Food for Thought 1.13.17

You are a victim of the rules you live by.

Jenny Holzer

I grew up in a traditional, Vietnamese-idealistic household in which I was taught to hold humility and humbleness to the highest degree. I was taught to keep my accomplishments quiet–There was no dwelling in the moment–no “special gold star stickers,” because to my parents arrogance would step in the way of growth, no one likes a bragger and there was always so much more to achieve–There will always be room for improvement. I was told to be sweet, quiet, to serve other first. I was also told to leave any emotional sensitivities in a deep dark corner where no one should find them.  I grew up knowing there is no success without real struggle, so I kept my head down and worked hard.

I continue to struggle with guilt because I truly believe I haven’t struggled enough for dues to be paid. I never know when to stop working because I don’t really believe that the work will ever be finished or I feel like I haven’t proved myself enough. I don’t let others in on my emotions because I feel shameful of them. I continue to struggle with confidence because I never knew how to differentiate it from arrogance–it always just felt wrong to me–like an awkward sweater that I couldn’t wait to take off. The list goes on..

There are so many rules created and nurtured by my up bringing that have been harnessing me into the limitations that challenge me to this day.

So I’ve made a promise to myself–to begin freeing myself of the cage illusions that did nothing for me but confine me to doubt.

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Silver lining–2016

As 2016 comes to a close, I’ve decided to recap about all that has happened over the course of the year. This year (like for many) has been more-so challenging than most–mentally, physically, spiritually–Err politically.

It was as if the curve balls kept coming and I had to continue to find my way to dodge them at the last millisecond.With the challenges came the lessons and though it always took me some time to realize it; I always left the battles triumphant–one way or another.

I don’t do this enough, actually I don’t even write enough anymore for myself, but I don’t want this to be another year in the books where it just blurs by without a recollection.

For a mid-20 something who spent so many years living vicariously through other people’s virtual feeds, I’ve rallied through more than I could imagine this year..

  • Spent 3 weeks in Vietnam with my entire family rediscovering familiar cities and exploring new towns and meeting new friends.
  • Winged an hour-long solo presentation in front of my entire company & vendors with only 2 days of preparation. (I was petrified–voice shook the entire time, but I managed to get it done with some will power and polite nods in the audience)
  • He went into remission and has been clear since–God let it stay that way
  • Traveled to Kansas City, St. Louis, Birmingham and Memphis over the course of 5 days for business as the only female lead on the team–I call that my whirlwind trip with far too many plane rides, airports, hotel rooms and mediocre continental breakfasts.
  • Painstakingly decided to quit my job without a back up plan due to undue circumstances with a week’s notice. I said goodbye to everything I knew in the industry I grew up in and parted ways with some of the best people I’ve met in my life.
  • I then was offered & accepted a remote position with a trusted joint venture who’s known me for years within 2 days of turning in my resignation
  • Spent a long weekend  in Sequoia finding myself in nature– And oh so fittingly experienced all elements of weather in the same weekend (wind, rain, hail, sunshine & snow)
  • Also witnessed my best friend’s proposal there with the most magnificent back drop
  • Got my first tattoo with my sister to symbolize our love & protection for another
  • And then decided 3 days later to drive by myself for an hour and half to meet one of my favorite tattoo artists to get a second for just me–just because.
  • Went on my first solo business trip to Memphis & Nashville to meet with my new boss and team
  • Experienced Nash-Vegas
  • Learned the trials of trying to mix business with family–never again, not with a ten foot pole
  • Learned the blessings & tribulations of working remotely full time–It’s been hectic ride but it’s been a blessing more than anything.

I’m obviously just highlighting all the good–because thats all I need to remember. Despite the great experiences, this year was dark & I don’t need to go on and commemorate all the times I felt the anxiety, tears, stress and anger. I spent too many lost years dwelling on what was missing and what I didn’t have.

“Too many people miss the silver linings because they are looking for gold”
Maurice Setter

I don’t want to be one of those people anymore.

Notes from my 20 year old self

The way I see it…there are no legitimate excuse for me or any of us to be unable to attain what we aspire for..

I sat on the hard wood floor, going through my parents’ vast collection of photo albums. I smiled widely at the pictures of my father in college posing cheesily next to his pride and joy of a trans am back in the late 70’s. I flip further back to earlier pictures of those he left behind in Vietnam, a village full of our relatives. As I open my mother’s albums I found the same confident woman smiling back at me in the front of a coffee shop near Neman Marcus in Dallas, the last pages were mere remnants of her posing in her long flowing ao dai in the front of my grandfather’s old house with her sisters.

They left their comfort, their loves, their homes, to find hope in a place which exuded salvation. My mother flew solo letting go of her dreams and career in search of work to support her family despite her foreign tongue. My father and uncle experienced pain and anguish escaping incarceration by the communist only to be stranded in the Pacific for 21 days without food or water and then to be left in a refugee camp for over a year.. Their journey was no simple trip over to the states.

What did they have to face when they reached the shores of America?

Only to find more hardships fighting discrimination, loneliness, and unfamiliarity. Defeated? Never.

Barriers. There are no barriers they couldn’t climb. I couldn’t be more proud of my father for graduating Oklahoma State, and my mother for finding multiple jobs to raise my siblings alone as well as send assisting finances to the other side of the globe.. Somehow..They found their nitch, assimilated to the once foreign culture, built bridges and burned some and somehow their paths intersected…and there was me. Together we have a comfortable lifestyle. Both have yet to surrender their hard work ethic.

Headstrong. This is where I come from..

Hard on myself? I should be.

When I find myself stressing about school–I picture my father walking alone on the cold snowy campus in Oklahoma in his late 20’s holding his hefty Vietnamese/English dictionary and tape recorder as he scurries to his lectures after working 10 hours as a janitor at a local church.

When I find worrying about my finances/jobs–I remember my mother’s hands delicately weaving through white cascades of fabric, sewing intricate patterns of embroidery for hours then using the same hands to hold those of my brother and sister as they cross the street to return home to their small studio apartment.

So…here is the explanation on why I am how I am today.

Why I have little sympathy for petty problems, why consciously I am so hard on myself, why my expectations have no cap, why I do not complain about my parents being so unreasonable with me.

I have my reasons, because whatever complaints, worries, or anxieties I may have are surely negligible to what they have faced..

Now tell me what I want is intangible? No excuses.

That’s why it sickens me when I see kids take advantage of their parents. That complain about the minuscule things. That shrug their mother’s and father’s hardships as pennies of the past and disregard their advice. There is no excuse for you youngins’ to leech off your parents. If anything leech off their wisdom and pay your respects.

I came across this today from my old blog. It looks like 20 year old me was wiser than I thought she was.

I needed this today–Simple reminder that I really do have it good and I shouldn’t let my minuscule problems or insecurities weigh so heavy on my shoulders.

There’s a silent battle that emerges inside me from time to time..

And no one will ever know. A battle  camouflaged by hollowed bravado and an eagerness to keep busy–to stay productive.I drive myself so heavily in my work and career because it is the only place that I currently know where my efforts are accounted and recognized. I surround myself around friends that I can make laugh to fill the void–to ignore the fact that when I go home…I am completely and utterly alone.

I taught myself to be strong willed, because strong girls will automatically be assumed to be confident. It’s a lie I put on everyday. Somedays, I want to be consoled, to be told sweet nothings, to be told that I matter. It’s stupid, it’s habitual–it’s been following me lately like an ugly shadow.

The rest of me…feels empty

I grew up and surrounded myself with women who were strong, resilient, confident and captivating–my best friends, my sister and my mother all carried themselves with these notable traits and I was one to follow their lead. The choices I’ve made in my relationships–to stay on the bench, to be the supporter than the supported, to never strive too far in the limelight for fear of being humiliated. I was the one that never chased, and I had too much pride to chase after the things or people I wanted. I always settled for the fact that I would never be that girl to anyone. And though these are thoughts that were originally curated in the mind of some 14 year old girl, the feelings remain the same at 26 in a 6 year relationship.

I have a jar that I have to keep mentally, of all the real compliments that ever hit home to me. They are far and few. They’re locked away in my mental cabinet and it might sound petty, but I can recall the exact moments that I heard them. I keep them there whenever I forget to believe in them. The jar’s been a little hard to open as of late, but I know the reasons are there.

Please..I’m not looking for a pity party—I just need to write it out. Just letting myself feel.

These are the days where it gets a little heavier, the monster roars a little louder and I feel like a coward in the corner.

Little dancing clouds

distracted me from the episode of Mr. Robot I was streaming on my Ipad. We had another 45 minutes until landing. I found myself closing the ipad, leaning against the window, watching as we grazed across the cotton sky–mesmerized. As I looked forward, I noticed the man who sat in front of me–suited-well groomed business exec type–he was engulfed in his laptop running ratios for L-shares and drafting emails but then he stopped his gaze was drawn to the same maroon ombre skies. He closed his laptop and like me, continued to let himself fall into the moment. The older woman next to me shuffled from her nap and  dazedly glanced over to my window and lightly enclosed her hand over the cross the dangled from her neck.

It was a reminder, that we are all the same in the world. No matter what status we title ourselves during our every day lives– we are still such a small part of something so much greater. There is so much out there that we all fear–that we don’t know–that we don’t understand.

It’s funny how such a simple moment unearths the realization that we are one in the same.

 

Grateful

I never thought I’d be sitting here, alone in my hotel room on top of plush king size bed, 2,000 miles away from home on my own to meet with my colleagues and executives. Finally feeling like I’ve made adult moves. I am so fortunate to have landed this job. After years of mistreatment, micromanagement, and being undervalued –I finally found a company that offers me the privilege of working from home, a supportive corporate culture and a manager whom I look up to and respect personally  and professionally.

I’ve been given the opportunity the past two months to really sink my feet into the ground. I’ve done a lot of reflecting and with so much flexibility I’ve been able to have many conversations with myself.

It’s been the deep breath that I was really needing. I’ve never been so sure of myself and ready and refreshed to tackle things. I’m excited for the next challenge, learning new things, networking with new people, acquiring new licenses. Fueled with new energy, I’ve found a new eagerness that I’ve been missing to be more cultured, to be informed–to be just a better person.

For once, I’m excited to see what’s next. It’s nice to wake up everyday and feel like I’m in control of my life.

Control–That’s what I’ve been lacking. I’ve let so much of myself slip through the crevices of my fingers. It’s about time I pull myself together–not for an image, not for anyone else–but for me.

Walking with Giants

I may be dealing with some inner conflict–and yes I use this space to vocalize them, but don’t get me wrong..I love my life and I try to live with intention.

With that being said. Enjoy my very late late recap of Memorial day weekend spent with my favorite couple up in Sequioa National Forest/ Kings Canyon.

It was a 4 hour getaway from the suburbs of Orange County and the perfect dose of fresh air I needed to begin reevaluating my career circumstances.

Nothing like hiking through the Sequioas, wandering to find waterfalls in Kings canyon,  running in hail, sleeping under the stars and the smell of earth and campfire and watching one of my best friends get engaged to set my head straight.