On being fearless

I’ve always loved that word—fearless. I love the idea of it. The concept. The feeling. When I was a little girl, I used to hide behind my mother’s legs every time I got introduced to someone new. She said I was like a baby koala bear—I could never let go. Although I eventually grew out of my marsupial phase, I remained shy throughout my teenage years, and now in my twenties I find that I am still shy, sometimes insecure, and always anxious.

But I don’t want to feel this way. In the words of the poet Mary Oliver, “I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings.”

I have a lot of idols. My favorite blogger, Scarphelia, for moving from London to New York City all by herself at 22. Adriene Mishler for creating the inspiring home yoga series Yoga With Adriene. Kayla Itsines for her rockin' body and BBG workouts that have reached continents all around the world. Anna Akana for her hilarious YouTube channel, budding acting career, and clothing line. My parents for taking the big leap from Taiwan to America. My brother for his love of the stage—whether it’s diabolo, piano, or dance. My boyfriend for running a marathon. One of my best friends, Steph, for realizing what she really wanted and changing her career path. My amazing Harvard-bound roomie.

You see, I want to be as brave as Scarphelia and my brother and my roommate. I want to be fearless.

Next month, I will be moving into a new (one bedroom) apartment in a new town to begin a new chapter of my life. My August calendar is covered in post-it notes and reminders—pay rent, transfer utilities, schedule meeting with Peg, submit immunization records, etc.—but I’m starting to think that I need a new set of reminders.

As I begin the journey towards my graduate degree, I will remind myself of a quote from yet another beautiful and lovely idol, Natalie Portman: “Your inexperience is an asset.” She said that she once knew a violinist who said he couldn’t compose because he knew so many pieces that every time he tried to write something original, all he could think of were the melodies of pieces he already knew. Most of the time when I’m scared of something, it’s because I’m afraid of inadequacy, that I’m not good enough, that I don’t know enough. But if I want to be fearless, I must dive right into the challenge. I must believe that my ideas are worth something. That my inexperience is, in fact, an asset.

At the same time, though, I will remind myself to admit when I am wrong. I won’t be afraid to ask for help when I need it. And I will not be afraid to say no.

I’ll learn to love myself. I’ll remember bad memories without cringing, without feeling weak. I’ll say I love you, even if it makes me feel like my heart is completely naked. And someday in the future, I’ll live in the bustling city and the subway won’t confuse me anymore. I’ll be the boss at wherever I work, and who knows, maybe I’ll even become someone else’s fearless idol.

But for now, I’ll settle for becoming brave enough to play the ukulele and sing in public some day. Maybe I’ll learn those yoga inversions that make me feel like I am falling into the earth.

No matter what I’m doing—whether it’s grad school, reaching personal goals, or just my every day shyness—I will learn to be bigger than my fears. I will walk onto that stage one step at a time…and one day…I will be fearless, as though I have wings. 

Confessions of a social media addict

Social media is life. Social media is king! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest make the freakin’ world go round. As one wise person once asked, “If you don’t Instagram your brunch, did it really happen?” I know we’d all love to think that we don’t depend on these things, but really, could you go a day without them?

I decided to give this blog a new look the other day, and I must admit I was pretty proud of the little social media buttons that I added to the sidebar: there’s a cute box below my profile that says “Let’s be friends,” under which there are four mint-colored icons linking to my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. But as I was checking to see if all the links worked, I suddenly found myself staring at a Chrome window with four different tabs open, each a different representation of my identity on different corners of the Internet.

Let me be honest with you. I have an eight-year-old Facebook, a Twitter account which has undergone several username changes, an Instagram that basically consists of dogs and cats and food, two Tumblrs (not including my angst-filled teenage private Tumblr that I deleted sometime in high school), a Pinterest that I sporadically become obsessed with and then forget about for months at a time, and a LinkedIn profile that makes me look a hell of a lot more qualified than I probably am. I also have two Gmail accounts, and consequently, two YouTube accounts that are linked to those Google accounts, and a Google+ profile that I don’t even want—thanks, Google.  

All of these forms of social media are supposed to reflect who I am. They’re a way for me to share a piece of myself to the public and for me to learn about my friends in return. But the thing is, being a part of so many different social media communities at the same time is actually really confusing. Between the casual, everyday life posts on my Facebook, the reblogs which don’t even belong to me that are on my Tumblr, the staged Instagram photos coated in different filters, the cryptic one-liners on my Twitter, the hair and fashion pins on Pinterest that I will never achieve in real life, and the professional profile on my LinkedIn, I don’t even know who I am anymore.

There is a similar confusion on the receiving end of social media, too. I was taking a bus home from the city the other day, and because I’m super nosy and have this uncontrollable habit of hyper-observing complete strangers, I kept peeking over at the guy sitting diagonal to me, who was on his phone for the entirety of the one-hour ride. What I was fascinated with was the speed at which he scrolled through his Instagram feed—I swear he was scrolling at a rate of three photos a second. How can someone retain any of what they are looking at when they’re scrolling that fast?! He did pause every once in a while to take a closer look at a photo. The first time was to check out some girls in bikinis at the beach. The second time was to check out some other girls in bikinis at the beach.

As much as I’d like to laugh at this guy, though, I know I’m guilty of the same thing. (The photos I pause at are usually puppies though—not bikini babes.) My point is, our computer screens and phone screens are so saturated by waves of statuses and pictures and gifs and hashtags that we don’t even surf the web anymore. We drown in it.

Now I’m not saying that social media is bad. I’d be a complete hypocrite if that was my message. But I do find it a little alarming that I am sometimes more connected to the ones and zeros zipping around cyberspace than I am to the physical world around me. It’s easy to get caught up in the world of the Internet, and it’s a ton of fun, too—but I think that every once in a while (like now), we just need to remind ourselves to look up and appreciate the rest of the world. To like not just Facebook statuses, but what we see with our own eyes. To discover a new favorite book, instead of just favorite-ing tweets. To enjoy your goddamn eggs benedict so much that it’s all gone before you even think of Instagram-ing it.  

I love social media, but I love life, too. It’d be such a shame if we forgot to live it.


It's a really old city, stuck between the dead and the living

Okay. Let’s call it a place. People and things are too hard to talk about, but a place is more vague. A place is less personal. You can walk away from it, but still go back and visit someday.  

This place feels familiar and strange at the same time. It’s a city, and during the day it’s bustling with people who have purpose in their stride, but at night the darkness explodes with gunshots and at dawn my alarm is the sound of sirens. It snows a lot in this place but I actually kind of love the snow because it blankets the city in this white perfection—at least until the snow melts into dirty slush that piles up on the curbs.

I’ve memorized the map of this city. The roads haven’t changed in years and I know the street names by heart, but new shops have started popping up everywhere and just the other day I visited my favorite café only to find that it, too, was closing soon. There was nothing special about their coffee, but I really liked its down-to-earth atmosphere. And the view from the table in the corner.  

Most of the friends that I met here years ago have already gotten new jobs and are trickling out of town, but I haven’t had any reason to leave. It’s beautiful, this city, it really is. But for some reason every time I try to take a picture of the skyline, the camera just can’t seem to capture what I see. It’s as if this place is cursed with a beauty that can’t last.  

I know I should leave this place. I want to run off to the West coast where the skies are always sunny and the cities are alive, but the truth is, this place is my home. I want to run off, but there is nowhere to run, because this place isn’t even a place. It’s the past.

And no matter how many days or months or years I put between it and myself—no matter how much I don’t belong there anymore—I’ll always live in this place. Despite the gunshots, despite the snow, despite my missing café... I will always live in the past.