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Every so often, my mom would ask me when I plan to get married and have kids.  Not because she’s worried that I won’t be bearing her grandchildren anytime soon.  But precisely because she fears I would choose marital life too soon.

I understand my mother’s concern for my education and career, but if I were to wait until I finished my PhD and then 3-5 more years for a post-doctoral fellowship, then I would be at least 34 before I even begin to consider starting a family.  That is, assuming I’ve found the right partner and barring any health conditions that hinder pregnancy.  34 puts me at the brink before a natural, rapid decline in fertility.

Holly Finn’s, “My Fertility Crisis,” in the Wall Street Journal is a tragic account of her unsuccessful attempts with IVF.  Her story is a reminder of the risks for many women today who are choosing to have children later in life for whatever reasons.  The problem is that you never think you’d be one of those people who have trouble conceiving.  When you’re 30 and trying to build up your career or waiting for a better guy to come along, I can understand how parenthood is the last thing on your mind.  I imagine it’s only after much later in life when reproductive technology fails you, that you wish your priorities had been different.  But when you’re young and ambitious, the risks of infertility seem small enough to gloss over.

I’m not saying that all women should start families earlier, and even I’m not sure that I would change my priorities, but Finn’s article reminds me of the difficult choices women have to make.  Although, given how research for artificial reproduction is developing, in a few decades, this issue may be moot, anyways.

It’s ironic how we’re simultaneously trying to extend reproductive life while vigorously coming up with novel contraceptives.  Last year, the nobel prize winner for medicine was Robert G. Edwards for pioneering the field of in vitro fertilization.  Just this morning, I read in the New York Times about scientific advances for interrupting male sperm count as a form of long-term male contraception.  I suppose, we won’t stop until we achieve perfect control over our reproductive capabilities so that we can schedule to have children at our convenience regardless of age.

While that may be a great thing for a lot of people, there’s always the risk for abuse.  Reproduction would almost seem too easy.  When life is about making tough choices with the short time you’re given, then your decisions really reveal who you are and shape who you will become.  You can’t do everything you want to do.  There may be decisions that lead you nowhere that you want to be, all I can say is, regret and grieve and move on with the best that you have and the best that you can do.

In high school, my English teacher had us freewrite for half an hour in our journals.  What came out was basically disjointed thoughts and rambling sentences, all mashed up together in a stream of consciousness with disregard for grammar and penmanship.  The idea was not to censor your ideas.  Strangely, it was really difficult for me to do that.  You’d think that an assignment with no-rules-anything-goes basis would be easy, but it’s not.  The lack of rules and direction is actually stressful.

Do you ever have flying dreams?  For most people they’re fun, soaring through the sky over epic landscapes.  Well, I get them too, except in my dreams I have to work to stay afloat.  I’m talking about actually having to pedal my legs or struggling to get airborne with a running start; otherwise, I plummet to my death.  I remember one dream where I had to manually wind up the propeller on a beanie to make it run, only to have it lose tension mid-flight.  There are also plenty of dreams where I am running away from evil-doers with a broomstick between my legs, struggling to get enough momentum to fly away.

Well, I don’t want to read too much into dreams, but my friend says they obviously show how I have trouble relaxing at something that should be freeing.  Maybe he’s right.  I mean, it’s been two years since college graduation and I still get nightmares about taking final exams.

I’d like to think that I’m a generally chill person, but I think I have a lot to learn when it comes to kicking back and enjoying myself.  Even something as simple as getting out of the house.  Without work these days, my plans are so unstructured.  While it’s nice to have time to enjoy the city, more often than not, I find myself sitting at home and making excuses for not going out.  It’s too hot; I don’t want to wait for the bus; I can go tomorrow, really.  Well, it’s high time that I give myself a kick in the butt and just do it.

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I’m not a morning person, but the best thing about waking up early is breakfast.  And the time to enjoy breakfast.  One day, I woke up three hours before I had to get to lab and just went to C3 cafe for coffee and a bagel.  Sitting in the empty cafe and watching the people outside cram into the T station, I felt wonderful that, just for once, I don’t have to be apart of that morning rush.  For once, I don’t need to not have work be the first thing on my mind.  Sometimes, it’s what keeps you sane.

Waking up in the morning, I had to take a minute to remember where I was.  Sunlight streamed through the sheer white curtains and pale pink venetian blinds, illuminating the room with an invigorating morning glow.  Despite the near empty closet shelves, unadorned walls, and the abandoned writing desk, the room was a picture of warmth and familiarity.  I welcomed the solitude and calm, unperturbed by the alarm clock that usually rushes me to work.  There is really nothing that compares to waking up in your childhood bed.

                       

(Pig’s Feet: Dim Sum from one of my favorite Chinese restaurants.)

I love being back home.  I love running around barefoot on the dust-free carpets, using a spotlessly white bathroom, rummaging through the well stocked pantry, and reveling in the plethora of culinary appliances and cookware. How does my mom do it?  How does she single-handedly maintain such a heavenly, pristine haven where you can practically eat off of the floors (if you wanted to)?  Funny how living away from home has instilled me in new found appreciation for home—when all I wanted to do when I was living there, was to leave. 

                       

(My mom and I like to make mango sticky rice)

What is it about your hometown that simultaneously draws you in and pushes you away?  I think it’s the history.  The places where I like to linger to collect my memories.  Like, the hallway of my high school where my first boyfriend held my hand (or I made him hold my hand).  Or my neighbor’s slanted driveway that my brother and I liked to rollerblade down. The old lunch spot next to the library where my friends and I ranted about homework and college applications.  The Starbucks on the corner of Stelling Rd that I frequented during Journalism class when there was nothing to do.  And the foothills where I crashed my bike and subsequently developed a fear of steep slopes. 

                       

(Santa Cruz Beach)

Sometimes I catch myself wondering what it’d be like to relive those moments again.  But, really, I don’t think that’s what I want.  Because despite the nostalgia and overly glorified memories of those “simpler days,” I can’t imagine being anybody else than who I am right now.  Even with my flaws, responsibilities, and burdens screaming at me everyday, I can’t turn back.  This is the place where my life has led to and this is the person who I’ve worked so hard to become.  And still striving to be closer to who I want to become. 

                       

People often ask me why I moved from California to Boston where I have no friends and no family.  I laugh and say it’s because this was the only job offer I received.  But really, I jumped at the opportunity to leave.  I was so eager to get out, move away, disappear to somewhere completely different and new that I didn’t even bother to reconsider the job offer.  I wanted to reinvent myself to be the ideal Me, without being held back by the comfort of familiarity that makes me satisfied with who I am without dreaming to be something more. 

                      

Well, here I am, and I’m still the same person.  No, that’s not true.  I’ve learned to take care of myself, I know what I want to do in life, I’m better at socializing, I am more organized, more clean, a better cook and a better baker.  But I’m still a homebody, still spending my time reading in a bookstore, still harbor a strong dislike for shopping, still clueless about pop references, and still fighting the same insecurities, except I’m just getting better at it.  I needed to leave home in order to grow, but I will always need home to remind me of who I was, and to find comfort in the parts of me—the most important aspects of myself—that’s still the same. 

This week I moved into a new apartment in Central Square, Cambridge.  Already, I have found my favorite neighborhood cafe for brunch.  If I could, I would come here every weekend.  Not only for the food, which is fantastic, but more for the phenomenal service.  If you could catch it on day when it’s not packed to the brim, you should take the opportunity to just sit for awhile.  Fortunately for me, that’s exactly what I did on Saturday. 

Even though I say I like to do my writing in cafes, I rarely do so.  Half the reason is that I’m addicted to the keyboard.  It’s so much more difficult for me to pen my words on paper.  Partly because I dislike having to cross out sentences and phrases that don’t come out perfectly.  If you’ve ever heard me write an essay on my laptop (my ex-roommate knows this), I type super fast, in spurts and jolts with loud, jarring jabs at the “delete” button every few seconds.  I am fairly certain that if any of the keys were to wear down, “delete” would be the first to go.  Without the ability to “delete,” writing by hand is stressful enough to dry up any inspiration.  Sitting with an idle pen in hand, I gnaw and wrestle with the words in my head.  The feeling is something akin to constipation. 

But what bothers me more than the inconvenience of old-school writing, is the idea of writing in public.  Especially in a small, cozy cafe, where the next table is only a mere four inches away, I cannot shake the feeling that everyone is looking over my shoulder to see what I’m scribbling in my notebook.  How self-centered is that, right?  As if anybody would be interested.  Certainly not the guy at the next table who is too busy schmoozing with his date to pay attention to anything else.  I know this, yet I still cannot write with abandon.  Even if I were writing in my own living room with my roommate nearby, I cannot.  I would fidget in my chair, tap impatiently on my keyboard, intentionally turn my computer screen away from my roommate, before I’d give up and climb onto my bed to finish my writing in isolation.  Am I insecure because I’m self-centered or self-centered because I am insecure? 

I think, it is because writing is so naturally difficult for me that it becomes so personal.  The way I stumble with my words, haphazardly appending clauses here and there, deleting and retyping the same thing, makes me anxious to let anyone judge anything that I write, or reveal the process it took to get there.  I guess it all comes down to ego and appearances. 

These Belgian waffles were delicious.  They came with a big dollop of homemade whipped cream that tasted light and refreshing; and a berry compote that was tart without being overwhelmingly sweet.  The red and blue stars, I thought, were a nice, festive touch for the July 4th weekend.  I’m glad they didn’t put a slab of butter on these since I usually prefer using syrup or, better yet, honey!  I really wish I could say that I made these, but I have yet to own a waffle maker.  Otherwise, I’d probably make waffles for breakfast every morning.  Since I can’t, I’d probably come here again next week.  And I’ll be sure to bring my notebook and pen.