Family Ties

I hardly ever write about my family here. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I paused to reflect and be thankful for these people in my life. It must have been last year, and even then it was probably when my grandpa had died. I thought of him recently, and it still astounds me that I still miss him and cry. I had thought that I was past this. And now that I see those words, I feel bad about being “past this,” whatever “this” is.

It’ll probably take more time for me to let the impact that my grandpa had left on me truly sink in. And honestly, I know that I need to take more time to think about why he’s had such an impact on me. Maybe it’s because he was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. Maybe it’s because I thought that I would see him again and wasn’t give the opportunity. Maybe it’s these things and more, just like he and everybody else in this world is more than the sum of their parts.

It’s just days away from the anniversary of his death. I still haven’t decided what I’ll do on that day, other than listening to James Taylor’s Fire and Rain. (I haven’t listened to that song since the day my grandpa had died. I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to it since.) I know I’ll be working, but other than that, I want to honour him in some way. Do I find a quiet spot in a forest or park and reflect on the times we’ve shared together? Or do I want to go through photos and videos? Or do I want to just spend time with my family?

The third one I’ve found helps the most. It’s kind of a distraction in that we won’t talk about him 100% of the time, but it’s also therapeutic because I’m surrounded by people who are going through the exact same thing as me. And quite recently, we’ve heard that more family members have passed away. Each time I hear the news, I always reflect on how fragile life is and that we should be focusing on sharing as much of ourselves with each other as possible. Each time I hear the news, I end up sharing in the grief that my other family members are feeling, whether I’m communicating with them or not. (I’ve realized recently that I take on the emotions of other people, whether I feel the same way or not. I think that’s why I can get emotionally exhausted from being around a lot of people.)

And so it just amazes me how I can feel so connected with my family in this way. I can’t express myself in words (or am too scared to do so for some reason) in front of them, but I am grateful for everything they do for me.

The Reader Problems Tag

I saw Phoenix Grey‘s post called The Reader Problems Tag, and thought I’d join in on the fun.

1. You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?

I have no idea what a TBR is, and after approximately 5 minutes of research, I couldn’t find the answer.

Anyway. I usually go with my gut when it comes to choosing what to read next, but that leads to me reading a few pages of one book and then leaving the rest for another time. So, I guess it’s a matter of seeing what sticks, and I would have to read a bit of the book before realizing that this is what I’m supposed to be reading. What I mean by that is I treat this process as a intuitive practice: I believe that I’m supposed to be reading a specific book, but it may take a few misses before I get that hit (or hint) and find that one book.

2. You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or commit?

I have quit reading Shibumi more than halfway through. I just couldn’t take the pages and pages about cave exploration – which sounds interesting, but the protagonist struck me as pretentious and sexist so that got frustrating after a while. I’ve also stopped reading Think and Grow Rich because the language got annoying after a while.

That being said, though, if I didn’t have such strong negative feelings towards a book, I would still find a way to finish it. I may end up not being able to, and I’m okay with that.

3. The end of the year is coming and you’re so close yet so far away on your GoodReads challenge. Do you quit or commit?

Ha, I don’t do the GoodReads challenge. I don’t like setting a goal of how many books I should read per year. Like I said, I’m more of the type to read a book when I think I need it at that specific moment in my life. Last year I read several novels for the first time. This year, I’m reading less fiction but still reading new books. It all depends on what I think I need and going with it.

4. The covers of a series you love DO. NOT. MATCH. How do you cope?

Easy. Here’s an example: My Harry Potter series has an American copy of the Order of the Phoenix while everything else is the UK edition. I haven’t brought myself to get a matching Book Five since the copy I have was a gift from my great aunt and it looks so broken in and a part of the family that I can’t part with it. If I’ve had those specific books for a long time and have read them more than once, then I have a special relationship with those books because of our history.

5. Everyone and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?

Well, I have a lot of friends who recognize how problematic the Twilight and Fifty Shades series are, so it’s not a hassle for me to find people who share these feelings.

6. You’re reading a book and you’re about to start crying in public. How do you deal?

I would try to hold it in – it’s simply what I’m used to doing – but then realize that I should just let it out and not be ashamed of my feelings. I’ve cried in public before at least twice, and both times I was on transit and it was so late at night that nobody noticed. (Or at least pretended not to.)

7. A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a summary on GoodReads? Cry in frustration?

I would re-read the book for sure! I love to re-live stories, especially when the next part is released.

8. You don’t want ANYONE borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people “nope” when they ask?

Hardly anybody ever asks me to borrow books, haha. Only family members and one or two best friends have borrowed my books – and they keep them in good condition.

One time, though, I had lent my copy of Life of Pi to a classmate in high school, and a few days later he shows me a few rips in the cover and the pages. As soon as I saw that, I said, “Give that back.” The poor guy felt bad (and probably scared because I was so serious and focused in high school) and actually offered to buy me a new copy, but I refused. Since then, I’ve been selective of who borrows my books.

If somebody were to ask me, though, I might actually lend them a book. Of course, it depends on the person and the book.

9. You’ve picked up and put down five different books in the past month. How do you get over the reading slump?

I would wait until the itch to read comes back. That’s what I’ve been doing for most of this year. I have two books that I’ve started to read, but can’t seem to make the time to actually read more than 10 pages in one sitting. Whenever this kind of thing happens, I feel like it’s because of a lifestyle change. Right now, though, it doesn’t feel like a bad lifestyle change – but I’ll see what happens in the next few weeks and months.

10. There are so many new books coming out that you are dying to read! How many do you actually buy?

I would actually do a bit of research into the books and figure out which ones I feel a strong connection to based on the synopsis, the author, the genre, the plot/idea, and yes, the hype. I would only pick one book, though, since I know that I wouldn’t have time to actually read all of those books in a year.

11. After you’ve bought a new book you want to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf until you actually read them?

Ha. It depends. Right now, the pattern seems like either a week or several months and counting.

 

Well, this kind of made me question my lifestyle right now. Yes, I love reading and books and libraries and all of that fund stuff – but I’m kind of focusing on writing my own story right now. Hopefully I’ll return to books soon!

Storytelling Live: I Did It!

Last Monday, I had the PeriSkype with Anita Wing Lee, and I had a lot of fun! It actually felt easy and liberating to tell my story about quitting a soul-sucking job and transitioning into a lifestyle and career that I find fulfilling. I was able to talk about how I’ve made little steps and taken risks to grow and become who I was meant to be. Hopefully the people tuning in found it helpful.

I came across a few realizations after coming off of the PeriSkype:

1. I am actually pretty good at speaking in front of an audience. I wasn’t nervous at all! And that was weird enough for me. I remember being too nervous to speak in front of people for the longest time, and when I did, I was self-conscious and worried about messing up. With this, though, I was at ease and actually wanted to talk more.

2. I want to do this again. It was really cool to give advice through video and to talk to somebody who just gets it like Anita does. Also, even though I didn’t know the audience that well, I knew that they were interested enough to tune in, and that makes me want to share my story even more.

3. Coaching has had a huge impact on me, and it didn’t really hit me until I did the PeriSkype. I mean, I did get to write out my thoughts and feelings for Anita – which she has kindly put into a blog post on her website – but this opportunity has allowed me to reflect on the build up over the last several months. And it was a big build up; I just didn’t realize it until I was able to look back and appreciate what I did and what happened to me.

For everything that has happened to me, I am truly grateful.

Storytelling Live: PeriSkype

You know my old post called Storytelling Live? In it, I talked about how much I had wanted to be able to stand in front of a group of strangers and tell my story. I had thought about sharing how stories have shaped me and how escaping into fiction kept me from writing and living my own story.

Well, a few days ago, my life/career coach, Anita Wing Lee, approached me with this amazing idea to have a video chat through Skype and to broadcast it on Periscope – a PeriSkype, actually. Periscope is kind of like having a livestream: it’s you in a video talking to an audience who can interact with you through comments. But it’s an app that is specific to this kind of video/content-sharing.

I had never thought that I would be invited to something like this, let alone agree to do something like this. When I was younger, I’ve been labelled as and felt shy, and speaking in front of others was incredibly scary because it seemed – and still is! – a really vulnerable experience.

But it’s this vulnerability that I am trying to bring with me to everything that I do. I have found that it’s the best way to genuinely connect with others and be myself. And so, tomorrow, Monday, July 13th, Anita and I are going to be talking about her coaching program and how it’s helped me grow more into myself.

Just download the app, follow @anitawinglee, and tune in at 7:30pm Eastern Time. If you’re curious about what I look and sound like (haha) and what my journey for the past several months has been like, feel free to join us!

Thanks for reading and being part of the community!

20s Life, the Writing Universe, and Lani

I’d like to say that I’ve come to be on friendly terms with my fellow WordPress bloggers. It’s always so comforting and humbling to know that there are other like-minded people out there who are moving along the same path as you. I feel like part of a supportive and passionate community here.

With that in mind, I’ve thought about ways that I could delve deeper into this community. I’ve wanted to further connect with the folks in this community, and to work with other bloggers. And what better way to do that than to interview a writer?

Lani Cox - profile-pic-2

This is Lani, from https://lanivcox.wordpress.com/. She’s awesome.

Lani was on board to do this from the beginning. I’ve always admired her: she is a fantastic writer, makes great content, has a really interesting life in Thailand – and grew up in Hawaii!, and has written and self-published a book. And she was gracious enough to answer several questions I had about being in your twenties and starting a possible career (whether professional or amateur) in writing.

Camille: Let’s start off by debunking any ideas or advice you’ve seen about being a writer.

Lani: Hmmm. I guess it would have to be that there is a specific way to do something. In a creative industry, rules feel more like guidelines or suggestions.

C: What about debunking anything about being in your twenties? What has it been like to be in your twenties?

L: Wow. I think my 20s was vastly different than 20-somethings today. So, what may be true for me will not necessarily be true for you, and any advice you hear about this decade of your life will most likely fall on oblivious ears. After all, I think it’s the job of youth culture to pave new roads and see things in exciting ways.

For what it is worth, I tried so many new things during this time, took a lot of risks, but I also had a lot of debt, so I felt like all I was doing was working. At one point I had 3 jobs. My 20s was about growing up and I had a lot of it to do.

C: Do you wish you did anything differently?

L: Of course, but I know the outcome of my choices now. If I went back and changed them the results most likely would have changed, too.

But my advice, if I can read between the words here, is not to take things too seriously. Have fun. Life moves incredibly fast and before you know it, you’re in your 30s and then 40s…it’s sobering and humbling and really, you’re just lovely. Don’t be hard on yourself.

C: What was a day in the life of Lani in her twenties like versus a day in your life right now, especially when it comes to your writing?

L: In my 20s I wasn’t consciously aware that I wanted to be a writer, although when I graduated high school I wrote a list of GOALS that included, “Write the great American novel.” Then I promptly forgot about it. I took a playwriting class in college, but it terrified me because I tried to hide my non-fiction life through fiction and my professor gently asked, “Is this real?”

A day in the life of Lani in her 20s is incredibly different than my life now. I was working more and not focused on the craft per se. I remember in college telling my friends, “I have a lot of ideas for movies,” and scratching my head over it. Looking back, I realize how much my mind was constantly churning out picture stories and letting me know that I had a good mind to write.

These days, I write every day and with more direction. I live overseas which allows me make a comfortable living working part-time as an English teacher – and best of all I have more time to write. This was a deliberate move that I made over 5 years ago, but I didn’t start working on my first book until I was in my early 30s. My 20s ended disastrously so for the next decade I clawed my way around trying to understand what I needed to do and soon enough re-discovered writing with intensity.

C: How did you get your start in writing?

L: I started writing when I was 13. We had recently moved from Hawaii to the middle of the Mojave Desert and for the first time in my young life I couldn’t go outside and truly play and I didn’t have any friends. I was one of a few Asians in town, too. This was when I started to become obsessed with reading and started a diary.

Eventually, I had the thought that I think a lot of us have and that was, “Hey, I can write this. I can write better.” So, 13 year old Lani found a typewriter (it magically appeared in the kitchen one day) and started a couple of stories. I was trying to emulate a Sweet Valley High or Nancy Drew series, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was writing for fun, but I got stuck. It was then that I decided fiction was too hard. Hahaha.

C: What is your relationship with writing?

L: Writing is my best friend. It’s been my constant companion. We have a good relationship. Writing always waits for me and is incredibly patient. I feel fortunate that I have a creative outlet that helps me to feel centered and free.

C: Has your writing saved you in any way?

L: I can’t imagine my life without writing. Every morning I get up, make coffee and write in my journal. In its highest state, writing keeps me focused and in its lowest it’s an overindulgence of emotions. It’s saved me many times, too many times, just like the right book at the right time.

C: How did you decide on getting your book published?

L: Getting my book published was a long journey. Years ago, I queried agents, but never got anywhere. I had done a lot of research and worked hard on trying to understand what I needed to do. The book underwent so many different transformations, too. Ultimately, I was discouraged and let the manuscript rest for long periods of time. I wasn’t sure what to do anymore.

Then I decided to start a blog under the book title and post it chapter by chapter. I wanted to know if I would get any feedback and was it really that uninteresting? Basically it was my way of putting it out there. Surprisingly, I received private emails from folks confessing their own similar story or experience. I’ve put almost zilch PR work into it, but it gets found because I wrote about a topic that doesn’t get much air time.

I also read some sample chapters at writer’s groups. I received thoughtful feedback there and had started another blog where I still write regularly and this got me in touch with a wider audience who gave me encouraging feedback on my writing in general.

So, this is all related. I kept writing even though I hadn’t published my book. Finally, I got brave enough to ask for the help I needed. First, I sent out a “hey will you read my book” email to my friends. Three of them got back to me with copious notes and questions and I took all of their comments into consideration, which as you can imagine was a lot of work. Next, I had my Oxford-comma-obsessed friend do a brutal final comb through of all of my grammar mistakes.

I also decided to do an audio book. This allowed me to read it again and catch mistakes or make changes. It was also a major pain, but I love audiobooks and I’d do it all over again. I learned a lot and now I know what I need to do the next time around.

By this time, I was pretty much set on self-publishing. I had done more research and felt this was going to be the better way to go. Memoir, from a nobody like me, isn’t something agents are clamoring for and that’s okay. Indie publishing is a viable option, no waiting for someone else’s permission to follow your heart – and after ALL that work, I did it and now I’m working on my second one.

C: Do you have any advice for new bloggers, especially ones who aren’t sure about where to go with their writing?

L: Blogging is such a great way to experiment. I’ve joined WP blogging challenges, poetry classes and MOOC writing classes and posted assignments on my blog.

Blogging can also be a good way to discipline yourself into writing and sharing on a regular basis. And just as important, blogging allows you to build a community, find like-minded friends and put yourself out there, so go for it.

Be as structured or free as you want, it’s yours, but do it. Why not? You might find out something you like better or gain a clearer sense of how you want to write. Good luck, stop by the blog and introduce yourself and thank you, Camille!

Thank you, Lani!

I am very grateful that I got to know Lani better, and was able to wrangle some great advice at the same time. If you’re reading this and have yet to follow her work, check out Life, the Universe, and Lani!

Imposter Syndrome, Part One

I often feel like a fake adult. Before, I would work with children for a few days a week, and then work with adults either my own age or older. I felt a disconnect between the two – obviously communication style had to change – but I had also become incredibly aware of how small I felt in comparison with the other adults. It’s still weird to call myself an adult. But it’s weird to call myself a youth, because I’m not. And it’s also strange to call myself a young adult, because that reminds me of John Green books and teens (neither of which are terrible, by the way).

This is probably a problem that is common amongst other 20-somethings. We’re in a never-ending transitional period between graduating from school and looking for work or getting settled into a life we can be comfortable and happy with. That’s really difficult to do. I have no idea when I’ll reach that stage, and while I know that this is ultimately fine… I don’t feel fine with that right now. (I probably will be tomorrow, but you know how life is: you panic, then gain perspective, and then lose that perspective, panic again, and repeat.)

I don’t feel 100% fine with the fact that I don’t know what my life will be like when September hits, because that’s when my job contract ends. I’m not okay with the fact that I have a lot of free time and still have to form the habit of being productive in the way I want to be. I’m a little annoyed that I’m still scared of trying new things and asking for what I want.

I also don’t like that there are times when I don’t feel like I’m good enough. “I’m not worthy of being with other adults at this workplace, I’m not interesting enough to be in conversation with this person,” etc. If I were to step back and observe myself, I’d be annoyed by how often I feel this way. And I’d wonder just how long I plan to keep up this habit.

But I am trying to break that habit, and replace it with the habit of being kind and gentle towards myself. “Yes, I am good enough. I am more than enough. I am an amazing person and have accomplished so much. I do deserve success, whatever that may be for me.” It’s definitely a process, but one that’ll be good for me.

I have more thoughts on feeling like an imposter, which is really interesting considering how far I’ve come on my path towards fulfillment and being myself. I guess it’s my ego talking again – which is why I found it important enough to write two more posts about the imposter syndrome. Until next time!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3