Write What You Know

 

Photo by Alex Geerts

Write what you know.

But what do I know? It’s true what they say that you know less as you grow older than you did when you were 18 (or in my case 16 since I was a know it all at a young age).

Since 2004, I have been dishing out what I think was important and relevant in terms of love, life, my faith, politics, never fashion (which I grew to love), and just anything that made sense. Soon I was also dishing out on every social media platform I could get my introverted hands on and while I applaud my younger self for being brazen enough to speak what was on her mind I can honestly tell you that I no longer feel as brave as she does.

Or maybe time, age, and experience has subdued me. Not every topic needs to be retweeted, not every news article with my own opinion needs to be shared on Facebook, nor should every comment be liked, or every life moment shared. I used to want to share EVERYTHING. I do not know the point I was trying to prove but suddenly (especially since I moved here and away from the subculture I grew up in), I saw the plastic bubble I lived in.

I wanted to be deemed important. I wanted my social media accounts to prove I was doing better than the girl he chose over me or I was smarter than who they promoted. I was unconsciously creating a brand that merely reflected what I wanted it to reflect. Perfectly cut squares of my life that took hours to curate.

I was always SO NOISY. I wanted people to think I was pretty. I wanted them to think I was smart. I wanted them to know that I knew what was going on in current events and most importantly, I wanted them to know my opinion of things.

But now that I am older (and hopefully wiser), I have fallen in love with merely being a bystander. I love liking my friends’ photos showing how they are thriving in life, I adore sending in heart emojis to celebrate my friends’ victories, and I love the fact that Veronica Mars is back on air again.

Now that I am not constantly filling the already populated world of the Internet – I am now learning the value of simply observing which leads to being mindful. Instead of falling in love with sharing my thoughts with a click – I take the moment to step back, observe what I am reading, and wondering if it needs an answer.

For a girl who’s always spoken too much too soon too many times being able to step back to assess what I am really responding to has been such a freedom. And it all has to do with the interactions and situations I found myself in in the past year or so.

If I were being brutally honest I would be the first to tell you that I just survived the ABSOLUTE WORST season of my life and yet I commend myself for being able to see the season through knowing that every season was just that, a season.

Every day I got up with the determination to see the other side and that is when EVERYTHING YOU KNOW becomes tested. You begin to question and doubt everything you believe in. You begin to challenge notions you were raise with. You begin to challenge your own beliefs. You dig, you discover, and you get through to a better place.

It’s like a war inside your head and within your heart and just like any warrior you come out of it bruised yet smarter. And it is those bruises that teach you what you need to know – the power in humility, the grace in betrayal, and the hope in the darkest situations.

You don’t understand how it could come about. How you could have a won a battle that has devastated your heart and crushed your soul and yet somehow you did. That is when you realize that God is real and everything I believed about him is real. The more you come in contact with life’s harshness, the more you realize how truly gracious our God is.

How much patience He has for His children as they question him in the desert and how incredibly faithful He is to hold our hand as we pass through the valleys and into the hills. How we graciously He carries us from situations that has caused so much pain into an enlightened state of blessings.

And life is like that – it’s a cycle and what we know today may not be what we know tomorrow and yet we stop for a moment to bask in its goodness and to rest in what we know now.

Because it is all that we need in this moment and we thank God for always providing just what we need lest we drown. We take it a day at time and as we learn to quietly do so – we grow and we see life in ways we haven’t before.

A quiet and steadfast pace where we do not need to prove we are intellectual or better than the next social media star. That it’s okay to watch others win, that it’s okay to simply celebrate our victories in secret, and to just stop showing off. We simply be and for me at this moment – simply being is more important than knowing.

 

It’s been a month and a few days since I turned thirty and though I have always marked my birthday with a list of lessons I would take into the new year. 30 was a milestone birthday and surely, I intended for it to be a happy one. But as with most things in life, they never truly turn out to be what we expect it to be.

What I thought would be a grand trip somewhere turned out to be a quiet day of self-care with my favorite book in our little apartment. I had a lot of feelings and emotions leading up to my birthday that I had to sort through. I needed to realign my heart, my mind, and my soul and most of the time, it is never quite as beautiful as our Instagram photos suggest.

My dear husband blessed me the cake of my dreams and a yummy Italian Dinner at Mi Piace in Pasadena. It was a quiet night of revel and celebration – also the day after our 2nd wedding anniversary and the quiet dinner did lift my mood that was until the most ironic thing happened – I got hit in the head with a parking boom.

The paramedics were called, I was a bit hysterical because of my long history of watching too many medical shows (I literally asked the paramedic if I had internal bleeding), and just coming to terms with life for what it is. It was a literal bump in the head that also awakened something inside of me – it’s okay to not like where you are in the current moment but it’s important to understand that you are never stuck anywhere.

 

Since then, I have been doing a lot of internal cleansing and meditation as I prepare for a new chapter in my life. It’s all about letting go of the old, forgiving others (oh boy, it’s a long process), forgiving ourselves, and for me especially – not being ashamed of going after what I want. To not be scared to go after what I want for me and my little family and to not be constrained by limits others have put upon me.

It’s only been a month 30 but I am grateful to you for showing me the importance of growing my own wings and soaring – despite the many times I have failed to fly.

I would have more stories to tell you but for now, I bask in the silence and quiet of my life.

 

If someone as rich, as famous, and as powerful as that person can think that all is lost in the world, what makes me safe from the dementors that live within?”

Those are the thoughts that have been running in my head as news outlets reported on the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. The dementors they lived with felt familiar. Long before I came to understand that dementors lived within me, I was simply a college student trying to make it through. The dementors continued to torment up to my late 20s. As I have continually mentioned in this blog, I had an Instagram worthy life on the outside but on the inside, I was tormented by my own demons.

I was working in a high profile Public Relations job (think The Devil Wears Prada) and I felt like a fish out of water. I liked the work, genuinely getting to know people, and helping share their stories but I did not particularly love the pressure to socialize. I wanted to connect with people in an authentic manner and not just because I wanted them to post about my product. It added to my already poor mental state. The pressure of the job plus the expectations of the people around me led me to slowly chip away on the inside. I was a ticking bomb and nobody knew.

In 2016, I fell in love, got married, and was momentarily freed from the dementors up until I rejoined the world again. By the end of 2016, I was an emotional mess, the dementors were winning and yes, thoughts of suicide has crossed my mind more than once. Having left with no options, my husband and I moved to the States and while it did not start out smoothly – being stripped away from everything made me refocus on what was important. With none of the pressures I have been carrying for as long as I can remember, I was free to become myself.

At one point in my life, I had everything a girl could ever want and yet, I was miserable on the inside. Today, a month shy of turning 30, I spend my days quietly doing the work of my hands, serving my husband, talking with God, and just enjoying life. I have learned to stop looking over my shoulder – that has helped a lot. I have stopped looking at what another person had and what I did not and that has made all the difference.

Thoughts are very important and I have learned to value meditation – of simply breathing in and out and thanking God for what is in front of me. All we need is today, God will take care of tomorrow. It all beings with gratitude and we have heard it said a million times that social media can be a form of torture because we see a world that we cannot have. But if there’s one thing I have learned, we do not really own anything, we are simply in the flow of things, and what we set out in the world, we get back.

I am not perfect and the dementors still come from time to time but by God’s grace, I am slowly overcoming it but only because people were bold enough to ask me how I was doing. So it helps to be persistent, to ask questions, to probe a bit even when people say they are fine. It is love that makes the world a better place and though we have all been hurt and some stories simply cannot be repaired, we can still love those who are present in our lives now and most importantly, we can learn to love ourselves and from there, we move forward and we believe that there is always always something to look forward to.

 

Before getting married, I was in a semi-relationship with a man who was suicidal. It was a relationship that was dark and heavy. He was so tired of the things that came his way and our relationship seemed like the only bright thing in his life. He held on to me for sunshine. However, the demons inside of him often won, leaving him with no choice but to end his relationship with me.

It hurt … like hell. And yet in those moments of despair on both my end and his, I chose to hold on to kindness. I reminded him that he was loved and that though we were no longer together, I always wished him well. He wanted to end his life so many times and though my reminders were mostly unwanted and deflected, I kept reminding him that the reasons to live outweighed the reasons to die. I kept pestering him and with love and kindness and to make the long story short, we did not end up together but he lived and now he is thriving.

It is so important to love people and pester them with love – you just never know how much it would help in the long run. The things you deposit into other people will go a long way – just keep believing and just in case you are thinking negative thoughts about yourself – just keep believing that greater days are ahead.

 

There’s something about Saturdays that just make you sit down and contemplate on life. As a child, I have always been a reader and a thinker. Long before cellphones kept us entertained on car rides, I often had my trusted walkman and a pair of earphones as my companions. I loved and adored just listening to music while driving around with my parents who managed to drag my brother and I everywhere. The habit continued onto adulthood as I switched from my parents’ car to ubers and buses.

Even today, I still carry that habit with me. There’s nothing like getting lost in your own thoughts and just letting your brain breathe. I had a point somewhere in that introduction and the real point of my blog entry but may have lost it somewhere.

In the past week, I discovered Saturn Rising – which is the ‘revamping’ of your life for the lack of a better word to usher in a new season. It’s funny to me sometimes how science and faith use the same words to describe same situations.

I do not want to bore with you the details of my recent life because I am still going through them. The story would better be told on the other side but I write to you today to let you know that even through the darkest seasons when we wrestle with the most difficult things (and there’s no minimizing what a person thinks is a difficult thing), we can still smile. It’s crazy how you can cry in one hour and laugh the next. It’s amazing how God built us for this chaotic life – He has equipped us with everything we need.

Just like most of my ‘blog’ entries, this is me just being raw and real as I have been since 2003.

Thank you my dear blogger world – I’ll have answers for you soon.

Keep Swimming

Life moves … fast.

One minute you’re eight years old and arguing with your parents about staying up late and the next you’re a full blown adult with major responsibilities. A lot of studies have said that our generation is in love with nostalgia – this is why we love remakes, sequels, and reunions. There is something inside of us that is constantly longing for what once was. It’s as if we are obsessed with either our past or our future, but never fully in the present.

It’s been a year since I moved away from home and my mom recently asked me this, “have you stopped missing home?”. The truth is, you never stop missing a chapter of your life that once was. I miss everything about home: the smell and comfort of my old bedroom, the ease of life because my parents were the ones burdened with responsibility, and just being in a city where everyone spoke your language. If I were being completely honest, I also missed the comfort of connections. But the past is always better in our heads. Living where I am now has once become a dream. In our heads, the dream is always prettier, more beautiful. What they do not tell you about the dream is the in-between. The struggle, the chasm in between jumps, and that gnawing feeling of going back to the familiar just because the unknown is too scary.

And yet, you stay. Because this is your dream and you must have left home for a reason. Because the power of something greater is infinitely more powerful than going home and remaining stagnant.

Yes you miss home but you thank God for opportunities to  create new memories. You cling on to hope and you fight.

Keep swimming.

Why #WomensRights is More Than Just a Hashtag

Any great blog entry starts with an inspiration and just as most writers would know, inspiration could come from just about anywhere.

For me, it hit me in the middle of a packed bus in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles as I finished Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us. The book, which I borrowed for the sole purpose of distracting myself from the world of adulting, stirred up emotions in me that I did not even realize I had.

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a home where love reigned. Where the men in my family were respectful of women and took responsibility in being protectors. They cherished and adored the women in the family. I have had my own personal story of abuse (the verbal and mental kind) that I wrote about three years ago. But as I finished It Ends with Us and Swear on This Life, I had the realization that my understanding of abuse went beyond my own personal tale.

There are many close to me who have suffered abuse in whatever form and seeing their stories of strength unfold led me to the realization on why fighting for women’s rights is so important. There are so many women out there who stay in abusive relationships because they have no other choice. Fighting for women’s rights and demanding for equality gives women a chance to build their own lives so they will not be controlled by men who are not worthy. It is more than just a trend on social media – it is a rooted desire to make the world a better place for women, where they are given opportunities to build an independent life so that they can leave whenever they no longer feel safe. When women are treated better, they are empowered to make better decisions that will keep them safe.

A woman close to my heart once experience the treachery of physical, emotional, and mental abuse. During her time, leaving the household was not acceptable. If you ask the women before us, they would be quick to tell you that they stayed because they knew no other way. But this woman, ahead of her time and at the tender age of 25, looked at her life and knew that there should be something better for her. She could have chosen to stay but by God’s grace and with nothing in her name – she walked away.

At the time she made the decision, people close to her questioned her and gave her the spiel, “He loves you, he will change. You must stay.” But this woman, full of determination decided that enough was enough and though she had sacrificed a few things, she knew she made the right decision for herself. Because she was equipped with a degree and job, she had the ability to stand up for herself and leave. Of course, just like any human being, she wishes a few things were different but at the core of who she is, she never once regretted walking away from a relationship that could have either ruined her or killed her.

She could have settled because at that time this is what society taught but she knew in her heart that this wasn’t the life she wanted or those who loved her could have wanted for her. With only faith and courage, she built a new life and soon found a love that respected her, loved her, and cherished her. God gifted her with a man who stood by her side no matter what and she witnessed what a real, loving relationship felt like. While I wish I could share more details of her story, I stop her for it is not my story to tell.

Instead today, I wish to honor my mother – who fought hard and bravely for her place of safety in the world. My mother knew that love did not have to hurt and she deserve to be taken care of even if she could very well take care of herself. I can only imagine the horrors she went through and what she had to overcome but she did it, even if she had to do it alone – she did it.

Today, I salute women like my mother and others like her. Today, we are slowly taking away the stigma of walking away from bad, abusive relationships and slowly stripping these types of men of their power.

For every woman who is still in relationships as such, I pray that God gives you the strength to overcome – you are not alone. Love does not hurt, does not sting, does not make you feel crouch in fear nor does it make you feel small – real love liberates and I pray today, you find the courage to choose to keep yourself safe.

Let us keep fighting for every woman in the world for it is through this united resolve that we overcome.

I end this with what I wrote three years ago:

“I am sharing this story to remind you beautiful woman reading this that you are not alone and that when a guy hurts you whether through his brute strength or his words, walk away. You were created to be loved and appreciated and believe me when I say that staying will not change him but even make the situation worse.

By loving yourself and being brave enough to walk away, you are stopping him from repeating the same behavior and at the same time, inspiring women everywhere that you don’t have to take what you don’t deserve. By taking the stand today, you at also making the world a better place for little girls to grow up in.”

Happy International Women’s Day.

 

This Valentine’s Day Embrace The Heartbreak.

It’s the year 2004 and I am sobbing in my room while watching My Best Friend’s Wedding. The reason? My ultimate crush, who asked me for kilig “be my prom date” ideas, did ask someone else out and it wasn’t me. Fast forward to 2008 where my first foray in dating (we watched Iron Man on our first date, it has been that long!) ended up in more tears and a disbelief in myself that stayed on for a really long time because he was verbally abusive and unkind. Seven years later, I am once again sobbing on my birthday because the beautiful, menacing boy dumped me on my birthday.

Dateless on prom night at sixteen.

Up until two years ago, I was pretty unlucky in love. I was never the first choice and I have had my fair share of jerks. I would constantly console myself with ice cream, One Tree Hill, and of course, crying to my baby brother, Carl.Those were the days wherein I would ferociously write in my journal without a care in the world. My sixteen year old self was determined to get her fairytale. In the chaos of life, there are days when I have forgotten or at least tucked away that sixteen year old in the back of my mind. Life has made me forget how she fought to keep her optimism and her belief that on the other side of all the pain, there was an answered prayer or pixie dust waiting. She was often rejected and yet, she kept going. I missed her a lot in the past year but I promise myself I would treat her more kindly and carry her closer than all the other mes I have been in the past ten years.

Me in my high school uniform!

My husband and I had quite the long drive last night and he had early 00s music blaring in the background and all of a sudden, without warning, the memories of my past life started flooding in. It felt like a movie because suddenly the memories of me crying and praying and just getting disappointed with my life came rushing in. And it took me a minute to return to reality. I was in Los Angeles with the husband I prayed to God about when I was seven (after watching Devon Sawa on Casper! My husband does look like him!) and yet, nobody can deny the many years of heartache I endured.

The moments do not hurt me anymore but instead, I say hello to them like an old friend. Pretty much like the Gabby and Sharon McDonald’s Commercial, it’s like saying to a friend that has taught you so much. That’s when I realized that while I hated heartbreak while I was in it, I don’t necessarily regret them or wish them to have been erased from my history. Last night, I was living the reality of what I have always believed – everything is essential, the good, and the bad, to your story.

You may be in a season where you are unattached or recovering from a heartache. And though it may seem like the season will never end, it will and you will be better for it.

Enjoy the moments of uncertainty. The moments where your heart is half broken and half hopeful. These moments may hurt you in the moment but their purpose is to develop you. The heart is extremely resilient and we grow through the moments that break us.

Looking back now – on all those moments that I had my heart broken and was devastated, I just look at them with trepidation. I did not go through them but I needed the lessons they brought with them. It has made me a completely different person and that makes me grateful. I have chosen to let each rejection mold me and make me who I am. It has made me more empathetic and kinder to myself and others (at least I try to be).

So in as much as you would like to take the easy way out – don’t. We go through things to learn from them and until we learn the lesson, we do not move to the next level. I am sorry for your pain but trust me when I say that it does get better.

Do not run away from your pain – embrace it as a season, do not fester in it but allow yourself to feel the pain and choose to grow. Everything in our lives is essential to a greater purpose we may or may not see.

Be strong enough to see you through this season because it is worth it, you are worth it.

 

Off the grid.

Could it be possible to be completely removed from the person you once was? I have been thinking more than usual lately (possibly because of all the meds due to the uncool bug I took on after Disneyland) about material things, social media, and what it takes to truly make us happy.

I have been wondering what drives people to a) use other people for their own benefit and b) even think of using other people to gain material wealth. I mean how much material wealth can one acquire before they tell themselves it is enough?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a comfortable life – but a comfortable life at the expense of others? How could you be proud of a life that’s constantly striving to acquire in the hopes of becoming better than others? After you get the bag (my own material kryptonite), what’s next? After you get the position, what’s next? After you reach the pinnacle of success, where do you rest or do you rest at all? After gaining the world, do you still have your soul?

These thoughts lingered in mind upon entering 2018. My life these days is very different compared to the glitz and glamour it used to be. There are no famous friends, there are no famous “almost boyfriends” who ditch you for beauty queens, and there are no events, parties, and celebrities. There are bus rides, good books, a quirky office setup, and an eight hour day. There’s hard work to be done but I never feel depleted – as if I am on a treadmill that never stops.

I am comfortable in my own skin. The mask I used to wear can no longer be found. I am completely who I am and while there are days where I still tend to be anxious or less optimistic than I hope I would be, I don’t really feel as stretched out as I used to be. I scroll less on social media (although I cannot resist cute dogs or cute babies or on sale items that I mentally purchase in my head) and when I do, I begin to ask myself, “what is this all for?”.

I told my mom the other day during our marathon Skype session how I have begun to care less about my curated Instagram feed and sometimes question myself when I do post something. Is this my authentic self? Is this who I truly am?

It may have taken years but I am beginning to be as real and raw as I feel. There are days when I hide what I feel and then explode at the most inconvenient times. I try to speak my truth when I feel it. I also have stopped explaining who I am and my choices.

There’s a solid inner peace that sometimes gets rattled but I am proud of the life I am currently living (aka the story of my recent life) and I am thankful.

The Story of My Recent Life

“The story of my recent life is” is a phrase that keeps repeating in my head as I type my end of the year blog.

I came across it on my good friend’s Instagram account and couldn’t help but repeat it in my head as I went through the last week of 2017.

The phrase is haunting in a way that only words can be. Something clicked inside of me and I was hit with the realization that yes, where I am today isn’t where I will be forever.

You see (and only if you haven’t realized by this time), I can be overly dramatic. My husband discovered this when I threw a mini tantrum when he told me to not wait in line for an hour to have a photo taken with Minnie Mouse during our trip to Disneyland. I have always wanted to be an actress growing up and I am a writer so if you add those two things up – you get an overly dramatic almost 30 year old.

So anyway back to what I was saying. Oh yeah, overly dramatic. So my point is sometimes I forget especially when times are tough that whatever this is won’t last forever. I seem to think that good times go by so fast while struggles take forever to leave. I forget that time moves at the same pace no matter what and where I am today is simply a reflection of my recent life and in this lifetime, you can have a million different definitions of your “recent life” and that is okay.

There is no rule, though society likes to tell us that, in defining your life. Commitment is a HUGE thing and of course we can’t skip-a-doo through life like a shifting wind but we are allowed to change our minds. What we like today may not be what inspires us in ten years and that is okay. We are allowed to be different versions of ourselves in this lifetime.

Having different versions of ourselves take courage as well. A life in motion requires constantly changing and that means letting go of different parts of ourselves and that requires both grace and humility. We cannot swiftly move from one phase to another without leaving unnecessary baggage behind – that includes our ego and our pride.

What is the story of my recent life? 

As 2017 draws to a close, I cannot help but realize that I have lived through many recent lives before today. I clung on to each life which became a problem because as with anything in life, you cannot fully enjoy what is in front of you if you do not learn how to let go. Aside from being overly dramatic, I also have difficulty letting go.

This year, I was left without a choice. My recent life is nothing like my former life and I used to have trouble accepting that but today with a few days left in 2017, I learn to let go more and more each day and trust that as the New Year dawns, new beginnings will rise again.