Mirror

I took a walk alongside Riverside Drive today. I didn’t go venture all the way down to the bottom, where you walk right along the river. Rather, I stayed above by the road. I walked from 151st Street to 120th. I passed a couple cute dogs, a few runners, walked on a bridge, and past Grant’s tomb.

I like how autumn is arriving. The air feels crisper and the leaves are turning shades of oranges and browns. And yet, because I am me, it feels nostalgic already. I already miss the summer of 2016 and every mistake or lesson or triumph that occurred within that time frame.

My favorite moment that happened this summer was actually in September when I was in Japan. My friend and I were on the bus coming back from bungee jumping, and she was trying to put her many earrings back into her ear. She asked me if I had a mirror and I said yes. She asked if I minded if I held it up for her. And I said not at all. And then I held it up. She peered into it. The bus ride was bumpy, as we were up in the mountains, and I struggled with holding it up just right. I tried so hard. I strained my hand, tried to memorize the position I held it in when she said “that’s perfect”, and studied the accuracy of her aim. I held the mirror just like that for her for minutes that seemed like hours. I felt so close to her, and so happy that I was doing something useful. I just loved that moment so much.

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Are you tolerated? Or celebrated?

Joanne was a strange girl. She sat in front of me in AP US History in high school. She had stringy brown hair, eyes reminiscent of a deep sea fish meeting the air for the first time after being caught, and a mouth that would not stop talking. She knew every answer to every question. Talked about the Civil War while we were still on the Revolutionary one. Was allergic to everything. And blew her nose, incessantly. God. Would you please stop blowing your nose so hard? Some of that stuff is missing the tissue and landing on my desk. 

I thought her allergies were pretty annoying, but the rest of her wasn’t too, too bad. She was unique. I could appreciate that. We were both weird in our own ways. I was quiet and shy, and liked to hide behind loud people in class so that teachers would pass over me when searching for someone to call on (they didn’t want to accidentally call on the loud one). So we were both strange girls. But, I didn’t connect with her. I just didn’t find enough in common with her. 

No one in our class actually liked her. They called her names when she went to the bathroom. They cheered whenever she was absent from class. I felt kind of bad for her. To be “that girl”. That girl that everyone despised. 

It has been said that my generation was the first one to experience a time where everyone still knows everything about each other, even long after you stop keeping in touch. When we went to college, Facebook kept us in the loop with almost everyone we had grown up with. Through my Facebook newsfeed, I watched as high school sweethearts went from “In a relationship” to “single”, saw friends from kindergarten get their high school diplomas, and boys I had crushes on back in the 5th grade become tattoo bearing motorcyclists. I also started seeing photos of Joanne pop up on my Facebook feed. She went to a private college in Massachusetts, known for its rigorous academics and students with intense the extracurriculars of chess, bowling club, and debate team. You know what? She looked happy! Increasingly happy. Every new picture had a new friend in it. She got a (super cute) boyfriend. She went on mountain retreats with the debate team. She put up political statements as her statuses on Facebook….and got avid responses from her fellow classmates. There, she was in her element. There, she was loved. I was stunned. 

How could a girl with so little to like become the star of a college campus? It had seemed impossible for anyone to want to be friends with her back in high school. But suddenly, she was everyone’s friend at college. I couldn’t help but love her ascent. Feel happy for her joy and success. 

But, what did I do to deserve to feel happy for her? The only thing I did was tolerate her, and maybe even use her as a shield against teachers. 

Joanne showed me that sometimes there’s nothing wrong with us. 

We just haven’t found the right place. 

When we do, we will blossom. 

Don’t stay where you are only tolerated. Go where you are celebrated. 

Let’s aim for 1000% better

I got to the airport at 8:10. Two minutes after my mom’s plane was due to land. I fought the other cars at Terminal C, and managed to wrangle a spot close to the exit she was going to come out of. A few minutes passed. The driver in front of me got out of the front seat and ran over to the sidewalk. He picked up his friend’s bulky suitcase and tossed it in the trunk. The two men embraced at the rear of the car. They swung their arms around each other’s large, lean frames, clamped hands around torsos and shoulders, and hugged. Their faces, each dark on the chins with shadows, were so close you could swear they were rubbing cheeks as well. After a few seconds, it was like they realized their break in cultural norms, and each fell back. They awkwardly clapped each other’s shoulders. Exchanged a few words. Then got into the car and drove off.

I watched as the clock ticked another ten minutes away. A policeman in a bright yellow vest came up to my car and knocked on my window. “Miss, you’re going to need to move your car!”

I kept trying to call my mom’s phone. It was still off. Where could she be? Her plane must be delayed. After circling around a few more times, I decided to wait in a nearby fast food restaurant.

Being late is my mom. She is habitually late to everything: work, family gatherings, picking up my sister and I, calling me on the phone, etc. If there is something out there that is possible to be late for, you can be rest assured that my mom has been late to it. I spent much of my childhood waiting for my mom. I used to go to after-school care in elementary school. My friends and I played tag from three to five pm. The most prompt parents started arriving at five pm. Some came a quarter after. The latest ones rushed in with blushes on their faces and murmured to their kids as they tried to sneak out of the center. Like they didn’t want the attendants to realize how late they were. My lonely backpack used to be pushed and shoved by all the kids looking for their own. Until it was the last one left. My lonely pink bag in the middle of the tiled floor.

My mom walked in last. It was usually after six. Annoyed and always feeling forgotten about, I would scoop my bag up off the floor and walk towards her. All the toys were gone by six. The attendants were sweeping the gym ground. My mom looked radiant in her bright colored skirts and lace tops. She certainly knew how to make an entrance. She gave me the brightest greetings. “Steph, dear! How was your day?” I could never stay mad at her.

Back at the fast food restaurant, I opened up my book and started eating and reading. As the first bite of my food approached my mouth, my phone rang. “Steph! Mommy’s here. I finally landed.” I checked the time. It was ten o’clock.

I quickly packed up my things and rushed to the airport. There she was. Was that really my mom? She looked even more beautiful than when she left. And ten years younger. She got into the car and we started talking.

She told me about her whole trip. She got excited about everything. From the most insignificant street food to seeing my 95 year old grandpa, who may not last much longer. My chatterbox of a mom came back with full force. We switched topics.

“Steph, maybe I should have given you more instructions for taking care of the house. It was a lot to ask of you.”

“It’s okay, Mom. You’re back now and I’m glad I won’t have to do it alone.”

“Mommy’s sorry though. My weakness is that I’m not so good at planning. But you know, some of those things just couldn’t be planned for. A lot of problems that came up were due to weather. This winter has been one of the worst.”

“Yeah, definitely. It has been snowing practically every day.”

“Mom, did you know that I have a really bad weakness? I lash out at people when I’m upset?”

“Yes, of course. That is a very bad weakness. You know where that came from?”

“Where?”

“Mom.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have that problem. When you were little, I used to get so upset. I was such an emotional person. Everything that made me mad would make me scream like crazy at you….and Nancy and Daddy. No one ever told me. I didn’t learn until just a few years ago. I never realized that it was a bad thing. You picked up some of my bad tendencies.

But you know what, Steph? That’s your problem now. If you decide to continue like that then you are the one hurting people around you.”

“Mom, I read a quote recently that said something about becoming better every day. If you just try to be 1% better than you were yesterday, then you will be 100% better in 100 days. And in one year you will be 365% better.”

“That is a wonderful goal. You can do it. We can do it. I need to get better too.”

We smiled at each other.

Rudyard Kipling’s “If”

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day. This is how it went:

“So are you happy to be back in New York?”

“Yes! Very much so. I love New York and all the city-ness of it. Tall buildings, public transportation…”

“But when you first moved back to NJ, you said that you were glad to be away from New York. I remember you saying something about people getting lost there. Like, they end up staying there and not growing up or something to that effect. I thought it was very insightful.”

“Oh. I said that?”

He laughed- “Yes. Yes, you did.”

And I laughed. And we moved on to a different topic.

But, the thought of it kept creeping up in my mind. I actually remember saying that now. I had declared it to a whole group of people. That I was happy to be moving away from the big city, and that some people there never grew up. In the hustle and bustle of a big city, there is always something new to chase after. The twenty-something college grad starts by chasing their career. The office cube, the first big paycheck, the promotion. And parties. The miniskirts, bottles of Grey Goose, and God, the beautiful people.  Success beckons like a false lighthouse in the distance. If you’re not careful, you can spend years upon years swimming desperately towards a shiny light that will never quite be within your grasp.

When I moved back to the comparatively slower-paced neighborhoods of NJ, I changed courses. It was like I had switched from the 200 meter dash to the 800 meter run. As the weeks in NJ began, the change in pace was obvious. It was slower. You were allowed a breather. I liked this new race.

In the community I joined in NJ, it was not outward success that defined a person. It was how much you cared. How much you loved. How much time you put into cultivating relationships. Getting ahead in a career was not as much of a priority as having a healthy family was. And parties consisted of five women sharing stories on comfy couches with a bottle of red.

Yet, I have found that there are still downfalls in living in this community. Like when the easy life becomes so comfortable that it is crippling. Relationships can become stifling when there is no room to breathe. Putting too much effort into sharing stories can become tiring.

So I messaged the guy. I said, “Now I think people can get lost no matter where they are. It’s probably just human nature, right? Or a result of not really knowing, or being honest with oneself.”

The beat goes on. Whether you are here or there. Whatever you may want- Career, Parties, Relationships, Family, Love, Kinder Heart, Better Soul. Chase after it as you like. But each has its upsides and downsides. Everything in life is a give and take. What do you choose?

Another thing that I’ve learned is that taking a moment for yourself is perfectly okay. Stay in and read a book. What a beautiful moment. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

So I am back in New York City. Land of ever-increasing hopes and dreams. But I will stay in and read a book.

Wrote this post while listening to this.

And here is Rudyard Kipling’s poem. Isn’t it fantastic?

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Always believe you can change the world

How amazing is this letter from a mom to a daughter?

This is my favorite paragraph from it:

“Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes, talk to Daddy and Nancy about me every day and never, ever start smoking. It’s like buying a fun baby dragon that will grow and eventually burn down your f***ing house.

And this one is a close runner up:

‘Nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit’

Just lovely quotes in every way.

http://brouhahadreamer.tumblr.com/post/55349059350/my-posthumous-advice-for-my-daughter

How Important Is It To Be Liked?

Sitting amongst a group of people ranging in age from early twenties to late sixties is tricky. There is age to think about. Family backgrounds. Current job situations. Romantic statuses. Intertwined relationships within the group. Religion. Expectations. How does one say something without offending at least one person in the group? How does one maximize the likeability of their words? With so much to consider before opening one’s mouth, how does one find the courage to open up at all?

I think the need to be liked is a universal human craving. Feeling liked is being hugged by your favorite aunt. Getting a slap on the back by your soccer coach. There is a certain comfort in knowing that someone is seeing you, and saying, “He is good” in their minds. We need that affirmation. We like to be liked. And the only thing better than being liked by someone is being liked by a whole group of people.

I tried to just sit there. I tried sitting pretty because sometimes all you need to do to be liked is to stay quiet and smile a little. But they started talking about planning. They were talking about long-term planning for the organization we were all there for. They started thinking about the vastness of the future and they were getting scared by all that had to be done. They weren’t actually getting anything done. I couldn’t sit anymore. I said, “For me, I’ve learned that I can’t plan because everything I’ve ever planned for never went according to plan. So I decided I’m just going to do it. I’m going to make as many mistakes as possible and pick myself up as fast as possible. I think I will get more done that way.”

And they hated my plan. They hated everything I said. I could see it in their eyes and the way they immediately moved onto the next raised hand. I felt my likeability dropping like a heavy stone going through water.

But it was okay. The only thing better than being liked by a group of people is being liked by yourself.

Happiness

My mom lies on her side in bed and watches Taiwanese TV shows on her iPhone every night. She gets into bed early. Around 9pm. Even on the weekends.

I came home late today and quietly set my bags down. I crept into her room. Laughter erupted from her small device and I knew she was still awake.

“Honey, I set the temperature in your room a little higher today. So you will be warm. Don’t worry about Mom. I’m very warm under my goose down covers.”

And a tear rolled down my cheek. Because that was the sweetest thing that has ever been said to me.

Quotes

I’m going to post some great quotes right now. I know they have nothing to do with each other and they may not mean a thing to you but they are funny/true/interesting to me.

I apologize that this blog has been sliding downhill for awhile now and that I’m not writing/posting things that are valuable to my readers. So feel free to unsubscribe. But if you are still interested in reading random posts about random things (and occasionally good stories or interesting articles) then stay tuned.

“You can’t choose who you love. Sometimes they choose you.” -Jess from New Girl

“But I want you to know, no matter what happens or how shitty you may feel some day, out there there’s someone who loves you.  And I do, truly and sincerely love you, and I probably always will.  If the day ever comes that everyone has failed you and you have nowhere else to turn then I’ll be there for you, but I hope it never comes to that.”   -anonymous (who probably doesn’t want this posted on the internet…If you are reading this now then I’m sorry.)

“Cut your losses.” -Pastor Mike of Harvest Church in NJ

“What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.” -Voltaire

“I always did something I was a little not ready to do. That’s how you grow… That’s when you have a breakthrough.”  -Marissa Mayer

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” -Mother Teresa

 

The One Trait to Look For in a Partner

I posted this on my other blog awhile back, but since it is so good, here it is again =). How many of us are really honest with ourselves about our flaws and weaknesses? Like truly, painfully, heartbreakingly honest? Most of us are too afraid to accept that we have character flaws. And since most of us can’t even accept it, we definitely can’t work on on them. That’s where relationships come in.Through the eyes of someone else we are able to step back and see ourselves for what we are.

The One Trait To Look For In A Partner

 
MAY. 24, 2013 

There were a few comments from people about my post on how to date amazing women saying it was too extreme and that everyone has faults.

Of course, everyone has faults. It’s impossible to find someone without some emotional baggage or insecurities.

The real question is, what does that person do with it? In the first two articles of this series, I pointed out how to notice emotionally manipulative behavior and how to avoid women who display it. These were women who had problems and baggage and used them as a weapon with the men they date.

In this article, I will be talking about the traits that you want to actively look for in a relationship parter when deciding to date or commit to them. To give a hint, it’s looking for people who manage their personal flaws and baggage well.

My first handful of significant relationships were mired with a lot of manipulation and victim/rescuer dynamics. These relationships were great learning experiences, but they also caused me a great deal of pain that I had to eventually learn from.

It was until I managed to find myself in relationships with some emotionally healthy women who were able to manage their flaws well, that I really learned what to look for when dating someone.

And I discovered in this time that there was one trait in a woman that I absolutely must have to be in a relationship with her, and it was something that I would never compromise on again (and I haven’t). Men are usually unwilling to compromise on superficial traits: looks, intelligence, education, etc. Those are important, but if there’s one trait that I’ve learned you should never compromise on, it’s this:

The ability to see one’s own flaws and be accountable for them.

Because the fact is that problems are inevitable. Every relationship will run into fights and each person will hit up against their emotional baggage at various times. The determinant of how long the relationship will last and how well it will do comes down to both people being willing and able to recognize the snags in themselves and communicate them openly.

Think of your girlfriend/wife/ex-girlfriend/love interest and ask yourself, “If I gave her honest constructive criticism about how I think she could be better, how would she react?” Would she throw a huge fit? Cause drama? Blame you and criticize you back? Claim you don’t love her? Storm out and make you chase after her?

Or would she appreciate your perspective, and even if she was perhaps a little bit hurt or uncomfortable, even if there was a little bit of an emotional outburst first, would she eventually consider it and be willing to talk about it? Without blaming or shaming. Without causing unnecessary drama. Without trying to make you jealous or angry.

No?

Then she’s not dating material.

BUT! Here’s the million dollar question. Think of that same girlfriend/wife/ex-girlfriend/love interest, and now imagine that she gave you constructive criticism and pointed out what she believed to be your biggest flaws and blind spots. How would you react? Would you brush it off? Would you blame her or call her names? Would you logically try to argue your way out of it? Would you get angry or insecure?

Chances are you would. Chances are she would too. Most people do. And that’s why they end up dating each other.

Having open, intimate conversations with someone where you’re able to openly talk about one another’s flaws without resorting to blaming or shaming is possibly the hardest thing to do in any relationship. Very few people are capable of it. To this day, when I sit down with my girlfriend, or my father, or one of my best friends and have one of these conversations, I feel my chest tighten, my stomach turn in a knot, my arms sweat.

It’s not pleasant. But it’s absolutely mandatory for a healthy long-term relationship. And the only way you find this in a woman is by approaching them with honesty and integrity, by expressing your emotions and sexuality without blame or shame, and not degenerating into bad habits of playing games or stirring up drama.

Suppressing or over-expressing your emotions will attract someone who also suppresses or over-expresses their emotions. Expressing your emotions in a healthy manner will attract someone who also expresses their emotions in a healthy manner.

You may think a woman like this doesn’t exist. She’s a unicorn. But you’d be surprised. Your emotional integrity naturally self-selects the emotional integrity of the women you meet and date. And when you fix yourself, as if by some magical cheat-code the women you meet and date become more and more functional themselves. And the obsession and anxiety of dating dissolves and becomes simple and clear. The process ceases to be a long and analytical one but a short and pleasant one. The way she cocks her head when she smiles. The way your eyes light up a little bit more when you talk to her.

Your worries will dissolve. And regardless of what happens, whether you’re together for a minute, a month or a lifetime, all there is acceptance. TC mark