Day 17 // 365 Days of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the magic behind social media. Namely, the connections I can make with like-minded, like-hearted souls around the world. The more I put out, the more I get back. Loneliness creeps up on me often when I’m made to seem like an anomaly, and I make myself feel worse by only seeing the differences and not the similarities. People tell me, and I tell myself, I’m

With my blog posts and YouTube videos, I’m finding that the more I put out, the more I get back in connections made. Even if it’s not a full-on relationship that develops, that sparkle of inspiration or resonance I feel with someone is beautiful on its own, too. Loneliness creeps up on me often when I’m made to seem like an anomaly, and I make myself feel worse by only seeing the differences and not the similarities. People tell me, and I tell myself, I’m

Loneliness creeps up on me often when I’m made to seem like an anomaly. People tell me, and I tell myself, I’m too idealistic, too weird, too loud, too happy, too depressed… the list can go own if we want it to,and I’m able to make myself feel worse by only seeing the differences and not the similarities. I’m trying, though, to reroute these thoughts patterns to focus on the deep interconnectedness of things.

Whenever I experience something, I want to share it with others. It’s just too much to keep it all to myself. My blog and YouTube channel are merely manifestations of this incessant desire to share my joys, my sorrows, my fears and in hope that you feel able to do the same.

A Fear of Not-Doing-Enough (Day 16 // 365 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am grateful for the challenge of doing less. I am grateful that I am able to take this time for myself, with the moral and financial support of my parents.

Believe it or not, doing less is harder than it sounds. Even as I’ve removed many external pressure to do, I still find myself caught in the vicious cycle of do-do-do. For someone who has grown up in a fast-paced, capitalist society, it is ingrained in me that productivity and efficiency are top priorities. The thinking goes that if I’m not producing anything, I’m wasting time. So I always have to be on the move, on to the next thing. But the thing is, doing less doesn’t equate to wasting time because doing less frees up so much more room to simply be, for reflection and contemplation, which are central, in my opinion, to living fully. If all we know is to move onto the next thing, without pausing for reflection, are we really making the most of our experiences?

I am so good at doing that I’ve forgotten how to truly sit with myself. When difficult emotions arise, I immediately clamp down on them, pushing them deep into my unconscious mind. The mechanism that detects and acts on said emotions is so well-tuned it operates subconsciously. Quite scary to think that sometimes I’m not even aware of what I’m doing to myself.

During these months off school, I’m relatively free of any onerous responsibility. So naturally, I am doing less. I know this period of healing is a necessary, balancing act. Yet there are still many nights when I lay awake wondering, Am I doing enough? Am I fully utilizing my time away from academia? Should I be doing something different? In my head, I am answering yes to all those questions. Yet, there is always that voice inside – my own worst critic – trying to skew the answer to no.

The greatest challenge is overcoming those negative voices. And in the process, learning to treat even the darkest thoughts with love and compassion because fighting them is not the solution. I must try and empathize with my fearful selves for they are just as much of me as my hopeful selves.

I’m a (real) good talker when it comes to promoting self-love… slowing down … noticing ourselves in this moment. All that good stuff. You might read these blog post thinking, Wow, Claire’s really got it all down. But let me tell you, I don’t. I really don’t. I say these things because I need to hear it from myself. I’m far from getting it all down and frankly, I don’t think that’s the point of it all. We can’t just tick off ‘Love myself’, ‘Slow down’, ‘Live in the moment’ and be set for life. We need to be reminded of these things throughout our lives, because in the darkest moments, those voices of fear and hopelessness will nevertheless find their way back to us. With strength and bravery, we can face those moments and come out stronger.

Suffering, hardship, and pain are inevitable. It is not in our power to expel them from our lives, but it is in our power to learn how to deal with our pain – openly and tenderly. Friends, there is no deadline. There is only life.

 

August in Words

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

August was the month I fell into a deep depression

August was the month I finally admitted to myself that (sometimes) I’m not okay

August was the month I learned that not being okay is more than okay

August was the month I put my hands up and told myself “You don’t have to do this alone”

August was the month I asked for help

August was the month I started the journey out of a dark, dark place

August was the month I promised to stop hating myself

August was the month I opened up the possibility of loving myself again

Little Things are Big Things Too

I’m reading my first blog post again and noticing just how ambitious I was two months ago. I wanted to do a million things — as I usually do — with my time off school. (Note: I want to specifically say taking time off school instead of taking time off, because taking time off school does not mean I’m living unproductively, that I’ve been turned ‘off.’ I am just ‘on’ in other ways.)

After a month back in Beijing, staying put, finding a routine, and cherishing the little things are seeming like much more nurturing prospects than embarking on grandiose adventures away from home. Instead of focusing ambitiously on the ‘big’ things even when I don’t need to, I’d like to learn to mark the smaller ‘victories’ in life. As a counselor I saw aptly said, “You don’t allow yourself many victories in life.” Perfectionism and over-ambition prevents me from noticing all the things that have gone well.

As I laid in bed last night, having trouble falling asleep, I couldn’t help notice the sounds of construction still going on. Close to midnight, workers still laboring away at the numerous construction sites next door. Those are people, I think, who get tired and need  rest. What a luxury and privilege it is to be able to sleep when ‘you’re supposed to’.

Working in a cafe with people close to my age has been eye-opening, to say the least. First of all, I didn’t realize how close in age most of us were. I’m even a year older than someone I’d guessed to be 30! During our conversation yesterday about how tired he is all the time, he nonchalantly mentioned his night shift at a 7-Eleven store nearby. Before I could come up with something to say in return, a stream of questions flashed through my head — so… when does he have time to sleep? is there a place to sit at the night shift? how long has he been doing this for?
Sitting down for dinner at 6 pm yesterday with my grandma, I told her how much it felt like a privilege to eat dinner at this hour on a regular basis. She agreed. No job is easy. I have a lot of respect for my coworkers who work 9 hour days, 6 times a week at this job. Who knows what else they’re doing to make it in the hustle of big city life? Meanwhile, here I am doing this ‘for the experience,’ not quite the same as fending for myself when I can come home to food, shelter, water and so much more right at my fingertips.
The psychiatrist I saw today reminded me that there are no ‘should’s’ in life, that what works for you is based on what works for you, not what a theory or professional says. Instead of expecting so much from myself, others, and other things if life, I’d like to focus on what’s right here, right now. Because, there already is more than enough.

家|home

‘home’ has never been clear to me. i’ve spent periods of time torn between different places that all carry their own feelings of home, feeling like i had to choose one over the other.

i absolutely dread answering questions like ‘so where’s home?’ because it assumes my home is in one place, that i’ve grown up in one place, that my parents and i grew up in one place… that i can give you a one-word answer. but i can’t. i can’t because i was born in one place, grew up in one place and another place and spent time in other places during my summers, and now live in another place, and will probably live in other places again. oh, and my citizenship is in this place, and no i am not a dual citizen. and no, i don’t have any chinese documentations even though i am chinese. and yes i can be chinese and not have a chinese passport. and no i am not american even though i speak like one. and no i am not from california just because i’m east-asian and speak like this.

the truth is, many people, including  myself, grow up without home but with many homes. my concept of home has come to transcend geo-political boundaries because my own identity is spewed across continents and cultures. at this point in life, at twenty years of age, i’m a little more okay with having bits and pieces of my soul scattered across this beautiful world. i feel less lost knowing that it is these very pieces that keep me rooted in something larger. my being is upheld by all the people, places, memories, and feelings i’ve been blessed with. in these hands, i hold both loneliness and love, loss and abundance. i am lost and grounded, all at the same time. this is who i am, and i’m more than okay with that.

instead of trying to take back what was lost growing up the way i did, i’m dedicating the next stage of life to focusing on the now and all that the future holds. it’s not trying to make up for the chinese-ness i rejected growing up, it’s trying to understand what it means to be chinese given all the other things that make me who i am.

this, my friends, is the beginning of many videos documenting these homes. i dedicate them to all the beings, elements, and places that make me who i am, because without them, i would be nothing.