You know those stories about how life is a circle? Well this is one of them…

People journal for different reasons, for me it’s a dumpster for my thoughts especially when I feel bad. I’ve spewed these thoughts out in many notebooks over the years, some contain a lot more than others. While cleaning a couple of weeks ago, I found my childhood/teenage journal, I dug it out today to discard the events that happened earlier.

After frantically scribbling for five pages straight to get everything onto paper, I flipped through my older entries. There was a clear transition of when I started thinking in English instead of my mother tongue Chinese. It was in June 2008 when my entry switched over from mainly Chinese to full English with two Chinese characters. The last time I’d written in the book was June 10th, 2013, the last day of official class in high school. All the crushes I had over the years had all been documented. I’ve been writing letters to these boys way before a series of love letters and definitely before Lara Jean made it mainstream on All the Boy’s I’ve Loved Before (it’s such an adorable rom-com, highly recommend).

Now this isn’t about journaling by any means, although I definitely should do it more to clear my head. This is about the funny thing called life.

One of the things I noted down in the “Important Dates” section I’d made at the end of the book was June 24th, 2009. The entry read, “graduation of 8th grade (gonna be in Stuy next year! I’m so sad I’m gonna miss everyone and [name of the boy I had a crush on then]).” When I saw this I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. I’d been so sad about not seeing him on a daily basis since we were going to different high schools. Now after college graduation and almost a decade later, I see him every single day during my morning work commute as we take the same bus to the city. It’s unbelievably funny how life works like this. If I hadn’t read my journal, I wouldn’t have known how I felt then, and seeing him every morning wouldn’t be as ironic.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that things change and it might not be as bad as I imagine. Being in the midst of so many uncertainties right now, I need to embrace this message more than ever. I’ve read so many people’s stories about how life is a circle and trust it to do its thing, but nothing is more convincing than seeing it happen with your own story. But really, I should journal more because it’s essentially a time machine. If I don’t pen down the piece now, I won’t have a then to reflect upon in the future.

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End of August.

Summer is showing last of its rays.

Winter and the cold seem like distant memories as I brave through the blazing heat New York has been experiencing recently. It’s hard to imagine the majority of the year has already gone by. As the season changes, I’m also one year older. It’s quite poetic tying the change of time to aging, actual changes are anything but. Usually it’s hard for me gain awareness of the changes while they are happening, but this time it’s been startlingly easy when i reflect back.

I did not to host any birthday gatherings this year. Partially because I couldn’t be bothered with figuring out who to invite, where to go, but more importantly I simply don’t enjoy parties. I much prefer intimate settings where I can actually catch up with the other person and build on our connection. Meeting up with friends have given me great joy, especially those I haven’t seen for years. I’m grateful for these friendships that have weathered time and growth. Change #1: slowly embracing all my thoughts and quirks as part of who I am, particularly the ones I used to validate through excuses or self-proclaimed responsibilities.

For a couple weeks this year, I tried guided meditation with the app Headspace. Even though I only spent an average of ten minutes on meditation, i feel a lot calmer afterwards, as if my thoughts all decided to slow down. Mental health has been a big topic I’m trying to work on. Journaling is one thing I’ve been meaning to try. Dumping all these thoughts out somewhere seems to be a great way to clear some space up there. I’ve also toyed with the idea of going to therapy. Through several deep dives, I’ve mapped how my issues connect with one another on a big picture scale, but I want an outsider’s opinion. I started sharing with people, even just a little, these issues I’ve held in the darkness. Change #2: Accepting that there are mental health problems I have to work on, and being ok with talking about them.

I couldn’t help but notice there’s a fear of being old, through self-deprecating jokes, complains and phrases in general, as if we’ve already reached our prime age and everything moving forward is a downhill ride. This mentality seems really sad to me, so I’ve made an effort to not comment on being old. It’s been difficult to change my semi-reflex answer of “ugh I’m getting so old” to every age related questions and comment. Change #3: Appreciating what time has brought and what it has in store.

There are other changes happening, some more controversial (embracing my sexuality) and some less (needing to read more books), it’s impractical to document each and every one of them. I wanted to record the few that has been the bigger milestones of changes I’ve embarked on. Next time I reflect back, I can see how much more I’ve grew.

Summer vacations have been a constant for the last 16 years. No matter how long and shitty school was, there was always three warm months (at least in college) to look forward to. Although as I moved up the education system, days that I idle around decreased exponentially. When I had to take paid-time-off (PTO) hours to go away this year, it was the most unnatural thing and I couldn’t help but miss school just a tiny bit.

Honestly, I can’t even remember when was the last time I went on a family vacation in the summer. I think it was seven years ago when we visited the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee. The family trip this year had been a drastic change in pace; and as my mom had put it, “this is probably the last time we will have a family trip.” Although I doubt that to be true, it still sounded bittersweet.

The initial itinerary only included Montreal, but after watching the Korean Drama Goblins I had to make the trip to Quebec City.  As we looked around the driving route between New York City, Montreal and Quebec City, I suggested that we add Portland, Maine to the trip since it’s around the midpoint between Quebec City and New York City.

Montreal was full of young people due to McGill’s location. There are lots of hip restaurants and cute cafes. My favorite was Mamie Clafoutis located in a residential neighborhood. Not only was the pastries delicious, I had the best chocolate croissant there, the space was also beautifully decorated. If I had gone to college at McGill, I could see myself being a regular at the cafe.

 

Quebec city is divided into Old Quebec, which is near the delta of the river, and rest of the city. We spent most of our time in Old Quebec since it was where all the touristy places were. The European vibe was all around the city; the cobblestone roads, three-story townhouses, and also French that was used everywhere. I could have easily forgotten I was still in Northern America.

Portland was the last place added to the itinerary, but it was my favorite out of the three. Time seemed to slow down while I was there. The ocean, the breeze, the trees and the people made it feel like a quintessential American summer. I’d love to spend some time there every summer just to enjoy the view. I can now confidently say that my happy place is the ocean and lighthouses! 

Summer vacation was something I had taken for granted until this year and will probably continue to miss for a long while. I’m sure there are other aspects of my current life that I also take for granted till later. I will strive to be more content everyday and enjoy each moment as it comes. How have your summer been?

Taking responsibility for myself is one of New Year Resolutions. While reading up on some self-care articles I came across the online platform Medium. I have seen the logo pop up here and there on my newsfeed back in college, but I have never dived into all the articles it offers. The few self-care articles led to more and more with tabs so squished you can’t read a word, much like going down the Wikipedia rabbit hole. The website is laid out very similar to a newspaper, say the New York Times, with featured articles on the upper most section. Under that are articles catered to me based my reading history or network (aka the writers I follow on Medium). The interface is very clean, black font on white background with pops of color (I’m very into the site layout).

Here are six things I learned while reading on Medium:

  1. Reading the suggested articles makes me feel like everyone knows everything but also no one knows anything. “Why breakups hurt like hell,” “will you text me ever again,” “he doesn’t love you.”
  2. Listicle is a thing and it’s defined. Prior to Medium, I did not notice the phenomenon nor did I know there’s a name for it.
  3. Whatever your interest is, there is probably an article written about it (if not, you can publish one!). The platform is set up in a way that everyone can publish. This means that the range of topics is limitless, but it also means not all articles are beautifully written. You either have to sift through the articles yourself, or read the featured ones that had been curated. However to gain access to unlimited featured articles, you have to pay and become a member (I’m just sifting through the articles myself).
  4. Some of the articles are basically SparkNotes for a whole industry. For example, during the whole cryptocurrency craze a few months back, this article helped me understand the basic concepts so I could understand a little bit of what’s being discussed.
  5. The highlight function is wonderful. I can highlight phrases that resonated with me within different articles and have them saved in a section where I can reread all the sentences that I loved. Whenever I’m changing my phone’s background I read through my highlights to find a phrase that will serve as a daily reminder (right now it’s “love was never a sure thing”).
  6. Some people just have a way with words, and it leaves me in awe.

If you have some time, here are a few articles I really enjoyed:

On the Nature of Little Gestures

Pale Blue Dot: What‘s the Point of It All?

L’eau de Life

Let me know if you are also a Medium fan or have any articles you’d like to share.

xo,

Jenn

i’ve been pondering

should i jump

embracing the impact

the tiniest vibration

or should i stay

watching the story unfold

like an out-of-body experience

 

“whatever, i give up” has been on repeat since the Friday we met

still it cannot persuade, not even my brain

she doesn’t want to give up

not when there are much hope, imagination and potential left

to be used

wasted

 

fear is the best gatekeeper

“what if beyond the door is rejection

embarrassment

incompetence

at least you can still dream on this side.”

 

can’t someone tell me what to do

to feel emotion bursting through every cell

or to protect my heart from free-falling

 

“whatever, i give up”

but i sit here pondering

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This year’s March was a pretty busy month. I took two quick trips during the month, to upstate New York and Washington D.C. Although I had planned the trip to Ithaca since early February, I bought the bus tickets to D.C. two weeks before.

For some reason, the cold seemed to follow me wherever I went. There was a snow storm during the four days I was visiting. Cornell even had a snow day. If you’d gone to school in upstate New York, you would know how rare snows days are. I went to D.C. in mid-March. The Washington Post had reported that the weekend would have been the peak bloom period for the cherry blossoms. But a week before my trip, they pushed back the peak period for two weeks! I ended up not seeing any of the blossoms that I was supposed to see.

Thanks to the snow day in Ithaca, I spent most of my trip lounging around my friend’s house and played with her two very cute cats. It was very relaxing; the perception of time slowed down drastically compared to New York City. It made me consider briefly moving to a smaller town. But only briefly since I can’t drive and wouldn’t be able to get around if I had actually moved.

Compared to how I spent my days in Ithaca, I was more rushed in D.C. That’s to be expected since I was only really there for one day. I had taken the bus after work on a Friday and came back around noon the same Sunday. There were a lot more places I would have liked to visit (like the other Smithsonian Museums), but it was a nice change of scenery. The city reminded me of Chicago, from the wide streets to the metro system. I definitely would like to visit again another time when it’s warmer.

Unlike March, I’m planning on taking a chill April and stay in the city. Honestly the main reason is because I want to get my driver’s license, so I need to stay in the city to take lessons. How was your month? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Cheers,

Jenn

Back in April 2016 I posted a piece on self validation. More than anything, it was as a piece I wrote to clear my mind and provide comfort for myself. Now almost two years later, the same questions still come and go (did I choose the right career path, what am I doing with my life, etc. etc.) and I have a feeling they will stay around for a long time.

But this is a part two, a continuation, and I wanted to touch on the validation of my thoughts and feelings. Often I reflect through my actions and wonder if I made them to gain the approval from others as way to validate my choices. I wrote before that I instinctively take in the group’s opinion regarding an issue as a mechanism to fit in. Although this doesn’t really matter for topics I have no feelings about, but for things I do have an opinion on, it’s problematic that I always reevaluate my experiences, thoughts and feelings thinking there’s a flaw somewhere.

Here’s a prime example: the other day my friend and I were discussing people I’ve had crushes on, and she commented that she finds visuals on these boys to be below average. Rather than just accepting that as her opinion and move on, I started to explain my attraction to try and essentially convince her that my taste in men are good. Logically speaking, the people we are attracted have different traits because we are different people; she may find someone I like unattractive and vice versa. There really was no reason for me to explain myself. But I wanted to gain approval from her. Approval for my taste. As if my taste is a substitute for my being and I want her to validate me.

In my new year resolution I mentioned to be responsible for my emotions; to accept my experiences, thoughts and feelings as part of my truth. My problem with self validation is just one level waiting conquered on the journey of becoming responsible for myself. I think acknowledging the problem is always a great way to start when tackling any issue, and this is why I’m writing this post. It will be a reminder for myself that what goes on inside my head are real and they matter as much as someone else’s words.

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