As my mother’s daughter, I am built with her history of red stamps, her girlhood during the Cultural Revolution, her brick walls. Our sacrifice, our shame. I am American, plus Chinese. That identity is plural, stretched. Beautiful weight. And that love. It’s plural, too.

I miss my Mom.

Your Token College ER Story

Feb 5th, 2014

The last week has been some sort of nightmare I would never wish to dream again, and while amidst my migraine plagued sleeps I dreamt many pleasant dreams, the reality of it is that I have now lost 5 days to tangled blankets, cold sweats and pulsing migraines.


This morning, as I slowly blinked myself awake, deadlines hazily floated in front of me. If you have astigmatism, or any sight deficit, you might understand what I’m talking about.

It’s the same as when you are walking down a street. It’s dark, drizzling, and faces are almost disembodied because of the way the trench coats and rain jackets blend into the monotone background.  Also, you can’t really see, because duh astigmatism and you forgot your glasses/contacts. People are now just blurred faces bobbling with their gait, getting larger as they approached you.

Now, replace “people” with dates.

Febuary 5th roughly shouldered past me with small subscript Combo Lecture Notes and was on its way without looking back. The rest hung in a semi distant, never closer never further state of New York pedestrian in the rain, cold and almost snobbishly minding its own business.

It’s not a good start to the day when you wake up like this. But, it could be worse.

The last time I woke up it was to a crushing pressure in my chest. There was something in my chest, and it wanted to get out. It needed to get out. GET OUT. I didn’t know how to help it, how to stop it, how to get rid of it. I writhed. I laid on my stomach. The pressure crushed. I twisted. I couldn’t breathe. No position alleviated the pain, the pain, the CRUSHING PRESSURE ON MY CHEST. I wanted to burp. I wanted to puke. I prayed for vomit and I got it, twice, the first a small amount that did nothing to alleviate the pain. The second was a result of me pressing my sternum and up up out come the 32 ounces of water, orange juice, and chocolate milk I’d drunk before sleeping.

My chest was still in hell. I was pretty checked out but I can’t neglect to say that I was moaning in pain, yelling, almost screaming. I called my brother. I had never had pain like this before, let alone chest pain. It was an effort to talk. It was monumental effort to lie still, so I didn’t. I tried everything to get the pressure off, I must have looked like a person trying to extinguish the flames on their body. You roll, you twist, you grab at anything and press it to yourself if you think it will douse the flames.

My roommates woke up. I was not wearing pants.

Let me be clear that last night was one of the lowest points of my life. I mean, come on. I should have at least had pants on.

I’m hugging the toilet, just having removed the 32 ounces from my system.

Cate: “On a scale of 1-10, how bad is the pain?”

Me: “8. 7. 8.”

Me: “I can’t get it out. My chest. My chest.”


Cate and Ashley took me to the emergency room. There, the pain faded on and off. The doctor, James Clark, came and checked my body, feeling the areas in my stomach. At this point the severe chest pain had for the most part subsided. He pressed the upper part of my stomach, just below where the center of my bra would be if I were wearing one. The initial slight discomfort boiled into the same unbearable pressure and my face twisted into a grimace. My eyes began to water and I could see in his kind, kind face how much it pained him that he had caused me this hurt.

“That hurts, doesn’t it?” Dr. Clark asks me.

“Yes,” I gasp, unable to breathe again.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t really remember what he said next except for mylo-something, numbing cocktail, and the area where my stomach connects to my esophagus. It sounded like not a heart attack, which I was thankful for but not particularly considering. And it sounded like not a huge bubble of air, cause that’s exactly what the pain felt like and what I was convinced it was. Cate had been dubious.

Ashley holds my hand as tears unwillingly squirt out of my eyes.

“Is it the pain, or is it the situation?”

It only took that question for this past week to crumble on my trembling shoulders and my resolve fades. I want to sob, but my chest has already had enough pain for the night.

Instead, I just whisper. “Both.”


The next time the doctor comes in it is shortly after I’ve taken the GI cocktail. I want to know what happened.

“So, when you—“ I paused, trying to find a delicate way to describe him touching my lower esophagus.

“—mashed on your gastroesophageal junction?” His mouth hardened into a line and his remorse was palpable. My heart melted a little. James Clark, you, sir, are the reason why humanity is inherently good. Simply, this doctor is a doctor. He is a good man.

“—felt that area,” I finished instead, with a small smile, “why did it hurt? What’s wrong with it?”

How could something like this even happen to such an athletic, non-overweight girl like you, Julia?

Well. Combine a week of alternatively not eating (that’s the sound of the acidity meter going up a notch) or eating and lying back down to sleep (field trip to the esophagus), and drinking orange juice (probably #1 on the chart of drinks to avoid), followed with directly lying down and you get a nasty equation. Acid + lying down + a LOT of acid + more lying down = GERD.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, happens when acid from your stomach flows up into the esophagus. When acid comes in contact with the esophagus, the acid causes soreness or inflammation. Over time, GERD may create small holes or ulcers in the lining of the esophagus.

Luckily, because the numbing cocktail removed most of the pain, I have been diagnosed ulcer free.

GERD can sometimes cause crushing pain in your chest identical to the pain of a heart attack. If you’ve never experienced either, I’ll try and describe what it felt like for me.

Imagine you are getting a massage. But it’s not one of those feel good, doze off into fairyland massages. It’s a deep tissue, “please relax even though this is gravely uncomfortable because I am applying so much pressure” sort of massage. There are some occasions during these such massages where the masseuse or masseur presses a location off-bone or off-tissue, where applying pressure with their strong and practiced hands turns the discomfort into a heavy pain. Imagine this has happened, but to the center of your chest, near your sternum. Now imagine you just had some carbonated drink and you feel like there is a huge bubble of air right in that location, and now with the added pressure you would like to, please and thank you, explode just a little bit.

That’s what last night felt like.

We came back at 4 am.

I woke up with full intention of going to class, before the way the back of my head felt when I sat up gave me a reason to hesitate. Also, it was 10:46 and class was at 11. Oops.

Ten percent of combinatorics is due tomorrow. This measly ten percent has been by far the most hard fought, grueling, lip-biting, ulcer inducing (ha ha ha!) ten percent I have ever experienced. I have about three percent of it done right now.

Currently, the next few days are going to be filled with putting my contacts in for the first time in a while (or my glasses), and walking up to each not-as-blurry New Yorker deadline. I’m going to be looking them in the eye, shaking their hand, and saying “Thank you, have a nice day” and then not giving a fuck as they walk past me. Okay, maybe a few tiny fucks, but I’m going to be prepared. Because I can do this. I’m alive. My chest didn’t explode. All reasons to smile.

Thank you. Thank you.

P.S. also now I know a lot more about the digestive system, so yay, learning!



  1. Combinatorics HW1 – P1
    1. #7 first, code the bijection
    2. Type everything you have now up in LaTex
    3. E-mail professor pedro a picture of your ER band and beg for that extension
    4. Go to recitation and teach the little kiddies about linked lists and OO. – P1
    5. Get my meds. – P1
    6. Get my scholarship – P1
    7. Get my packages – P2
    8. Look up some research papers on EFT and get meeting notes from Sy – P2
    9. Milestone 4 for Bob’s Wallet – P1
      1. UML Domain Model
      2. Get Egit set up on yo eclipse!
      3. Also add the logo to the app – P3
      4. Grade HW3 – P1
      5. Write solution to HW4 or create JUnits or talk to Jonathan – P1

10. Look at weekly combo exercises and attempt before Friday – P1

11. Actually get better from being sick – P1

12. Do something before my muscles all atrophy* – P1

13. Make room mates Asian delicious for just like you know saving my life – P2

14. Edit combo lecture notes to make Pedro happy** - P2

15. Study for combo midterm next week – P2

*But not if it makes you throw up

**fuck pedro!

Imagine this

Driving Dr. G, and the windows are down. Cold wind is swing dancing riotously on your face, the speckled sun a splendid follower. The smell of ice melting sears your nose the way Listerine tingles after you rinse your mouth.

And this song is blasting from your stereo:


roflz lawlzl uluzlz lozzollo lolozolfoef;aij ghia;ej w;aofij llozl lzfeir 38lorlzloll

my life is a roflz ^

this year’s winter break to do list

hang with ma & pa & brah

exercise/train for half marathon

read, write, slam

look up cool coding things (jaime)

throw & indoor tournaments

lie on new basement carpet omg

play league with patrick

go to the star

hammock in the snow

go to the star, and look at the stars

play zelda

applications (for school)

plan lei-out

register for hack @ caltech (crap should probably just do that now..)

read, sleep, explore