Fantastic Stories & How They Shape Us

I’ve often wondered if I have a healthy sense of empathy since it always seemed easier for me to come to form emotional connections to fictional characters rather than real people. There was something about that abstraction to reality that made me experience a wider spectrum of feelings that nothing else in my life could provide. This is not to say that I was neglected as a child, in fact far from it as I was blessed with parents who tried their best to raise me to be the person I am today. Even within that environment, seeing the struggles and triumphs of my favorite characters allowed me to vicariously experience those same emotions. I can imagine in my formative years that this would have greatly influenced the development of my personality and more importantly my identity. As an example, I was about 10 when I first learned of the series “One Piece”  when it came as one of many different manga series in the first English language version of Shonen Jump in the US. At the time, it was a fun adventure story I just took enjoyment from in reading, but by middle school I had grown to be more withdrawn, and my attachment to the story grew as a means of compensating for the loneliness I experienced. The attachment I felt to those characters was stronger than any real life connection I had made at the time, and as a result I felt that One Piece became an integral part of my identity in how it shaped my emotional development. It clearly was not the case that I could identify with any of the conflicts or shenanigans that the Straw Hat crew got themselves involved in, but it was what these characters meant to me that gave me hope, inspiration, motivation, laughs, tears, anger, etc. I knew that every week I could set aside a few minutes and sail away into a world where I could feel everything.

To call myself simply a fan wouldn’t be accurate because it is the single best comfort during my most stressful times. Anyone who has been part of a fandom probably has encountered the sentiments, “[Piece of fiction] saved my life,” or “I was in a bad place until I came across  [Piece of fiction].” Now, if I was to go back and ask myself my response to hearing a statement like that, it would no doubt include some form of derision that anyone who felt like this was pathetic to need a book, game, movie, TV show or any other storytelling medium to keep themselves from ending their life. Even my middle school self who was already enduring the pangs of loneliness might have also felt similarly. Experience made me realize otherwise. I have never been at the edge of ending my life, but I have entertained those thoughts when I was at the lowest of my lows. Whenever I was in those moments, I would tell myself that I’ll never know how One Piece ends, and somehow that was the only motivation I needed to get through. Why does a simple story have this much sway over me and my decisions? Can I not be satisfied with my real life that I need to turn to fiction to feel something? These are just some of the questions that I ask myself. I don’t have all of the answers just yet, but it did make me question my relationship to One Piece and if it was a healthy one. I deluded myself into thinking that it was the only meaningful thing in my life. These past few years have revealed for me how much love and support I have from my family and close friends which cannot be understated. In my opinion, the way One Piece or any other piece of fiction should fit into your life is as a supplement. It doesn’t need to be the only thing that sustains you emotionally, but in those times when nothing else is going right, it can be a nice addition to reaching out to those who care for you for help of which there are many more than you might expect.

Having that support system helped me put into perspective what my favorite stories can add to my life rather than it becoming my life. Essentially, this was the good ending to my predicament. To that point, I can understand about .00000000000000000000000000001% of how some particular aspects of fandom take root in that some fans think that they have some ownership over a piece of fiction based on how much it has embedded itself into their lives. Considering how it manifests itself, I would categorize this path as the bad ending. As an example, Star Wars seems to be a lightning rod for so many people to attack and harass those whom they don’t deem fit to be a part of “their idea of what Star Wars is”. Most egregiously was a fan who said that the actor who voiced Yoda in the original series didn’t know the character better than the fans who have spent years delving into other expanded universe material beyond the release of the movies involved with his character. Everything that has been said about this kind of poor behavior and gatekeeping has already been said, but I wanted to focus on the root of why some people feel this way. Not as a means to provide sympathy for anyone who would do these things (they don’t deserve any), but as a way for me to posit that the source for these feelings which stem from the same place of feeling a deep connection with stories and their characters.

P.S. My opinion stands that no one besides the original authors of a fiction have the final say on what their stories are intended to be (I still believe this even in the context of the plentiful J.K. Rowling memes), but that doesn’t mean that it has to be the definitive perspective of it. Anyone can take away anything from a story because our own experiences shape how we perceive our realities for better or for worse. I, as an Indian person can take the struggles and triumphs of fictional Japanese pirates and internalize them in ways meaningful to myself. The important point is that stories have an inherent power of the formation of who we become, but it’s important for people to draw boundaries between their perceptions and how it can affect not only themselves, but also those around them.

Forgiving Yourself

In honor of National Mental Health Day which coincidentally also happened to be a very trying day for myself, I decided to write about something that I struggle with in hopes of allowing me to more deeply understand the patterns which lead to negative swings in my mood and to serve as a reminder that feelings can fade if approached from the right perspective. As the title has already revealed, I want to talk about forgiving yourself to which I believe some context might be useful. Interspersed between my recollection of the day are the thoughts that followed each moment.

Today started off pretty unremarkably until I happened to receive an email about a request for an interview about a position I had applied for. Naturally, I was ecstatic and replied offering some times of availability to speak and hit send. Some time went by and I hadn’t heard back considering I had offered to speak as early as tomorrow, but upon checking the email I sent I had forgotten to include a contact number which was specifically requested.

#1 I can’t believe I would be so dumb as to not read the email carefully before replying.

I hastily sent another reply with my number, hoping to correct my blunder. But even now as it’s almost 10pm as I write this, I haven’t received any reply from the recruiter.

#2 Why would they even bother to continue considering you if you can’t even follow simple directions?

I try to convince myself that it was a simple mistake that you made an attempt to rectify, so I should hope for the best regardless. Maybe they just didn’t get a chance to reply, I shouldn’t worry this much. Later while in a class, I had asked a question about a conclusion the professor reached, but he pointed out that it was actually based on the homework I had not yet started which another student also pointed out the reasoning could also be found in the previous class’s notes. The professor not so subtly suggested that some of us still need to do the homework.

#3 You should be working harder so you don’t fall behind so much

I laugh softly and smile along, but don’t ask any other questions for the rest of the class. During the midclass break I and my professor head out of the class and he holds the door for me which I reply thank you in a somewhat breathless whisper which leads me to think maybe he didn’t hear me (This ties into another entry I wrote about reciprocating kindess)

#4 Wow he must think you’re so petty that you can’t even muster a proper thanks because he made a joke about you

Now, I know this professor having had him before. He is a very kind man who I feel deeply that he wouldn’t think this of his students. And I know it may seem I’m reaching for negative thoughts, but this was honestly my first reaction which generally doesn’t follow logic or reasoning. I have also numbered these thoughts because negative feelings have a momentum behind them. They build on each other and increase the overall effect of the emotion which not only makes it harder to get past it, but also makes it easier for smaller moments to build on top of it. Upon reaching home I learn that I have completely skipped a meeting I had agreed to attend.

#5 You can’t even be relied upon to keep your promises

#6 Everything today has demonstrated your worthlessness

#7 You don’t deserve anything good in your life

#8 You don’t have any excuse for the way that you are

#9 You’re going to end up miserable and alone and it’ll be all your fault

This may come off as hyperbole, but this is not the first time nor do I expect it to be the last time I go down this line of thinking. There’s a familiar quote that rings loudly and truly on this occasion: “You can’t reason someone else out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into.” In our current context, it’s most often heard of in regards to how people hold certain political views, but to me it can be just as applicable to the momentum of negativity especially when that someone else is yourself.

Now upon writing this much, I have done a disservice to the title in that I haven’t actually forgiven myself formally in the “thoughts” because of how easily they get drowned out. I can’t even say it’s easy let alone possible to do so, but I have to believe one critical component behind these feelings is that it’s just one perspective of many for the same situation. The same train of thought for hopelessness can be matched with a hopeful attitude. Your feelings while valid and real don’t need to be the sole emotions that you experience and therein lies the path to forgiving yourself. Knowing that you can do so is the very first step, and with that you can approach tomorrow with renewed spirit.


The Camera Adds 10 Pounds: How We See Ourselves

Since this blog’s inception, I haven’t actually written anything about linguistics, but I actually really enjoyed writing about things that I felt, which leads into today’s entry perfectly as a marriage of the two.

I think we’ve all heard the adage that “the camera adds 10 pounds” at some point in our lives, likely at the last moment we wanted to hear it. I wanted to look into the origins of this phrase, and found some research by Michael Richmond, a physics professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. It describes the physical phenomena of eyes and how they see objects and perceive depth. The effect of this based on typical photo conditions, is that the image becomes wider and thus “fatter.” My curiosity first and foremost is to find out whether this was a real effect of images. I can imagine modern cameras even those on phones have programs in place to alter images taken by them to the extent they can to mimic what a pair of eyes would see in real life, but I think the disconnect between our expectations of ourselves and an objective image causes some disappointment.

I can only speculate if those feelings were what drove this adage to spread more rapidly. Maybe for some it was a manifestation of their own thoughts made physical. Personally, I have not taken pictures of myself in many years, and the ones that do exist are only in other’s phones. I like to believe that I prefer to experience things rather than document them (*I write very haughtily*), but I can’t deny there might be some component of self-doubt that stops me from doing so. Maybe I don’t want to see what others see, and I’d rather just let my own of myself remain intact. Obviously, there is some level of delusion there, but I think the real takeaway from this is that you don’t have full control over other’s perceptions of yourself, and that’s just fine. We define our own outlook on ourselves and in the end that should really be the only one that matters.



I’ve noticed I’ve written on a lot on downer topics, so I’m trying to buck that trend starting now by writing about someone who’s very important to me, my sister. Siblings Day just passed recently, and not only did I learn that it was a day, but I wanted to write about when I had the right words.

Before starting this blog, I often had the thought of collecting my thoughts and insights into a written record in order to pass on my “wisdom.” I had ruminated over many topics and had compiled quite a list of hot takes. Thankfully, they only existed in my mind and never saw ink on a page, so I can happily spare you the cringe-worthy musings of a younger me. However, one thought persisted: “Siblings don’t inherently owe each other anything.” I feel that for those of us fortunate enough to have parents who cared about our development, we owe them a great deal, so it’s always very saddening to me when I see some people leave their parents in assisted living and seem to forget about them. Siblings, on the other hand, are made to have responsibility for each other. It felt artificial and it seemed to drive my more selfish tendencies in my younger years. I was our mom’s favorite and I wanted to keep it that way. I wouldn’t say that our fights were any different than most sibling squabbles, but there was this undercurrent of jealousy that seemed to tinge all of my interactions with her. It really wasn’t until she had gotten married and moved out that the hole she left made the impact that it did.

I reflected on all the moments we had and it really upset me that I couldn’t have been better to her. It’s not surprising that you don’t understand what you have until it’s gone. Since she left, I had to make more of a conscious effort to stay in touch, and in doing so, I feel like we are much closer now than we were. I’m amazed at what she has become and she inspires me every day. I don’t think she’ll ever see this, rather I hope she doesn’t, but I hope I can be a better sibling in our current relationship, and we can always be a part of each other’s lives.


Reciprocating Kindness

Let me paint you a picture of a typical encounter that I deal with. I’m walking down an empty hallway when someone else appears from the other end. Naturally, my first instinct is to look away and keep my gaze focused on my path, but as we approach I inevitably make eye contact with them which is quickly followed by me averting my view. However, right before I look away I notice that the other person had smiled at me. This upsets me.

Another example is that I’m in a checkout line and the cashier is being friendly and asking me how my day is going which gets the boilerplate small talk conversation going and then he or she is finished checking me out and I am on my way. Later on, I can’t remember if I was being terse or short with him or her, or if I had even asked how they were in reply. This upsets me.

I know stuff like this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it makes me question if I’m a good person or whether I even have empathy. If I can’t even muster the level of social niceties to handle the small stuff, can I even be a good person? I’d get in deep in my own head going back and forth trying to convince myself. The manner in which this spreads to other facets of my confidence and self-worth is almost viral in intensity, but after attending some therapy sessions, it became clear to me how unproductive and harmful these thoughts were. Now, I can’t say that it has cured me of these feelings, in fact I still have these thoughts after similar encounters, but I can say that I learned the tools to cope and reflect upon my habits that lead up to these moments. The most effective method I’ve adopted is to get ahead of it. In the first scenario, I feel that meeting the eyes of the person and initiating the smile stops any opportunity for me to believe I could have been nicer. Similarly, in the second case, I do my best to ask them first how they are and how their day has gone so far. These small victories go a long way in improving my mood and outlook the rest of the day, so I make it a point to incorporate it into as many situations as I can because for me when I do good, I feel good, and sometimes that is enough.


Mental Health Reboot

Today’s entry is focused on the day after an episode of self-loathing, depression, anxiety, etc. Once we’ve reached our lowest point, it becomes relatively easier to refocus our energies into the things that matter. I’ve found for myself that making lists of what needs to be done allows me to prioritize the important tasks. Ideally, these cycles of mood lows and highs will have shorter periods in between, which becomes more manageable to maintain a high functioning lifestyle. However, the longer the episode lasts, that list begins to grow exponentially which almost seems to start a feedback loop of negative feelings for not doing anything and then lengthening the episode.

I’m really glad that more people nowadays are more aware of issues surrounding mental health issues, but even then it gets reduced to “sadness.” I find in my case, it resembles quicksand in how struggling against it only exacerbates the situation. Everyone has their own form that their issues take, but what I’ve learned with list making is that taking care of the smaller tasks starts a momentum that at the very least gets me up, and at that point since I am up, I don’t have an “excuse” that my anxiety drums up to stop me. The very first tasks that I take care of are cleaning up my space and completing my step goal for the day. I’m sure other people feel the same way about this in that keeping a clean space is tantamount to the attitude that you carry with you the rest of the day. It wasn’t until college that I started to make conscious efforts to keep my space clean, and at its worst it’s a simple balm to a bad day, but on those days anything is bonus. As for walking, I find that disconnecting and going out and taking in the sights of nature puts the problems of the day in perspective. I feel the most important thing is to try out any number of strategies and see how it affects the next day because no matter the technique that we use, it’s important to remember that tomorrow can always be the day we can be better.


P.S. In the spirit of the title, I’m making some changes to better facilitate my ability to post as well as my goals for this blog itself. Starting today, Mondays will be weekly blog post which should come out every Monday at 14:00 Eastern Time. WOTD posts and Academic posts will be postponed until I finish school.

As for my streams I will continue to do so and will make it known on my twitter: @FarinaRenais

Online Identity

(Spoiler Disclaimer: I won’t discuss any major plot points in the film, “Ready Player One”, but as a person who never watches trailers nor reads plot synopses once I’ve decided I will see it, I can see how anything can be viewed as a spoiler. So, I would rather just start off with this warning that I will talk about things that happen in the movie, and if you wanted to see the movie, you could come back to this post after watching)

Apologies for the late post (as usual), but last week I happened to see the movie “Ready Player One,” and it got me thinking about how we view ourselves in the online space. The very ability to anonymize oneself allows people to be whoever they desire. One of the characters of this movie is a player character named Art3mis whose avatar is an attractive female with whom the protagonist develops an affection for. His friend is skeptical and thinks he is getting too attached to the avatar and assuming it’s representative of the real person behind it. This interaction really stood out to me that in the year 2045 (for the film), this was a still a point of contention. It was made clear that the real world has become devoid of any enjoyment for the masses which makes the appeal of The Oasis (the VR world much of the film takes place in) truly apparent where they can live out any of their wildest fantasies.

I wonder if this is a condition of today’s social media landscape where we are slowly being conditioned into believing that people’s posts, tweets or blog entries (*cough*) are perfect representations of the real person. I’m not trying to pull a Holden Caulfield and propose that everyone online is a phony, but rather I wanted to make it clear that people only share what they want other people to see. For some it means hiding any of the darkness in their lives where for others it is an escape from their life into the life they’ve always wanted to live. I’ll be the first to say that I am writing this blog under pseudonym, but my purpose for doing so is essentially no different than any of the characters of the film. I get the opportunity to set the terms of how I am viewed by others, and I am free to express my thoughts and opinions freely. That, to me is the real value of anonymity on the internet. Obviously, trolls take advantage of it, but I think this advantage is the internet’s truest equalizer.


P.S. This weekend is another of Splatoon 2’s Splatfests, so it turns out that I will be streaming on Saturday instead of Sunday. I will tweet out when I’m live, but I’m planning on sometime in the afternoon EST.

You can follow me on twitter at

or on Twitch at

You’re Not Doing Enough

I know I am the only one reading this blog, so I can’t exactly say that I let my readership down by not sticking to my schedule already, but Friday has clearly gone and passed and I have not uploaded an academic entry. So, even if no one else can be disappointed, I feel disappointed in myself. In the theme of today’s word of the day, I had grandiose plans and I faltered in trying to live up to them. I think the title of today’s blog entry is a pervasive thought among many people. It’s not even something that other people will tell you. Telling people about your activities and current plans might actually be met with completely neutral reactions, but for those of you who have “anxiety-vision” (C), these get misconstrued as judging or pitying looks which exemplify the phrase, “You’re not doing enough.” It’s a constant refrain in our minds because we are exposed to seeing so many successful people who manage to do everything they want and more which exacerbates our feelings of worthlessness.

An idea I’ve come across in reading some of Sherry Turkle’s works is that in modern times people have conflated being fulfilled in one’s life with being busy. Now, in my opinion it does seem that the most successful people are the ones who take on a multitude of projects and have strong time management skills, so there are clearly rewards that can be reaped from hard work. However, it’s important to keep in mind that taking on more than we can handle to try to jumpstart our lives is not a recipe for success. Start small and keep expectations grounded and with diligence, I think success is inevitable.


P.S. Shameless plug, but I plan on streaming on Twitch for some Splatoon 2 gameplay (Ranked or Salmon Rush) this Sunday. I’m pretty balls at the game, but I love the mechanics and aesthetic which motivates me to keep playing. I’ll planning on sometime between 12-3pm EST for those interested.

Personality is Fixed?

It’s very fitting that my first real blog post is going up later than my intended schedule, but that’s probably one aspect of myself that I think will be very hard to change. Today (or rather yesterday), I wanted to discuss an idea that until a few years ago I had a completely rigid view on, specifically, the phrase, “I think I’m the person I will be for the rest of my life.” Basing off my own personal and anecdotal experience, I feel that this is a conclusion that younger people come to (not to say I’m some old fogey). I thought this in high school and even after I had developed myself a little bit more in college, I still believed it. I can say now that I don’t believe it anymore since I have undergone a few more shifts since. What seems to be lacking in the reasoning leading up to this is wisdom.

Wisdom distinguishes itself from knowledge in that it’s earned only through existence and struggle. It can only be found through experiencing life and exposing oneself to many different perspectives. Wisdom humbles a person as it allows someone to not only come to appreciate their blessings in their current state, but in the best cases it fosters an innate self-motivation to recognize one’s faults in a constructive way and act upon overcoming them. As for myself, one way I’m trying to improve is to become a better communicator which is just one reason, I’ve taken to writing a blog. Writing forces you to carefully consider your point and in my opinion, a good writer is able to tell you the same point in myriad ways. I hope the real takeaway from this entry is that I think people should avoid believing they have reached their best self. Everyone can strive to be better, and that we should truly be glad anytime we are presented with an opportunity to change.


Hello, World!

Hey, my name is Farina Renais. Welcome to my blog! I imagine that this will be my longest entry since this is just me explaining to myself what kind of schedule and posting rules I want to adhere to. Ideally, each post will be no less than a paragraph as I want to achieve two goals: hold myself accountable to progress reports on some of my other projects/interests while also practicing writing regularly. As such, a paragraph represents a meaningful, but non-time consuming commitment to accomplish those goals. If some entries require more detail, then more paragraphs can be added, but at minimum one paragraph. I am using the definition of a paragraph which doesn’t necessarily concern itself with sentence count, but rather the full and complete assertion of an idea or topic. As long as the post is self-contained and can be understood without too much background knowledge then it is sufficient. I also hope to post every day, however, that might be something I work my way up to, so for now it will be at least twice weekly.

Okay, now that the formality of my posting structure is set, we can discuss what kinds of posts you will see. I envision this site to eventually be the homepage for my computational linguistics analytics company, thus the name LingoMath which combines my two academic interests Linguistics and Mathematics. Before that can happen I have a long way to go in gaining skills and training, but I hope to alternate between these two topics each week as a Friday post about an article or journal topic. Every day, I want to start with the Merriam Webster word of the day to get the creative juices flowing and craft a sentence that provides context clues to be able to ascertain the meaning. Tuesdays will be a general update of my life along with some more personal, aspirational discussions. I want to discuss my values so that I can look back on them and laugh at my naiveté, but without the context of politics since I imagine we all get enough of that from other feeds. Over time, I want to talk about some of my other interests, but I know full well what happens when I over-commit to something. Instead I’ll list these topics as a preview of what I might post as a reminder of what I care about: Knitting & Crocheting, Pixel Art, Reading, Japanese, Urdu, Toki Pona, Sign Language, Television, Movies, Podcasts, Manga & Comics, Tennis, Technology & Humanity, Environmentalism & ZeroWaste, Cooking, Video Games, Music, and more that I can’t particularly recall right now.

Schedule (Tentative):

Daily: WOTD Sentences

Tuesday: Blog

Friday: Academic

I honestly can’t imagine many people besides myself reading these posts let alone even finding my page, but this is meant to keep me accountable to the person I want to become. It’s an unending process and that’s totally fine because no one is perfect, and we can always strive to be a little bit better than who were in the past.