It Starts and Ends With You

Over the past few years, and more specifically the past few months, I’ve come to learn that no one can stop you from feeling happy or sad except for yourself. Everything you feel and whether or not you allow things to get to you is completely within your control.

This is not to say that we should never feel the feelings that we feel, but instead, realize that we can ultimately choose how we react to the things that life throws our way and what we are going to do about it.

In life, you have two options: Do or do not. 

It seems silly to say, but it really is that simple.

In the past few months, I’ve encountered obstacles that, at first, I wasn’t completely sure I could overcome. From an outsider’s perspective, some would say, “It could have always been worse.” And its true. It could have been worse, but I thank God that it wasn’t.

Everything that happens to you, whether good or bad, affects your life. The challenge is how we’re going to deal with it.

We all have our own problems to deal with. Some may be bigger than others. But when bad things happen, it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to let it take you down or rise above.

It’s hard not to get discouraged or upset when things don’t go the way we expected them to. It may seem impossible to push through whatever happens in your past. But, at the end of the day, it starts and ends with you.

Only you can decide when you’re ready to stop feeling sad or sorry for yourself. Only you can decide when you’re done being miserable. Only you can decide when you’re ready to move on. It starts and ends with you.

What Matters Most

I write a lot about growing up. That’s because ever since I was little, I’ve always been in such a rush to be older. I remember following my sister and her friends around when I was a kid and I just couldn’t wait to be old enough to hang out with them. Now that I’m older, it’s funny how it works in reverse. As you get older, you want to gain all those years back that you wanted to skip ahead to.

I spend a lot of my time around people of different age groups and it always fascinates me to talk to them about their experiences and hear their opinions on life. And regardless of age, everyone always experiences things at different stages of their lives. Some of us are wise beyond our years and some of us continue to resist maturity.

Now that I am where I am, I’d finally like to slow down and take advantage of the time that I have while I have it.

When you’re younger, it seems like things take so much longer to happen – Getting your license, being able to legally drink, graduating college, finding a job, etc. But once you’ve crossed all of those things off your list, there’s a realization that you start running out of things that you have to wait for in order to happen.

What I’ve learned throughout my twenties so far is that I’m much more capable of distinguishing between the things are a big deal and the things that are not. I’m able to recognize what really matters in life and what I shouldn’t get so worked up about.

After I turned 25, I can’t emphasize enough how much of a significant shift there was in my mindset. After losing love, losing jobs, losing friends, I’m less upset about the losses and more grateful for the gains and the people who are still sticking by my side. I’m realizing that my family is one of the most important of things in my life. I’m realizing that you shouldn’t fight so hard for people who won’t fight for you. I’m realizing that the time you are given is precious and it shouldn’t be wasted on people or things that do not fill you up with joy.

Recently, I keep thinking back to the time when I was in the hospital at the age of 20 and diagnosed with Chrohn’s Disease due to my own self-induced stress. I look back and wonder how and why I allowed myself to get stressed over things that I can hardly even remember to this day.

There’s a certain peace that comes with age and maturity that I’ve truly come to appreciate – And that peace lies within knowing yourself and what you want out of your life. I can now say with full honesty that I’m discovering the kind of person I want to be and the kind of life I want to lead. I thank God for that and I thank the people who are closest to me for supporting all of the decisions I have made leading up to this day.

Why I No Longer Feel Comfortable Celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day

Though many see Saint Patrick’s Day as just an excuse to be belligerent while completely covered in green attire, its origins can be traced back to the early 17th century.

Similar to holidays such as Christmas and Easter, Saint Patrick’s Day was built on the foundations of religion. Saint Patrick’s Day was created to honor and celebrate the death of Saint Patrick, the patron Saint of Ireland, who brought Christianity to the country.

However, over the course of time, the holiday (like many other holidays affiliated with religious ties) has become commercialized in order for people to celebrate it on a broader level. With that change, these holidays have lost its sentiment and are often not defined by its true meaning.

For me, Saint Patrick’s Day has always been one of those holidays where I felt slightly out of place celebrating.

In America, it’s socially acceptable for individuals to celebrate a holiday regardless of whether or not it’s adopted by their own beliefs. And of course, America is the land of the free. We have protected amendments that allow us to exercise the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, etc.

In America, we openly recognize and actively celebrate holidays to show respect for other cultures around the world. These holidays are even recognized by the school systems, the government, and the workplace.

Yet, when it comes down to Saint Patrick’s Day, I can no longer bring myself to being enthusiastic about going out and drinking green beer while wearing a four-leaf clover on my head and a tee-shirt that says, “Kiss me, I’m Irish.”

And it’s because I no longer feel comfortable knowingly celebrating a holiday that I really have no business celebrating.

When I was younger, I never felt compelled to express my personal beliefs or share the feelings I had about being a minority. Maybe it was because I was naive or maybe it was because I was just a kid who wanted to fit in with everyone else. Back then, I never had an issue openly celebrating holidays that were not my own. Even in college, I would happily go out with my friends on Saint Patrick’s Day just to drink and have a good time. But now, the game has changed.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the way in which we celebrate holidays does not align with how we actually feel or what we truly believe in.

Those who celebrate Christmas and Easter, but don’t believe in God, do not celebrate religious holidays because they are religious. They celebrate them because we have appended a completely different meaning behind what these holidays signify.

Instead of admitting that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus and that Easter celebrates his resurrection, we provide our reasonings for celebrating these holidays as being a time to get together with the family, exchange presents, and so on.

Similarly, on Saint Patrick’s Day, no one really cares about celebrating Irish heritage or Christianity. Many people who celebrate are not even of Irish descent or have any morsel of belief in Christianity. Instead, it’s a time to get as drunk as physically possible so that we can tell a good story later down the road.

And the thing is, that’s the exact reason I no longer want to celebrate.

Growing up, a majority of my friends were white. In the past, my friends had never intentionally made me feel out of place for not being white. Sure, there were times when someone cracked a joke which poked fun at Asian people, but that’s when I would feel the immediate weight of the fact that I was different and that it was obvious. And because of that, it makes it that much harder to want to celebrate a holiday like Saint Patrick’s Day.

When it comes down to the fact that Saint Patrick’s Day was not only built on the foundations of religion, but also that it is associated with race, it makes difficult to feel comfortable celebrating a holiday where people can physically point out the fact that I am not white.

Although Saint Patrick’s Day has been commercialized as much it is, those of Caucasian descent have no issues with feeling uncomfortable celebrating it. And that’s because those of Caucasian descent can easily pass for any ethnic background that is linked to fair-colored skin since it is genetically written on their face.

At the end of the day, I have no moral boundaries when it comes to celebrating Christmas or Easter because I know that I am deeply rooted in my beliefs and it has nothing to do with my race. For a holiday like Saint Patrick’s Day, it’s a completely different story.

My Comeback (Part 2)

As an extension to my last post, titled the “My Comeback“, I’m giving some insight as to what I’ve been noticing since it was published. Specifically, I wanted to share some of the reactions that I’ve been receiving after publicizing my personal experiences.

I’ve noticed that ever since I’ve began exposing this kind of information about my life – the intimate details of my breakup, the loss of my job, the overall confusion in my life – people have felt the need to reach out and say something to me, whether it be directly or indirectly.

I’ve been receiving feedback, comments, and even having people share their own personal struggles. And of course, it is not my business or place to expand on the details of other people’s lives.

But, I would like to say that I appreciate and even applaud those of you who have felt compelled to share your experiences with me. I’m glad that I am able to motivate people to react, reflect, and relate to what I am going through.

The beauty of writing is that you are connecting with your audience in an extremely personal way. Knowing that I have reached people in a way that makes them feel like they are not alone is exactly what I aim for in my writing. And as a writer, that’s when I have done my job.

And if you are not necessarily able to personally relate to my experiences, then that’s okay too. Because my writing is not out in the open in order for people to feel sympathy for me. It’s to try to get people to think in a different way; For people to understand that everyone is going through something difficult even if it doesn’t appear so.

And with that being said, I think that it makes my comeback a little more worth fighting for.

My Comeback

Have you ever been at rock bottom and gotten to the point where you actually remember the moment when you started to fall?

Well that happened to me today, just a few hours ago, as I was sitting at church at the last evening service of the day.

The central message of the sermon was about making a comeback after you have fallen into one of the lowest points that you have ever been in.

And that moment happened to me about five months ago when I was in the midst of severing all ties between my ex-boyfriend and I. When that happened, I thought that it would be the end of all my sorrows and struggles. Little did I know, that would be the very instant where I would begin to spiral into a deep pit that I had never fallen down before.

By now, I thought that things would clear up and I would be back on an up and onward path.

In November of 2015, I was let go from a job that I eagerly took and only held for approximately two months. I was let go just three days before my 25th birthday.

Throughout this ongoing process of self-discovery and healing since that moment, I thought that, now, I had finally found solace in the beginning of February when a new job opportunity sought me out. I thought that this would be the turn of the tide.

About one week ago, I found out that they had decided not to keep me as an employee.

And just like that, I was right back in that pit.

When you’re in your darkest of moments, it’s quite difficult to find any speck of light. It’s difficult to even try to let any light in. That’s exactly where I am right now. In the dark, searching for light in this dark moment in my life.

The single most important thing that kept me hanging on and holding onto hope was finding my way back to God and having faith that all of these things that were happening are not in vain.

I can only hold my head high and trust that light will finally find its way to me.

I can only hope that soon, I will make my comeback. But for now, I’m still in the pit searching for light to find its way to me again.

*Read a continuation of this post in “My Comeback (Part 2)

I gave up alcohol AND coffee for a month and this is what happened

Similar to many others who have proclaimed an alcohol-free month this January, I too, have participated in the tradition of going an entire month without alcohol. To take it even further, I actually added coffee to that list as well. 

For many people, the month of January is symbolic towards building how the rest of their year is going to be. Many people want to start off the new year on a good foot, which would include refraining from a specific type of behavior – In this case, it would be alcohol and coffee for me. 

After having experience an already difficult month and a half throughout November and December, I decided that this was the right thing to do.

Having dealt with my very first hands-on experience of being unemployed, I felt that January would signify a turning point for me, so I wanted to eliminate the two biggest distractions in my life. I wanted to devote this alcohol/coffee-free month towards focusing on myself. I wanted to figure out how to be with myself, and be happy with myself. I wanted to get a better idea of what I wanted out of my life. And surprisingly, that’s exactly what happened.

At first, I thought I was going to lose my mind and become a hermit, but instead, it worked out in my favor. And this is exactly what happened. 

1. I wrote more. It’s amazing how much more I wanted to write. It’s because I had clearer thoughts that weren’t drowned out or interrupted by alcohol or caffeine. I honestly thought that the lack of alcohol or caffeine would actually cause a significant dip in the amount of writing I produced, but ironically, it made me more productive.

2. I read more. Aside from the fact that I had way more time on my hands due to unemployment, I actually did read more. Naturally, since I went out a less than usual, I spent those weeknights where I wasn’t meeting up with friends for drinks towards reading and learning more than I normally would.

3. I exercised consistently. The one thing I didn’t miss about alcohol was the hangovers and the general feeling of exhaustion after a night of drinking. I had my weekends to wake up early and go to the gym. I put myself on a consistent workout schedule and stuck with it because I didn’t have nighttime drinking distractions.

 4. I lost weight. The combination of regular exercise and elimination of extra calories from alcohol and even coffee (if it’s a fattier coffee drink) significantly affected my weight loss and how I looked overall. My jeans actually fit better and my stomach really did get flatter when I cut the calories from drinking.

5. I got so much better at cooking. When you change one part of your daily routine, it usually affects other parts as well. When I cut out alcohol, I avoided the drunk food-ordering and had more time to go grocery shopping and actually learn to cook properly.

6. I ate healthier. Going back to #5, I ate healthier because I wasn’t going out to eat as often (because food + drinks is usually an automatic combination) and I was staying in and making my own meals. 

7. I saved A TON of money. After seeing the actual numbers in my bank account, I was shocked by how much of my income went towards buying coffee every day or going out for drinks. The numbers don’t lie. Cutting back on alcohol and coffee saves major bills.

8. I was more focused on my goals. Instead of wanting to avoid my problems by drinking, I was more attentive towards what I wanted to accomplish while I wasn’t drinking. I was able to actually sit and think about the things that I wanted to  in my life, both in the short run and the long run.

9. I made better decisions. From personal experience, I can say that my worst decisions usually happen while I’m under the influence of alcohol. When you’re buzzed, tipsy, or drunk, you’re not in the right state of mind to be able to handle situations properly or make appropriate decisions. Thankfully, I had this entire month to make good decisions that led me to where I am now. 

10. I spent more time with people that actually mattered. You’d be surprised by how many people feel uncomfortable being around you if you’re not drinking, which says a lot about the company that you choose. The people that I spent time with while I was alcohol-free were the ones that still wanted to hang out even though I wasn’t drinking with them. And those are the people the really matter.

11. I got better quality sleep. To be completely honest, I still wasn’t able to sleep properly at first, but that was due to my own anxiety of what would happen after the month was over. Regardless, the quality of sleep that I did get was phenomenal. This in turn, led to me feeling better during the day and being more proactive throughout the week.

 12. I restored my faith in God. Despite what other people’s religious beliefs may be, mine were re-established during this month. Growing up, I’ve always been a Christian I’ve always believed in God and I’ve always had faith in God, knowing that things would work out. But there were times in the last few years where I really wasn’t sure that my luck was ever going to change. But after this month, and what has happened within the past few days, my faith is stronger than ever  in knowing that things really do work out.

 

Countdown to Barcelona

In about one month, I’ll be taking my very first trip to Europe. To be specific, I’ll be going to Barcelona, Spain for five days at the end of February with two of my closest friends.

Since 2014, I’ve managed to book an international trip to a different continent each year. In the summer of 2014, I traveled to Melbourne, Australia. In the spring of 2015, I traveled to the Philippines. And now, in the winter of 2016, I’m making my way to Barcelona, Spain.

After telling several people, it always seems like a shock to them that I hadn’t chosen Europe sooner. If anything, I’ve done the opposite of what most people have done, which is go to the furthest countries instead of the nearest. Nonetheless, I couldn’t be more excited to finally cross Europe off my list.

To me, traveling the world was always something that I wanted to do. Yet, it always seemed impossible due to my finances. I was fortunate to have been able to travel throughout the United States in 2012-2013 because of my job, but after leaving that job, I assumed that the extent of my travels would have to be placed on hiatus until I was a bit older. But, somehow, I was able to find the time and money to travel abroad sooner that I had thought.

In all honestly, I’m not sure exactly what I want to see or experience yet. Every time I travel, I research lightly, keeping a few specific places in mind and then just winging it once I get there. I like to go off the beaten plan, explore for myself, and figure out what locals do for fun. After asking around a bit, all I know is that the food and drinks are amazing, the architecture is phenomenal, and shopping is endless.

I’m looking forward to this new adventure, especially since it will be the first time I travel internationally with the two friends that I’m going with. Traveling is not an easy task. Taking the beautifully edited Instagram photos out of context, traveling can be exhausting and difficult, but that’s the beauty of it. It truly tests your limits and brings our your character. And the people you’re with is what really makes the experience worthwhile.

I have yet to travel completely alone yet. I’m still afraid. I’m not sure if I’m ready for it, but I know that when I do, I’ll discover something amazing about myself.

As far as this trip goes, I’m just excited to have fun with my friends.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down

I haven’t felt many positive emotions towards New York City lately. This is mostly circumstantial, in light of the recent events that have happened to me, so I’m writing this with a slight bias. But in the last few years, I haven’t had the best memories to associate with this city and it kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

When I first moved here, I set the bar really high for myself. I still had that post-graduate fire, driven towards a successful career. I envisioned a life that would weigh more on the fun and exciting side rather than the difficult and discouraging side. It comes in waves though, like anything in life.

There are moments like last week when I was reunited with a good friend from Australia whom I haven’t seen in over a year, which coincidentally brought together a group of friends in whom I hardly see anymore.

And I keep asking myself the question of whether it’s New York City or if it’s just me. As the great Sinatra once said, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” Well, Sinatra knows his stuff. It’s true. There is no life like New York City.

So, I’m not sure if I’ve done my time and proved to myself and others that I can withstand a beating by living here. I’m not sure if leaving this city will change anything – If I’ll find a better job, or a boyfriend, or a cheaper apartment (I’d most likely find a cheaper apartment). I’m not sure if it’s the mental state that I’m in or the city that I’m living. A lot of people take the action of changing their environment for a better life. I’m not sure if that will work in my case. I’m not sure if I just need to figure things out still. All I know is that I don’t know.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from New York City, it’s that it’s constantly changing. Change, ironically, is the only thing that tends to stay the same here. People come and go, jobs come and go, apartments come and go, relationships start and end. It’s a vicious cycle.

To me, New York City can be summed up perfectly in the words of E.B. White’s, in an excerpt from “Here is New York”:

“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.
…Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.”

I’m the settler who is trying to re-discover my passion for New York City. I’m trying to get back to the place where I was filled with ambition and fire. I somehow lost it along the way.

Who you meet

There’s a quote from the movie “Love and Other Drugs” that meant a lot to me the first time I ever heard it and it still means a lot to me now. It goes like this,

“You meet thousands of people and none of them really touch you. And then you meet one person and your life is changed forever.” 

I’m writing this because I know that the person whom I’m writing about is going to read it. And I actually hope he does because this is meant for him. So, here it is.

I know that a lot of people may disagree with the idea of ‘love at first sight.’ To be completely honest, I still don’t exactly understand the mechanics behind it. People usually tend to call it ‘lust at first sight’ instead because how do you really know that you love someone whom you’ve never met before?

Well, I’m not sure if it was love at the first moment I saw him, but it sure as hell was something. It was something that, little did I know at the time, would change my life forever.

The first time I saw him, I was drawn to him. It was like I knew that something was going to happen between us. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt like I was supposed to meet him.

Living in New York City, people try not to make eye contact with others. Yet, we encounter hundreds of thousands of people each day just getting from one subway stop to another. How are you supposed to know who is going to impact your life or not?

Usually, it’s a small percentage. We often make it a point to reach our destination without a single encounter unless it’s with someone we’re already with. It’s funny how that happens in big cities. There are millions of people who are going about their lives, trying to avoid making eye contact with one another.

I always go back to that day when I first saw him and I try to ask myself, ‘What exactly was it was that made me look up from staring at the ground that day?‘ When I saw him, I just knew that he was going to be someone important in my life. Again, at the time, I hadn’t realized the magnitude of what our relationship would become. Little did I know how affected I would be him. And little did I know that he would become such a significant part of my young adult life.

But with that quote from “Love and Other Drugs,” I didn’t know that meeting that one person wouldn’t necessarily mean that you would spend the rest of your life with them. Some people come into your life to play a key role only for a brief period of time. Not all relationships were built to last.

I thought [and still think] that our relationship was short-lived. I wasn’t done getting to know him yet. I wasn’t done letting him get to know me. I still don’t know if it’s done or when it will end or if it will begin again. I’m not waiting, but I’m never sure.

Life works in an odd way in that sense – Not knowing who will leave you, who will come back, and who you’ll meet along the way. But when you know, you know. You just feel it. And that’s an important instinct to trust.

Stronger than that

So, we’ve all flipped the page on another year and now it’s 2016. Many of us like to completely dismiss the events of the previous year and start anew in hopes that Day 1 out of 365 of the new year will be a fresh start for us – A new beginning. Yes, it’s a new year, but it’s not a completely fresh start. I used to look at New Year’s as an opportunity to put the past behind me and move forward. And of course, that’s what we should all aspire to do. We should move forward and constantly keep moving forward. But I don’t think  that we should dismiss the events of the past.

I haven’t had the smoothest or easiest of years in 2015 and I know that I’m not the only one. I know that, compared to others, I didn’t even have it all that bad. Compared to others, I still have heaps more to be grateful for. I’m not bitter or resentful about the unfortunate things that have happened to me last year or any of the past years. And maybe I am writing this with hindsight bias because at the time, it was much harder during the actual heat of the moment, but looking back now, I know that I could never get to where I am without those moments of defeat. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” Well, I’m so glad that I never stayed down after all of those moments of defeat.

In 2015, I thought that every obstacle was going to be the one that was going to send me over the edge. In 2014, I thought the same thing. And the same goes for 2013 and 2012. Ever since I graduated college, each year seemed to be getting harder than the last. The thing is, I realize more and more with each passing year that life will just never get easier. I’ll only get stronger. I’ll only get better at handling difficult situations. I’ll learn from the past.

We shouldn’t neglect the events from the past because they have made us who we are today. No matter how tragic or difficult our hardships from the previous years have been, they shouldn’t be in vain. They are milestones and they are a part of us. We shouldn’t dwell on the past, but we should use them as a reminder that we are a lot stronger than we think.