2015 Again

It seems as though every social media website that you are a part of does a recap or annual report at the end of every December. WordPress just sent me my report, which was lovely and well put together. Facebook, on the other hand, just placed the photos that I’d posted that had the most likes. And most of those photos weren’t even of me or my loved ones, which was hilarious.

So, I’m going to do my own recap. It’s a bit of a “behind the scenes” post, since I didn’t really document these things here. Anyway, as promised, I’ve listed the highlights from this year – and there are a lot:

  • I shared this blog with my friends
  • I wrote blog posts every month this year
  • I got the push to do the above from Anita Wing Lee, my coach who had helped me so much with my career and mindset towards money, success, happiness, and fulfillment
  • I made more big purchases (such as the above) which have been worth it
  • Learned how to do EFT/tapping, meditate, and do an intuition reading
  • I had 3 jobs, all of which I at least really liked and helped me to grow
    • Between the first job this year and the unfulfilling job from 2014, the gap was around 4 months of unemployment and uncertainty
    • Between the first and second job this year was a nonexistent unemployment gap
    • Between the second and third (current) job this year was a 2 week unemployment gap – such a difference!
  • Did a lot of networking – calling, e-mailing, going to events
  • Volunteered for a great organization for 6 months and met wonderful people
  • Cooked dinner and did the laundry for my family for the first time
  • Watched Potted Potter, The Sound of Cracking Bones, Once, and Kinky Boots
  • Watched Good Will Hunting, The Fault in Our Stars, Ides of March, Big Hero 6, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Amélie, Into the Woods, The Artist, Romantics Anonymous, Django Unchained, the Star Wars series, Wet Hot American Summer, Jan Austen Book Club, Naruto: The Last, Age of Ultron for the first time
  • Watched Pitch Perfect 2, Inside Out, Mockingjay Part 2, and The Force Awakens in the theatre
  • Finished Parks and Recreation – 7 seasons of my favourite show. What an amazing workplace comedy that poked fun at politics but also emphasized the importance of being kind and working hard with people you love to do good
  • Watched Agent Carter, another great TV show which I will be following
  • Read some more books for the first time – not as much as last year, but still felt proud of myself
  • Ran my first running race – a 5k
  • Painted my nails and put on makeup more often, and overall made self-care more of a priority. This did wonders for my mental health and well-being
  • Discovered James Bay, an incredible musician
  • Continued with yoga, started running outside more often, and went to the chiropractor a few times
  • Went to High Park, Glen Rouge, and Algonquin Park for the first time – beautiful places where I discovered my love of hiking
  • Got home super late from a house party for the first time
  • Went to a cousin’s wedding and cried. (First time crying at a wedding!)
  • Actually dated!
  • Got signed Avatar: The Last Airbender comics
  • Happy and hopeful for my country’s leadership

So while Facebook didn’t really do a good job with capturing this year’s best moments, that’s okay. They can only do so much with the few photos I had posted. What matters is that 2015 was good to me, and I was in a good place in my life.

Here’s to an incredible 2016! ❤

Advertisements

My Favourite Stories: The Hunger Games

My Favourite Stories - The Hunger Games

This month will see the final movie of The Hunger Games series. It’s another end of an era, and I’m becoming used to the press and emotions surrounding such a thing. I’ve done the usual: re-read the books and re-watched the movies, and somewhat prepared myself for the new installment. I’ve also thought about how the story has impacted me and society.

The Hunger Games is pretty much the primary series that has shaped how I view economic inequality and all of the human rights issues entangled in it. I saw economic inequality as a web, since all of the issues related to it are interconnected, and it’s up to us to de-tangle the web.

These different strands – transportation, income and wages, food security, education, environment, gender, race, and more – are all part of inequality and oppression. And they all play a part in this awful game that we play in order to “win,” whatever that means.

The Hunger Games is probably the only dystopian fiction that I will read or watch for a long time. The stories themselves, while revealing and empowering, are also quite bleak. A lot of people die. If they don’t die, they become broken. And while that is a huge part of reality, especially for those going to war, I don’t like to consume those kinds of stories on an on-going basis.

This might be why I had struggled to complete this blog post. After comparing the themes and plots of The Hunger Games to everything, from Arab Spring to Occupy to Black Lives Matter to the most recent string of ISIS attacks and backlash fueled by Islamophobia… From comparing the tributes to child soldiers who either die or survive and have PTSD… From seeing how this piece of fiction reflects our reality a lot and could potentially become our reality 100%… I had become exhausted.

I work in a non-profit organization in a role that allows me to be an activist and to support people facing marginalization and oppression. I volunteer for a non-profit that allows me to be an activist who uses pop culture to support other fans with their actions. I absorb the news everyday, because I can’t help it, and witness beautiful and terrible things happening around the world. So, naturally I would feel exhausted.

So why is The Hunger Games one of my favourite stories?

Because it made me love first-person novels again (Twilight kind of ruined that for me before). Because it made me feel more hopeful for the future young adult literature. Because I love the characters and how I learned what true strength meant from them.

Katniss taught me how to use the fire within to fight for what I believe in, but to soften and empathize when needed. She taught me the importance of fending for yourself and finding your true self in nature. She taught me that protecting what you find most precious is worth it.

Peeta taught me that humans are innately good. That we all have the freedom and autonomy to be ourselves, our true selves, even in the face of evil. He taught me that love and kindness are far more important than showing off or appearing to be strong.

So, as a farewell to this series, I offer a three-hand salute to The Hunger Games, and to the people all around the world, from the refugees fleeing Syria to the folks being arrested for doing this same salute in Thailand. May we work together towards peace and collaboration in order for everyone to live their lives to the fullest.

Until the odds are in everyone’s favour.

No Hate

I always get emotional whenever people talk about others being “raised to hate.” It just strikes a chord within me. Maybe it’s because I’ve innately and steadfastly believed in kindness and empathy. Maybe it’s because I’m super sensitive and want everybody to at least like one another. Maybe it’s because I know what it’s like to be on both sides of hatred and of love, and would instantly choose love – even if hatred is easier.

Whenever I think of the word, “hatred,” I always recall the cycle of hatred in Naruto. Pein, one of the antagonists (although I say that word lightly because of the nature of the series and how it portrays people as morally complex), says the following:

Love breeds sacrifice… which in turn breeds hatred. Then you can know pain.
Just by living, people hurt others without even realizing it. So long as humanity exists, hate will also exist. There is no peace in this cursed world. War is just a crime paid for by the pain of the defeated…

There’s even a Curse Of Hatred that has plagued the Uchiha clan for generations.

In these instances, it looks like duality is at the forefront: you can’t know hatred without love, you can’t experience peace without conflict or violence. Basically, if you’re human, you feel all of these emotions and live all of these experiences. It’s unavoidable. What can be avoidable, though, is how we turn to destruction and despair whenever we feel and experience the negative.

Nelson Fernandez Jr.’s article about ISIS and the cycle of hatred uses Naruto as a narrative framework on conflict and peace-building. He talks about how the cycle can be broken or how we can look at acts of violence through a different perspective.

I really like this article. It calls for critical thinking and understanding, a willingness to cooperate and collaborate, and most importantly, empathy. We need more of it in order to end this cycle, or at least stop ourselves from thinking in that framework.

No hate, all love. ❤

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.

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!

Thank You

I wanted to write a separate post for this, because I think it’s important to stop and take a few moments to realize what and especially who has helped me in the process of making this blog a success.

My career coach, my friends from school, and people I’ve worked with have all shown their support, whether it was encouraging me to write more often, to create a Facebook page for my blog, or to just say that they like my stuff. And my fellow WordPress bloggers have been nothing short of awesome when it comes to showing their support. You folks know the struggle, the inspiration, the motivation, and the reason why we do what we do.

All of these people have all shown me such kindness whenever I wanted to share my writing with them. Those “likes” feel like fist bumps of solidarity to me, and I love each and every one of them. Thank you for helping to bring out the writer in me!

And thank you for bringing out the Gryffindor in me (I believe we all carry traits of the four Houses) – I’m learning more and more about bravery each day, and about not caring what other people think about my writing. It’s still a process, but I’m glad that I’ve started. And I definitely won’t go back.

I’ve also had a great talk with Felicia from Thoughtful Minds United, and she mentioned that it is absolutely worth it to take the time to go to each person you follow or each person who follows you, and leave a comment on their blog expressing your appreciation for their support and/or their written wisdom. I want to do more of this, for all of my followers and the people I know personally who read my blog posts. I had never thought that I would have this kind of impact on others, and I am truly humbled in realizing this.

So, thank you.