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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Half-Assed Kindness

I’m not one to half-ass kindness. I either love fiercely, or let it drop. I don’t like to keep my feelings hidden, although that’s what I do on the daily. It’s hard when you’re scared or hesitant to let people know how you truly feel.

But when I do, it’s mostly in my actions: I share food. I ask people how they’re doing, and listen. I try to be fully present for them, to be a listening ear or a sounding board. A shoulder to cry on when necessary. And I think the world of them. Yes, we all have our flaws and we’re imperfect – but I love my people anyway.

I think that the one thing that sums up how I show my love for people is time. I give my time, I share my time, I divide my time between those I care about. Simple enough, right?

But lately, it’s been difficult to care. I like to be authentic as possible, so it’s hard when people I know are not being authentic. They’re being kind on the surface, but I know that they’re not genuine in their actions or words. It’s disheartening to know that they’re half-assing their kindness. It’s not real, what they’re doing. And it’s a shame, especially for somebody like me who loves whole-heartedly and whole-assedly (yes that’s a word).

It’s a shame because I mostly am afraid of showing people how I truly feel, and so not being kind at all scares me – what will they think? I already know that they don’t really think the world of me, and I should be okay with that. But deep down, I know I’m not. I’m so used to pleasing everybody and having them like me, so whenever things like this happen, it’s off-putting to say the least. And so I half-ass my kindness. I selectively care when I have the energy to do so. I lie and pretend. It’s exhausting.

So where does this leave me? Do I choose to spread as much kindness as possible, knowing that in some cases it won’t benefit anybody? Or do I let these cases and these people go, with as much compassion and patience as possible? I already know the answer, but it’ll be hard to put it into action. Even though giving something your all is exhilarating. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

Let’s whole-ass this thing.

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?

Parks and Recreation

This has become my most favourite television show of all time, and I literally just realized that right now. This show crept up on me. My friends at the Harry Potter Alliance had kept talking about it, and I trust that they have excellent taste, so I watched the first episode on Valentine’s Day last year. I didn’t realize it then, but that marked the beginning of my journey to self-acceptance and self-improvement. That February 14th was actually pretty sad for me: I was unemployed, single, and lost. I believe that this show was the start of a better year and a better me.

It just hit me so hard that this show might have possibly saved me from a life without purpose or happiness. The past year and 10 days have seen so much change in me that it cannot be a coincidence. I’ve kind of stopped believing in coincidences.

A lot has happened in 375 days: I got a job, but ended up feeling drained and complacent and unhappy. I volunteered with amazing organizations and felt a higher purpose. I started to write, really write, again. I quit my job and started working toward not exactly a career, but a lifestyle that I would love. I read books that gently encouraged me to keep going. I started doing yoga and have become healthier. Quite a few of my favourite series ended, and left me to pick up on my own story.

I don’t want to recycle my earlier posts about 2014 and my New Years resolution, but I do want to emphasize just how much growth is possible within us if we simply let it happen. It’s something that I’ve learned from Parks and Rec, among many others.

I learned that being kind and hardworking are the building blocks of a successful career and life. I learned that surrounding yourself with people who love and support you create the best relationships. I learned that life is unexpected and often unwelcome. But it will turn around and surprise you again with its warmth and happiness.

This show has made me want to be kinder, more hardworking, more loving and supportive, and warmer and happier. There have been so many reviews of Parks and Rec praising its focus on characters who love each other. Comedies often pit people against each other, and being mean and hateful are used to get laughs. Not with Parks and Rec: being nice and doing things for others are used to get laughs, and it succeeds.

Now, the high emotion from the series finale has finally dropped down, so I will end my ode here. I’ll probably come back to Parks and Rec in this blog to post about other good things like healthy relationships and perfectionism and waffles, so it’s not really goodbye. It hardly ever is.

parks-and-recreation-cast

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!

Be the Leslie Knope you want to see in the world.

be the leslie knope

When I was working at my last job in legal aid, I had wanted to print out the above picture and place it at my desk. I had the intention of working really hard to be the best representative I could be, and work so hard that I would change things. Just like Leslie.

Well, that didn’t happen. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to decorate my cubicle with personal things. There were no reminders to be awesome or faces of characters who inspire me or photographs of loved ones. I didn’t even bring my custom-made mug with pictures of my dog. Maybe it’s because I knew deep down inside that this wasn’t the job for me and I would be leaving soon. Maybe it’s because I actually didn’t want to try that hard to make a positive difference. I think it was both, and they were connected.

Leslie Knope tries so damn hard and puts so much effort into her work (she gets like 3 and a half hours of sleep every night!) because she cares a lot about what she does. She loves her hometown of Pawnee, and will do whatever it takes to make it a better place. And she is also completely herself. Her decisions come from a place of integrity and sense of justice, and she’s willing to sacrifice herself in order to do good for the community (like with the recall vote in season 6).

I would love to find my inner Knope. I’m no Gryffindor or bureaucrat, and I’m certainly not as out-going or energetic as Leslie. But I do make a big effort in my work, no matter what it is, and I care about what I do. I want to try to be as passionate and hardworking as her, and hope that I too will make a big positive impact for others. I just have to find my Parks department-equivalent. And maybe a Ben Wyatt-equivalent, but that’s a post for another day.

And as for decorating my workspace? Well, I’ve started to do that at home. Among my to do lists, I have a statement with my intention, “Sharing stories to inspire empathy and kindness,” and I’m planning on adding inspirational quotes, including the Leslie Knope picture. And yes, the mug with my dog is there, too.

Icy Conditions

I actually love winter. (Actually, I love all four seasons.) I always find the snow beautiful to look at and fun to play in. I love layering up and wearing dress coats and berets and pretending I’m an important and successful person – although I only changed my pants to go outside. I don’t find the frigid temperatures alarming and don’t feel the need to complain unless it leads to friendly small talk.

But if there’s one thing that I purposefully avoid during the winter, it’s the ice. I hate having to walk on it because I hate slipping and falling. I was one of those kids you saw on the rink who was holding onto the teacher, a friend, a pylon, a chair, or the wall. Rarely did I step away from my precious lifeline and actually try to skate by myself. I had chalked it up to the skates squeezing my wide feet to death, my non-Canadian-born parents being unable to pass on the skating gene, and eventually just my overall incompetence.

It’s funny – I always watch figure skating and hockey during the Olympics. The way they so gracefully yet dangerously whiz across the ice as they perform a triple toe or knock out some hoser’s tooth. It’s so fun to watch. And it would be so much more fun to actually do.

One of my all-time favourite moments on Parks and Recreation happens in season 4, when Leslie Knope is just starting to campaign for city council. She relies on her Parks team for an event and, naturally, it’s a disaster. The basketball court is converted to an ice rink, and they can’t afford enough red carpet to take Leslie to the podium. I don’t know why, but she makes the trip on the ice anyway – wearing heels! (I’m doing a terrible job at explaining this, so here‘s a link for you to watch. It’s amazing.)

Whoops, I lost my train of thought. I had gone from watching that Parks and Rec clip to a clip of Chris Traeger performing air banjo and then to Tom Haverford singing to Ann Perkins and then I realized I should get back to this post. (And that’s how you do a transition when you’re stuck!)

I’ve realized, though, that I wasn’t as afraid of falling down than the actual sensation of losing my balance of being on two feet. I know that I can get up again after I fall. Of course. But I don’t like the act of falling. When I had realized this, I also realized that this is how I approach life.

There’s (metaphorical) ice everywhere. You can’t help it. It’s down the path you want to go, it surrounds you on all sides so there’s no safe way to get anywhere, and there’s really nothing you can do about it other than cross it. I mean, why would you waste your time and energy trying to chip the ice away when you know it’s going to show up again? So you toughen up, gather your courage, and keep going. You’ll probably fall, and that’s normal. You’ll actually want to fall so you can realize that it’s not so bad as long as you can get up again. Eventually, you’ll go from walking in heels to gliding in skates. Ice can be fun. It can be exhilarating. You just have to give it a try.