talked for like a year—they’re catching up! I thought. My mom always takes calls through speaker phone, so as I returned to scrubbing a particularly stubborn spot on our wok, I heard the words “two honors programs at UT.” Uh oh. I should have known better. This wasn’t just any how-are-you-doing call. This was a Kid Call.

A Kid Call is characterized by a very, very brief greeting (in this case, less than 10 seconds)—perhaps a long, drawn out “Heyyyyy”—followed by a question about your kid—in this case, “Where did Isabella get into college?” Two honors programs at UT. I don’t really know what they are, haha. I haven’t really been keeping track of what she’s doing. “But where did she apply early action?” Harvard! She didn’t get in, haha. (It continues.) “Ohh. Where else is she applying?” “Who from Westlake got into Harvard?” “What about Stanford?” “Wow, Westlake’s gotten so much worse, they used to have so many more Harvard admits and Stanford admits.” (N.B. This dialogue is translated from Chinese.)

I remember now. The last time Mrs. Q called was in February 2017. She had seen my name on the list of the 2017 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards winners and called my mom to ask how I did it—perhaps my parents had hired a writing coach, in which case could they please tell her the name and phone number of the coach? Or perhaps I took after-school lessons, which perhaps might suit her son as well? This was also a Kid Call.

Continue reading

Unselfish Vulnerability

Today, in Capstone Research, we continued discussing a research article analyzing the movie Big Hero 6. It thoroughly examined the setting of the film and its characters, making the argument that the film doesn’t fully realize its potential to move us forward in deeply accepting other cultures. A main sentence from the paper’s abstract: “Big Hero 6‘s agenda to promote hybridity is undermined by latent hierarchies suggested by the process of its world construction and binary oppositions constraining the development of its secondary characters.”

I didn’t like it for the primary and petty reason that I found the writing style was eloquent at best and almost overbearingly dense at worst. Therefore, going into the meat of the piece, I already had preconceived notions—that the author was pretentious. That then helped me see the piece as a ‘Social Justice Warrior’-type perspective on race—did the author really need to find fault with something as basic as the landscape of San Fransokyo? Did the movie directors really need to fully explore each side character’s backstory in order to fully promote a message about race? Continue reading