Lion Heart

Around this time last year, I started to become more out-going, more extroverted. I’ve chalked it up to working with kids and having to yell and be enthusiastic all the time, but when I re-examine 2015, I just happened to have become exhausted with being silent. I grew weary of waiting for my turn to speak. I knew that I had so much to share with others, and I wanted to be around others more. I grew to love the constant stimulation of different voices, opinions, ideas, and stories. And I came to expect and crave that interaction.

I took the Myers-Briggs personality test several months ago, and got INFP, same as usual. But deep down, I wasn’t 100% okay with that. I felt a strong need to continue asserting myself, to connect with others more.

When I re-took the test a couple of months after that, I got ENFP. Huh. I thought I was quiet, introverted, private. Wasn’t I shy growing up? Didn’t I redirect the spotlight whenever it hovered close to me? I was confused and refused to accept that result (even though I am fully aware and appreciative of how a test cannot define me, that I am more than four letters).

But then, I realized that I shouldn’t let my past define me. Just because I was a certain way before doesn’t mean that who I am was set in stone in that period of time. The people around me accepted this fact so easily that it made me realize that I was clinging onto something that may have been true then but is not now.

Around the same time, I also became more of a Gryffindor. Growing up, I knew that I wouldn’t completely identify with that House, even though I desperately wanted to be bold and brave. I suppose the extraversion and the Gryffindor-like tendency to stand up for what I believe in came into play last year. What’s cool is that my friends have been telling me that it makes sense for me to have Gryffindor as a secondary House, because I do stand up for what I believe in, and I have a strong moral compass that I like to think always points north.

Thinking about these two developments has made me wonder if I’m finally developing that idealistic lion heart that I’ve seen in my favourite characters, especially women. Hermione, Anne, Leslie… they’re so fearless in what they want and what they believe in. They keep pushing forward despite all the obstacles and failures, and I admire that so much. I hope I’m reaching that point. I hope that people compare me to these characters, with the newest addition from Hamilton: An American Musical.

Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton, or Eliza as she’s called in the musical, is such a lion heart. I strive to be more like her. She’s fierce in her convictions, she doesn’t take bullshit, and she always asserts herself in every situation that life puts her in. And yet, she remains soft. In the way she sings and speaks, in the way she interacts with her husband, sisters, and everyone else around her. And her line, “look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now” is aligned with my personal philosophy of gratitude and awe.

I love being able to surround myself with inspirational, strong, fierce women, both fictional and real. I love exploring these parts of my identity, especially since I admire these traits in others. Perhaps I could use some falling in love with these parts of myself.

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Shipping

We’ve all done it, whether it’s with people we know in real life or with fictional characters. We notice how they act around each other, or how they would act around each other, and we come up with this perfect idea: they should get together. They should go on a date. They should get married. They should have sex. They should love each other, dammit. Such is the train of thought of a shipper.

I suppose the first time I shipped characters together would be Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. I was 8 years old. A year later, I was shipping Ron and Hermione. Things pretty much escalated from there – or went downhill, depending on how you view shipping.

I’ve been on both sides; I’ve had conflicting emotions regarding shipping. Yes, it makes a growing series more exciting and creates really thoughtful and engaging discussion about literature and media – if not correctly. If not, then what we have are shipping wars. People can take their ships too far and will only immerse themselves in a story for the prospect of two (or more) characters falling for each other or doing the do. Which doesn’t really make a well-rounded, engaged fan. Ships can make or break a story, depending on what happens to the characters and how you handle whatever happens. More often than not, I’ve been on I guess the winning side.

But what if a ship does ruin a series for you? What if a toxic relationship comes to fruition and makes you worry about the people influenced by the story? What if a character dies in your ship and the other spends the rest of their lives in regret and loneliness? Or worse – what if the other character doesn’t care?

And what does this mean for you? How do you cope with this? How much time do you spend mulling over everything, thinking about any foretelling signs, dealing with your feelings? I’ve been there, and it absolutely sucks. (The ships were from Naruto and HIMYM, if you’re wondering.) It changes your view of the series and its creators. Sure, you still appreciate everything that you’ve learned and felt from the story, but there’s that bitter aftertaste that you just can’t ignore. Perhaps it’ll just be an aftertaste, and will eventually just become part of the experience instead of The One Thing That Ruined Your Favourite.

And hopefully, it will come to pass, you’ll find other things and people in life that give you hope and inspiration and meaning, and you’ll move on. I have.

Liebster Award – TMU

The lovely Michelle nominated Thoughtful Minds United for the Liebster Award, which recognizes new bloggers. We are very grateful for the nomination and some of us contributors have decided to answer the questions that Michelle had set out for us (as per the rules).

liebster2
1. What is your favourite colour? Why?
Purple – it gives the impression of royalty and significance. It’s in between calming and trustworthy blue, and passionate and loud red – and I think that my personality is in the middle (veering towards the blue side). Also, it looks good with my colouring.

2. If you are given the chance to be someone else, who will it be and why?
There are two options here: a well-known politician so I can find out how they come to such big (and often insane, hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing) decisions, or an unsung, unknown hero living on the outskirts of society. It would be so interesting to get inside Kim Jon Un’s head and actually experience North Korea, but so rewarding to see through the eyes of a Good Samaritan living in poverty.

3. Where is your preferred tourist destination here on earth?
I’ve always always always wanted to visit France. The last two movies I watched, Midnight in Paris and Amélie, renewed that desire. One day!

4. Do you believe in fairy tales and happily ever after? Why?
I believe in the power and magic of fairy tales, and how they can inspire wonder and creativity in people. As for happily ever after, well… it’s not so much a belief as it is a hope for everyone to experience. We all deserve happiness.

5. Past, Present or Future?
Present. As somebody who practices yoga and attempts to meditate, it is so hard to stay in the present moment, which is why I value it so much. And it’s the one moment that matters the most.

6. Who will you choose, the one you love or the one who loves you?
I’m going to assume that I have to pick between two suitors here. The funny thing is that I read that if somebody likes you, it is highly likely you will in turn like that person. Based on that alone, we’re at an impasse haha.

Unless “the one you love” doesn’t love you back, and you don’t love “the one who loves you?” Yikes. I’d rather face unrequited love than break another person’s heart.

7. What or who inspired you to do blogging?
I finally decided to make my writing more public. Before, I would write in my journal and leave it at that. But then I wanted to do more because I love writing so much, and blogging became a natural fit.

8. If you can relate your life to a book, what will it be? Why?
I don’t think there’s a single book out there that would be close to what my life is like right now (mostly because books are so exciting and there’s a clear plot or destination). All I can think of is The Devil Wears Prada. Not for the fashion, but for the shitty yet valuable job post-graduation.

9. What is your favourite food?
This is hard. I know I’d be sick of any food that I would eat every day for the rest of my life. And I love food: Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Canadian, American, etc. And I love all of the food groups. I do have a sweet tooth, though, and love chocolate, pie, cake, cookies, waffles, etc. So I guess I don’t have one?

10. Love or Money? Why?
Love. I’ve answered this in my 15 Questions Tag post, so I’ll just quote Dumbledore again:

There is a room in the Department of Mysteries that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there. It is the power held within that room that you [Harry Potter] possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all.

11. Friends or more than friends?
I think I have a solid group of friends, and that’s always growing. So I’ll pick more than friends because I have yet to experience something like that and I bet it would be awesome.

Here are the rules a nominated blogger needs to do in order to accept the Liebster Award:

  1. Link the person who nominated you to your blog post and let them know you answered their questions.
  2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by the nominator.
  3. Nominate other bloggers for the award.
  4. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
  5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.

I will nominate:

Amanda @ Reading Over People’s Shoulders
Rebecca @ Humyn
Anna @ Millennial Creativity
Ana @ QuarterVida
Amy @ Ramblings of an EB Grad

And your questions are:
1. If you could give advice to a crowd of people, what would it be?
2. Why do you write?
3. Night or day?
4. What’s your favourite joke?
5. How do you want to create a positive impact?
6. Is there a movie that means a lot to you and has shaped your life in any way?
7. What is your favourite childhood memory?
8. What is/was your favourite subject in school?
9. Summer or winter?
10. What was the happiest day of your life?
11.  Is there somebody you want to thank for anything right now?

My Favourite Stories: Harry Potter

Image from fudgeflies, tumblr

Image from fudgeflies, tumblr

It took me a while to figure out how to even begin this. But then I could hear a Captain Obvious-like voice inside my head saying, “at the beginning.”

I’ve mentioned the story of how I got into the Harry Potter series in the post called My Leading Ladies. Since grade four, I’ve always looked forward to a new book or a new movie. It was like that until the summer before my third year of university when Deathly Hallows Part II was released.

You never truly realize just how much something or someone has impacted your life until it’s close to the end and you know that they will leave you. It’s common for people my age (20s) to admit that the Harry Potter series has helped to shape their lives for the better. There are even studies on how the series makes us better people: specifically, it makes us more empathetic and aware of sociopolitical issues, which makes increases our likelihood of civic engagement. There’s even a book called Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation. There are countless ways I could talk about Harry Potter, but I’ll take a page out of JK Rowling’s book(s) and keep it to seven.

1. Imagination

Harry Potter was my gateway into fantasy. Yes, I’d watched Disney movies and watched anime beforehand, but actually reading about another world was, well, magical. It was so cool to imagine hidden neighbourhoods, sending letters via owls, waving wands to transform pretty much anything, and living in a friggin’ castle. I was enthralled. Not to the point where I cried over not getting a letter at age 11, but enough to always hold onto the belief that you can find magic anywhere.

2. Empathy

Imagination and empathy actually go together. In order to be an empathetic person, you need to have to identify with them, or put yourselves in their place in order to understand what they’re feeling. Harry Potter has allowed me to gain more empathy for others. Dobby’s plight as an enslaved House Elf (and how others react, reject, or accept it) reflects slavery in real life; Sirius Black being sent to prison without a trial is a reality in many parts of the world; Harry being forced to stay in the closet because of who he is can represent the struggles of the LGBT* community. JK Rowling had actually worked for Amnesty International, and much of what she had witnessed at this job was revealed throughout the series.

Learning about atrocities and human awfulness can really affect your worldview. Thankfully, I’ve learned that there is so much goodness and love in the world that it can drive out evil and hatred. And we don’t need to look further than the mirror to realize how we can bring about such goodness.

“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
– From JK Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard University, 2008

3. Storytelling

Being able to tell a story really well is a gift. I learned from reading the Harry Potter series that you don’t need pretentious language and complex imagery in order to move people with your words. Harry Potter isn’t an impossible read; in fact, I think it’s pretty accessible. However, it’s not that simple or elementary. I gained a larger vocabulary, an understanding of plot devices – the amount of hints and foreshadowing was riddikulus, and a deeper appreciation of just how much effort authors put into their writing. And I actually enjoyed learning about all of that.

The books have inspired me to share my own story and become a better writer. I’m not quite up to the Rowling standard, but I’m always learning and practising my craft. And it’s become a part of who I am.

4. Personal Growth

Since I started reading the books at age 9, I had to patiently wait for the new ones to come out. Along the way, I was growing up and learning how to be a decent human being despite all of the pressures that come before, during, and after puberty. Once you hit double digits, it’s like a switch goes off and caring about things is no longer cool. Apathy is cool. Not giving a shit reigns supreme.

I thought that I was weird or different for caring about my grades, about what my peers and parents and teachers thought, about what was happening in the world. I thought that reality TV and celebrity gossip was the norm for conversation topics. I thought that having a boyfriend and going to parties were what you had to do to be not just popular, but relevant. But, as I kept reading about Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s journey through adolescence and becoming heroes of the wizarding world, I thought to myself, “Now that’s cool. That’s what I want to be.” And I began to align myself with these characters, and realize that I wasn’t weird for wanting to do good.

5. Identity

Like I’d said before, I really identified with Hermione (big hair, big teeth, big bookworm). I thought that she was The Girl I could look up to and eventually become. And I thought that I was well on my way to becoming Hermione: I learned more about human rights, I loved being in the library, I loved being right and getting good grades, and I became the person in high school asking people to sign petitions. The problem, though, was that I was not and am not Hermione. I didn’t really have a rude awakening or anything like that, but I gained a subtle confidence in who I really was. I have to say that a lot of this confidence came from within, and I had to fight hard for it. I had to really reflect on what made me me. However, I would not have this confidence without the love and support of family, friends, teachers, and peers.

6. Community

I am not exaggerating when I say this: Harry Potter fans are among the nicest people on the planet. I’m sirius; every single person I’ve met who even remotely likes the books – or even just the movies – has turned out to be a kind, funny, and awesome person. I’ve made really good, lifelong friends; friends who reference the books and movies, who can manage to slip in a quote at the most opportune and inappropriate time, who just get it.

7. Fan Activism

A few years ago, I learned about an organization called The Harry Potter Alliance. I was blown away that an actual non-profit is using a story that I love so much and using it as a way to make the world a better place. It’s a real life Dumbledore’s Army! It was like I finally found my tribe: honest to goodness nerds who want to make a difference and have fun doing it. I’ve been with them ever since.

If you’re currently scoffing at fan activism and require a scholarly approach, here’s a great read by Henry Jenkins about cultural acupuncture. If you’re still scoffing, might I suggest that you Disapparate out of here?

My Favourite Stories: Project Introduction

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. As you can probably tell from my posts, I’ve mentioned several fictional stories that have inspired and shaped me to become a better person. With this project, I’m going to take each story and write a post (or two or seven) on my relationship with that story and why it’s one of my favourites.

Here’s a list of what I’m going to write about:

  • Harry Potter
  • Parks and Recreation (I kind of already did this, but there’s so much to add that it won’t be like a double post.)
  • Naruto
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • The Legend of Korra
  • The Hunger Games
  • The Lord of the Rings

I’m going to start with Harry Potter – be on the lookout for that post within the next couple of weeks!

Note: You can also hold me accountable and send me reminders about this project, since, well, I need the push. 🙂

My Leading Ladies

I’ve been highly influenced by important women in my life. Today, on International Women’s Day, I want to highlight the fictional ones. These ladies have helped me come to love and accept myself, and to strive for success and improvement.

1. Matilda Wormwood

From Roald Dahl’s beloved book, Matilda was one of my first childhood heroes, simply because she loved books. I had thought that my love for reading set me apart from my classmates in a bad way, but Matilda showed me how you can be yourself and take charge of your life to make it better.

2. Hermione Granger

I saw a lot of myself in Hermione from the Harry Potter series. When I was 9 years old, my grade four teacher read to us Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (still not sure why she didn’t choose the first book), and I was instantly hooked. Yes, the story was engaging and magical and all kinds of amazing, but what stood out to me was Hermione’s book smarts, her bushy hair, her large teeth, and her confidence in being the top of her class. I had the first three characteristics, and I struggled with the fourth. I secretly wanted to be more like Hermione, to save the boys, save world, and occasionally give people a literal/verbal/intellectual smackdown.

3. Anne Shirley

I discovered Anne before Hermione and after Matilda. You can sense a recurring theme here of heroines who love to read books and aren’t afraid of being smart. With Anne, though, she went through a lot of charming mishaps and her mouth got her into trouble – which I loved. She wasn’t perfect, but that wouldn’t stop her from exclaiming about her emotions or sharing the importance of creativity. And it certainly didn’t stop her from working hard to get to the top of her class (although her rivalry with Gilbert Blythe might have helped).

4. Mulan Fa

The one Disney princess/heroine (I know she’s not technically a princess but she deserves to be one) I really identified with. Belle from Beauty and the Beast might have loved books and shown great compassion, but Mulan showed so much bravery that I can’t help but want to be more like her. Well, maybe I won’t use a sword to cut off my hair, join the army, be able to climb a pole, or defeat an evil villain. But Mulan does motivate me to fight for my values and remember what is most important in life.

5. Katniss Everdeen

We’re definitely straying from bookworms here. There’s not much Katniss and I share with each other, but The Hunger Games heroine has motivated me to be more resourceful and brave. And yes, I did start to like braids and archery more, and wondered about taking wilderness survival classes. But the one thing that I admire most about Katniss is how her love for the people in her life fuels her sense of justice and her contribution to the fight for equality. That is definitely something that I want to remember as I make my way through this life.

6. Korra

It took me a while to warm up to her, probably from the not-so-smooth transitions between seasons. Ultimately, though, I came to love how a woman of colour with noticeable muscles could be so compassionate and just, flawed and fiery, and accomplish so much for the good of the world. Korra just feels so real, and she represented a group of people we don’t really get to see on television. A lot of the show’s audience appreciated and identified with that. I know I did, and I especially found solace in her quest to find balance within herself.

7. Leslie Knope

As you can tell from my previous post, I definitely want to be more like Leslie Knope. She’s incredibly passionate and hard-working, and this extends beyond her career into her personal life (or vice versa, depending on what you think defines her more). The lessons I learned from her really confirmed what I had gathered from the previous ladies: it’s okay to be smart. It’s okay to be passionate. It’s okay to care. It’s more than okay to be yourself; in fact, it’s necessary. I learned that you really need to follow your dreams and work your butt off to make them happen. And if you fail, you get up and keep going. Because who knows what else life has in store for you.

There are the big 7 for me. Which female characters have inspired or influenced you?

The 15 Questions Tag

I was looking at Heena Rathore P.’s blog and came across her 15 Questions Tag post. It looked like a lot of fun, and she did tag anybody who wanted to do it, so now it’s my turn.

1. What do you think you can do, but can’t?

Sing really, really well. Like, being able to belt and having a nice chest voice without gasping for air. I’ve been delusional in thinking I would sound exactly like Judy Garland or Lady Gaga whenever I sing along with them.

2. What’s a difficult word for you to pronounce?

Before, it was Massachusetts (I would somehow end up saying “Mass-a-two-shits.”) Now, there’s no particular word in English that’s really hard for me to pronounce, but saying “femme” en français has been a struggle. And pretty much verb tenses in Tagalog.

3. What are your favourite TV shows from your childhood?

Arthur, Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood, Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, Pokemon, Digimon, The Weekenders, Recess, The Simpsons, Full House, and probably a few more.

4. What are your virtues and vices?

I care a lot. I care about the work that I do. I care about what other people think of my work and of me. And this leads to me trying to be as nice, pleasant, charming, and agreeable as possible. I think I’m a pretty empathetic person because of this (as well as my imagination).

It also leads to a whole lot of stress and worrying. With my current job, I’ve used up so much time just sitting down and worrying about my lack of preparation or ideas, and it’s been so consuming. It is definitely not good for my mental health, although I don’t think I have an anxiety disorder. I’ve been able to pull myself out of that funk by just doing the work and realizing that I’ve survived.

5. What’s more important: love, fame, power, or money?

I’ll let Dumbledore handle this one:

There is a room in the Department of Mysteries that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there. It is the power held within that room that you [Harry Potter] possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all.

6. If you could live in any era/time period, when would it be and why?

I love the 1940s music and fashion, and I would love to see men dressed to the nines more often… But as a non-white female, I’d feel safe right where I am in 21st century western society, thank you.

7. If you had to redo your entire wardrobe with 2 stores, what would they be and why?

ModCloth and H&M. I’m such a sucker for ModCloth’s dresses (although I don’t own any – yet) and H&M has a lot of comfortable and “young” clothing, so I’d feel at home with those two.

8. Can you recall what you were doing a year ago on this day?

Yes, actually! I have this neat journal that lets you log your day over the course of 5 years. You can actually see what you were up to on February 24th. This is what it says:

Had my resume looked over at York for my Odyssey application. Watched Parks and Recreation. Did some MYM work.

So, I went to my alma mater’s career centre for help with a job application, did some work for an organization that I volunteered for at the time, and used my time very wisely to watch one of my favourite TV shows.

9. Do you have reoccurring dreams? If so, explain?

Not really. My dreams sometimes feature reoccurring places. Sometimes, I’m in this huge mega mall that has grand yet industrial-looking escalators, hidden hallways and passages, and a lot of cool stores. Usually, I’m looking for something or running away from something in that mall. One time it was zombies, so that’s cool.

10. What’s your horoscope?

Capricorn!

My Chinese Zodiac sign is Horse.

11. What does your dream bedroom look like?

It would be like the bedroom I currently have, but improved. So, that means a bigger space, a bigger bed (at least a double), nicer and matching furniture, a walk-in closet, more bookshelves, a reading nook under the window, and an attached bathroom. Hopefully that bedroom is in my own place.

12. What position do you sleep in?

Lately, I’d curl into a fetal position on my right side because it’s so damn cold. Usually, I switch from either side onto my back.

13. What are your all time favourite films?

I’m going to (try to) break this up into genres.

RomComs: When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Crazy, Stupid Love

Sci-Fi/Fantasy: The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games series

Dramas: To Kill a Mockingbird

Action: Kill Bill

Musicals: Rent, Chicago, Les Misérables, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King

Movies that fit into multiple genres/I didn’t know where to put them: The Princess Bride, Easy A, Mean Girls, Flipped

… I’ll have to stop there for now, because I’m afraid I’ll spend too much time curating this list and won’t get to the rest of this post.

14. What makeup are you currently wearing?

None haha. When I do wear makeup, though, I put on primer from THEFACESHOP, powder foundation from Zuii Organiz, touch up my eyebrows with an eyeliner from Avon, and put on Revlon Lip Butter. And if I’m wearing contacts, I’ll wear Maybelline mascara.

15. Do you have neat handwriting? Show us!

camillevt's handwriting

I’m going to tag anybody who reads this and wants to do it! It’s a fun way to write and to let your audience know more about you, so I highly encourage it!

The Management of Grief

HP_OotP_excerpt

The above is an excerpt from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, had just died. Quite understandably, Harry goes into an emotional spiral and through the stages of grief.

I didn’t truly know what that kind of grief felt like until last year when my grandfather died. It was July 31st, which is ironically Harry Potter’s birthday. I, too, went through the stages of grief like Harry did and like everybody else has done. I was in shock – I actually went into shock (I remember shivering under a blanket and struggling to breathe), I was in denial, I was confused, I was angry, I tried to bargain, and I sobbed and howled in despair. I remember thinking about the above scene when I went through this, as well as another scene where Harry isolated himself from everyone and wished that the world would lose its colour so that everyone and everything would match what was going on inside him. He wanted to project his inner turmoil onto the world so that others would understand.

I felt the same way.

The sun was too bright, food was unnecessary, and nothing else mattered.

There were only two things that helped me get out of that: time, and people. The death of a loved one is the number one stressful, emotional, and life-altering event that we experience. But life goes on for us. At the same time, it’s unfair and helpful. You need to force yourself back into the daily routine. It gets you out of your head and interacting with others. Talking to other people is a normal part of life, and although it’s painful for you to share with others this death, it certainly helps, too. People empathize, they show compassion, they give you space, and they just get it. This kind of things affects everyone, and so there is no judgment or condescension. Why would there be? We all suffer, and we don’t want to make it worse for anyone.

It took me somewhere between a week and, well, now, to accept my grandfather’s death and be at peace knowing that he is at peace. I’ve still cried about it every now and then, but it’s become a part of me like confessing to my fifth-grade crush. Both have caused emotional scarring, but now they are not at the centre of my life. They have shaped me, but they do not define me.

Everybody has scars. We can hide them, present them, heal them, and accept them. Probably all four at some point, too. I just hope that we don’t become too busy, tending to our own scars, that we ignore everybody else’s.

Be Careful, But Not Too Careful

“Be careful what you wish for, for you may just get it.”

How often do we hear that saying, and think nothing of what it means? Today, I think I realized how significant it is to want something and then actually get it. And it’s not always what you expect.

I remember reading in Eat, Pray, Love, that Richard from Texas had kept praying for an open heart, and, lo and behold, he had to undergo open heart surgery. It’s a funny story to tell, and definitely one that makes us think about what we want. I think this is an example of how humans foolishly believe that we really, truly know what we want, when we don’t. We’re just stumbling along whatever path we’re on, hoping for a change that will make us better, happier people. But the truth is that we have to stumble along in order to figure out for ourselves what we can do to be better and happier. Or just good and happy, which is perfectly fine.

This whole “figuring things out for ourselves” idea isn’t exactly helpful. You can say that it’s simply going about life. You can say that it’s learning how to play the game so that you come out a winner. Whatever the case, I think it’s important to acknowledge that you do not have the answers right now, and it may take a long time before you do. It’s important to know that what you want may not be the best option for you. Albus Dumbledore even said that “humans do have a knack for choosing precisely those things which are worst for them.”

So, what am I trying to say here: be careful? Well, yes and no. Be careful with what you think is best and worst for you. Be careful not to close yourself off to adventure and love. Be careful with how you treat others. Don’t linger too long on the big questions. Don’t dangle off the precipice of complacency; fall into the unknown. Don’t spend your time on people who prevent you from being yourself.

It takes a special form of balance in order to live a life that is thoughtful but not cautious, daring but not reckless. I think that kind of balance is what we should all wish for.

Brave

I never really saw myself as a courageous person. I’ve always considered myself as shy, quiet, smart, hesitant, lazy, etc. But I always wanted to be that brave person, the one who would dive headfirst into the murky depths of mystery and emerge confident and inspired. I would always (and still do) dream up these scenarios where I would be doing something attention-grabbing and cool and fun and people would see me in a good light – well, a better light than I would see myself. Always a Hufflepuff, dreaming of becoming a Gryffindor.

But let’s change that! Hufflepuffs are brave, too! Their whole house stayed to fight during the Battle of Hogwarts, and not because it was the cool thing to do. It was the right thing to do. (J.K. Rowling said it herself.) And doing the right thing can be one of the most courageous things that you can do.

So I’m going to do something that I’ve never tried before. I’m going to rewrite my story. I’m going to rewrite it in such a way that I am portrayed as a brave young woman.

Here are bits and pieces that I’m going to reword and re-evaluate so that I see myself in a more positive light:

1. I quit my cushy job after 6 months simply because I didn’t want to do it anymore: This is actually something a Gryffindor would do, now that I think about it. I didn’t want to stay seated in front of a computer and be on the phone all day, and I certainly didn’t want to not do anything about helping others who desperately need it. I wanted to find and follow my passion, and I knew that working at that job would not help me with that at all. So, in leaving something that was comfortable in pursuit of something that was quite the opposite, I showed guts.

2. I took that job in the first place: I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Even applying to the job seemed intimidating, and I was not used to the big, cubicle-filled office space that I had first encountered at my interview. And when I met the other hires during training – I felt like an incompetent idiot. I consider myself brave for sticking through all of this, for learning about the legal system, for learning how to actually do my job, and for dealing with the difficult clients. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I had no idea how much I could more than handle it.

3. I changed my major from international studies to sociology nearly 4 months into my first year of undergrad: This was another change I made in order to pursue something that I loved. Well, not really “loved.” I knew I would be happier with sociology than with international studies. I had always felt lost and upset after every international studies class that I had. The concepts seemed so distant from me that I had no personal connection with the material, the professor was really intimidating, and I had to read all of these texts by mostly old, white men. (The texts by old, white men thing is unfortunately hard to avoid, as I found out later on.) And so I shifted gears and I did it early on, which I am proud of.

4. I told my first crush how I felt: Which, unfortunately, set the tone for the rest of my life up until now, and not in the way you would expect it to. So, it was the end of grade five, and I would be moving to another elementary school across town. I knew that this would be my only chance to tell the guy how felt. I foolishly and romantically thought that he would feel the same way, and we would start a prepubescent long-distance relationship… or something like that. I was 11. Anyway, it was a Sunday morning when I messaged him on MSN with those three dreaded words: “I like you.” And was immediately rejected. Obviously, I was crushed. I was embarrassed. I lied about everything the next day at school. And after that, whenever I felt so much as an inkling of infatuation or curiosity for another guy, I would squash it. I would deny that I felt that way, or I would not tell anyone or lie that I didn’t have a crush, or I would retreat to my thoughts and my journal and tragically pine for the poor dude. This continued throughout high school and university. I honestly hope that I’ll be brave enough to say those three words again, but until then, I’ll remember that one act of fearlessness that I had at 11. (Even if it was behind a computer screen.)

5. I shared this blog with my friends and am starting to post more frequently: I always wrote for myself. It was a therapeutic tool that I used to make sense of whatever I was feeling at the time, and a way to keep my thoughts and secrets to myself without feeling the need to burst with emotion. But recently, I wanted to do more with my writing, and see where it takes me. Yes, I do have dreams of getting published and having a big(ger) audience, but these kinds of dreams require me to work harder and be consistent. Also, writing (and any kind of art) is such an intimate and revealing way to connect with others. It’s this kind of vulnerability that I would hold at arm’s length (and would make me wish my arms were longer) and ignore. But now? Now, I’m diving headfirst. I’m sharing my thoughts with you, and I hope that you get something out of it. And I know that I’m brave for doing so.