My Self-Help Phase is Not Over

I have to laugh at past Camille and her blog post. She really did believe that she was done with looking for inspiration and help in other places, that she was fine with her life and would be okay living out her adventures. Not that she was wrong back then, no. She really was able to find happiness and inspiration within, which is an incredible achievement in itself. But this was seven months ago.

I’m back in that self-help state now. Relationship-related grief, career-related confusion, and life in general have combined to test me in ways I never would have thought possible. In a way, I guess it makes sense for these things to happen. I turned 25 this year, quarter-life crises are a thing, and most of all, I’m learning and yearning to grow and evolve as a person. There’s a saying that the lesson repeats itself until it is learned, and boy do I need to learn them.

Here are some lessons that need repeating:

You are enough. You are a complete person on your own. You don’t need to seek others’ approval or to prove anything to anyone. The ones who matter will love and support you no matter what. And they are the ones worth seeking out.

Hold onto the people who inspire you to be yourself, to be a greater version of yourself, to reach new heights and forgotten corners of your being that you neglected or forgotten had existed.

Let go of the people who do the opposite of lifting you up, inspiring you, and loving you. Do not even let them take space in your head; they do not deserve to be there. Clear that shit out, yo.

On that note, treat your head and heart as space for the things and people who actually matter to you. Even if it hurts. And it will. It will hurt when they don’t feel the same way, or don’t care to the extent that you do. You care a LOT, a frightening amount, actually. Not everybody shares that superpower, so please be as patient and kind as you can with others. Importantly, be kind to yourself (more on that below).

Your conceived weaknesses are not just your strengths; they are your superpowers. Your capacity to care, empathize, and feel can often be too much for you and others to handle, but this is who you are. This is actually a gift to the world, which can be a scary, violent, awful, evil place. Believe it or not – actually, believe it, please believe it – you bring a special kind of light to the world, a light that is your own. Don’t let others try to dim or block or turn it off. They’re probably confused or scared, and may just need it the most.

Self care is something you’ve been hearing a lot of this past year. Please make this a habit. And not just the little, superficial things like painting your nails or having another Old Fashioned. Self care includes big, spontaneous things like that trip to Chicago you had booked in less than 10 minutes with no thought whatsoever. Self care includes little, important things like making sure you drink enough water and talk to your family. Self care includes the big, important things like saying no to extra work or re-evaluating your career choices. Self care can be tough. It can be overlooked. But please don’t take it for granted. If you treat yourself now the way you will definitely treat the love of your life, you will be so grateful that you took the time to use your superpowers on yourself.

You’re not done growing. The moment you believe that you don’t need to learn anything or that you’ve seen it all, is the moment you revert back to being naive and selfish. Look around, and see how life doesn’t work that way. You will always be surprised. You will always embark on new adventures. You will always be curious and in awe of how life works, and actually works in your favour. Be grateful for this.

 

Well, I’ll definitely be writing more often here. Of course I’d be back. Reader, if you’re going through anything like I am, we’re in this together. Allons-y!

My Self-Help Phase is Over

At this time last year, I was exploring many professional and personal interests: volunteering, working, networking, writing, etc. The professional and the personal got mixed up quite a bit, but I was happy that it did. It meant that I would find all of these fulfilling in some way. But, looking back, this was just part of the self-exploration and self-help phase I had put myself in for the better part of a year and a half.

I had read books about how to find your passion and to design a life that suits your authentic self. I watched videos and documentaries about personal truth and attracting what you most want in life. I took on a career/personal coach who kept me accountable for working on my goals. And it all made perfect sense to be that kind of person for the year and a half: explore, question, be kind to myself, be true to myself.

But now? Well, I’m still exploring and questions. I’m still being kind and true to myself. But I’ve shed the protective layer that allowed for all of these self-help and self-improvement resources to protect and guide me. They were my support system, kind of like tools that help people move about their daily lives. I don’t need these now. I’m strong and confident enough to stand on my own two feet and to move at the pace that I want, without fear of stumbling or falling over. Because I know that I’m able to pick myself up.

Not that I won’t deny these supports whenever I need them. It’s just that because I’ve grown so much over the past couple of years, I don’t need to schedule my day to include career growth. I have a full-time job that allows for that in such a way that I’m gaining new skills and putting myself out there. I also don’t need to constantly learn about how my mindset is holding me back. I feel at peace with my mind and know that our relationship is now a positive one.

So goodbye to self-help blogs, books, movies, and coaching programs – of course I’m grateful for them, as they’ve helped me transform into who I am today – but now’s the time to focus on new and exciting things.

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! ❤

A New Page

After realizing that I’m losing track of the other blog posts I’ve written, I’ve decided to organize them into one place. You can check out these posts on my Contributions page. It’s really satisfying and gratifying to see my other works and that others value them. I hope that this is the case for those who find them for the first time. 🙂

 

Brief Hiatus

Working at a summer camp can really tire you out. I had made time in July to write here, but now that I’m working in the youth leadership program, I’ve been thinking about work more often than usual. And while youth leadership is something that I’m really passionate about, it’s making me shift priorities in a way that I am not okay with.

I miss this. I miss writing, sorting out my thoughts, sifting through the words and finding meaning. I haven’t done this in a while. I don’t feel like myself.

I also miss yoga. A couple of days ago, I went into child’s pose (one of the most basic and relaxing poses) and felt so at home that I thought about becoming an instructor (not the first time). I actually feel out of shape, even though camp has made me lose weight.

I miss the freedom that I had at the beginning of this year, when I worked part-time and was able to volunteer with two organizations at once. I was able to write, do yoga, read, and practice self-care and mindfulness everyday. I want that back.

But, I also want a job that pays. And so I’ll get back to this when I can. I’m actually looking forward to the end of this job, even if it means going back to square one. I know I’ll be okay, though. 🙂

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.

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.