Epiphany after writing a 7,500-word research proposal

I love working, and moving to Auckland didn’t change that. I thought I’d get lazy in a place where nothing is rushed. The thing is, after the newness has faded, I’m back to the most genuine form of who I am. I’m a go getter and I work my ass off to get what I want. I don’t just sit there and wait for success to come to me. I don’t make excuses for my incompetence, but I also take pride in my accomplishments. I’m my hardest critic and my biggest fan. Life can be tough, but I’m tougher, and that is why I know I will put a dent to the universe one day.

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Hey little fighter, soon it will be brighter

I need to write because I’m experiencing the darkest time line since I’ve moved to Auckland. I had been so happy and excited about my new life every day for the the past 3 months until last week. I thought I was getting a hang of stop worrying and start living, but then when my first major problem (money) came up, I just couldn’t get over it. I’ve been worrying and stressing about it since then.

There is no rational reason why I’m so stressed to the point I started developing tonsillitis again (which always strikes at my lowest). There are cool and exciting things happening to me, like how my supervisors thought I was doing a great job and how I am getting to write two academic book reviews for an Australian journal, but I couldn’t keep my excitement going for more than two hours. t know I have enough savings to last a VERY GOOD WHILE. I even have occasional, but irregular freelance jobs from Hong Kong coming in, but I just can’t stop worrying about this and that and the future.

I started rethinking about the bad times I’ve had in the past. This can’t be any worse than when I was semi-fired by my bitch boss from hell. At least I’m living my dreams, doing something meaningful, making good friends, and dating a really nice guy, right?

I decided to go back to my old blog posts and examine how I dealt with bigger problems back then.

Turns out I’ve ALWAYS freaked out over tiny things and thought the world was gonna crush down on me, but things have ALWAYS ended up better after 14 days. I told myself back then I wouldn’t do anything drastically stupid until I’ve given myself 14 days to think about it. It has been 10 days since I got the bad news from school. I hope things will get better in the next four days…

As I kept thinking about how I overcame my past challenges and rejections, I came up with this four-step process:

  1. Blog about my feelings
  2. Write an encouraging letter to myself on behalf of Violet
  3. Read inspiration quotes like the title of this post
  4. Watch Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech

I aim to repeat all these steps until I genuinely feel better.

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Strength and femininity

New Zealand is one of the most gender equal places I’ve been to, more so than America. It makes sense because it was the first country to give women the right to vote. In the past three months, I’ve made a lot of Kiwi friends, but I have not met any local who is as girly as me. At first I thought it was because NZ wasn’t a big enough market for fancy things like cosmetics and fashion, but I’ve recently learned it is more deep-seated than that. 

Ever since the first day I took over my desk at school, I’ve made sure it would be decorated in pink. all my stationery is pink or in the pastel tone. I even managed to find Steve Jobs quote printouts in pink, feminine designs. My colleagues and I nicknamed my desk the “Pink Castle”.  A few days ago I found pink A4 size papers at the department office, and I was overjoyed. I said to a dark hair, nose pierced female student standing next to me, “Pink is the only color I’d use!”

She said, “Pink is the only color I wouldn’t use.”

I didn’t say anything to retaliate at that time. I’ve heard enough about how pink was a bad color for girls. I’ve always liked pink since I was a little girl because to me it is the most beautiful color in the color palette. It is warm, and it makes me happy. I just thought, “You don’t know better. Pink is awesome.”

However, when told my boyfriend what had happened, he said, “She’s a bitch.”

I guess maybe she did say it with a condescending tone. Maybe to her, pink is a gender defining color that doesn’t go with her personality, and she associate the pink with certain ways a girl should behave.

That story got my boyfriend and I started on a discussion about “being girly”. I told him I’d only consider one of his female friends a sort of girly girl. He said, “She wouldn’t be happy to hear that.” That surprised me because to me being girly is beautiful and not at all derogatory. Being girl means at least caring about how she looks, which is not even a common thing in NZ. My only real high maintenance friend here is a gay guy. What a surprise.

I went on to say I think Kiwi women were very independent but not feminine. He agreed and said it was both a blessing and a curse. I guess Kiwi women tend to be less clingy, but apparently he had also never dated any girl who would cling on to his arm when they walk together. It was another shocker because it’s the default thing I do every time we get off the car. I also like to put my hand in his pocket when it’s cold. 

It had been raining all week last week. We went to a party together. I was in my high heel ankle boots, but we had to walk through some muddy ground. I went all “eww” the moment my boots touched the ground. I was gonna walk around it, but he put down his drinks, lifted me up and carried me though it.

It felt great, and I joked, “I’m like a giant baby.”

He said, “More like a damsel in distress.”

That was when I really protested. “No! I’d totally be fine if you didn’t carry me!”

He said, “Right. You’re an independent woman.”

My view on being strong has evolved over time. I used to think being strong meant never showing your vulnerability. You have to be all business, at all time, except when you’re crying yourself to sleep. You don’t need anyone to protect you. You can take care of yourself. You can conquer the world by yourself. 

Pretending to be strong 100% of the time has exhausted me. It fed to my fear of failure. It was unhealthy, and no one can do that. I made a New Year resolution this year to not to be afraid to be weak at times. Every time when I begin to hide my signs of weakness, I remind myself there’s no need to. It’s okay to be weak sometimes as long as you know you’ll bounce back eventually. We need to let ourselves feel. Instead of announcing my problems to the world like a teenager does, I go to a few trusted friends when I need a pair of listening ears. 

I think embracing my vulnerability and self awareness has helped me a great deal in this relationship. I have always been feminine in the way I look and dress, but I thought like a men. My guy friends used to say I came off as being “too strong”. Guys get intimidated because they thought I didn’t need a man. 

The truth is, I still don’t need a man, but I don’t want to be a man.  I don’t need to pretend I can do everything a man can do. I don’t need to be protected by a man, but I like how safe it makes me feel when he spoons me and holds me like I’m his delicate, precious treasure. I appreciate it when he gets out of his way to please me. With me enjoying being a woman, he gets to feel like a man. 

I don’t think any of these, as well as my obsession with pink, makes me any less strong, intelligent and independent. Strength is a mentality, not a color. Strength is demonstrated in the way we handle failures. As long as I know I can always survive in the toughest situation, I’m still the strong woman that I’m so proud of becoming. 

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Rant about Apple fandom in academic style

This is what fandom authority Henry Jenkins wrote in his book Fans, Blogger, and Gamers. It hits the nail on the head as to how I feel about the Apple fandom all along.

“One becomes a ‘fan’ not by being a regular viewer of a particular program but by translating that viewing into some kind of cultural activity, by sharing feelings and thoughts about the program content with friends, by joining a ‘community’ of other fans who share common interests” (2006).

I’ve always detested it when mere users of one or two iDevices claim to be “fans” of Apple. If you’re a fan, you participate in fan activities, you talk with other fans about the company and its mission and philosophy. You’re a member of the fan community. You don’t just care about the functionality of the products. You care deeply about the well-being of the company. You are proud of being a fan of Apple and what it represents. You get upset when it fails you, but instead of abandoning ship, you try to correct it by offering constructive criticisms. You don’t leave the fandom just because it’s not the “it” thing anymore. You don’t care if people think you’re stupid, have too much time, or don’t have a life to do better things.

Jenkins defended fans in his ground-breaking book Textual Poachers (1992) by acknowledging fans to be “highly educated, articulate people” and not a “group of intellectually inferior” (p.18). 

Fandom is not a direct result of brand marketing. It may have something to do with it, but it is not everything. Samsung has spent a lot more in marketing and advertising than Apple in the recent years, but you never see a Samsung fan waiting outside their “cathedral” for the launch of their gears. Fandom is form of grass roots activism. It comes from the audience themselves, who identify with what Apple stands for. Fans cannot be bought, sold, or transferred. Those who can but bought, sold or transferred are not one one us.

References:

Jenkins, H. (1992). Textual poachers : Television fans & participatory culture. New York: New York : Routledge 1992.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, bloggers, and gamers : Exploring participatory culture (1st ed.). New York, NY: New York University Press.

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Me in a relationship: then and now

I wrote about the long break I had taken after my last break up. I’ve casually gone on a few dates and got pretty intense with a few guys, but I haven’t been anyone’s girlfriend in a while until recently. Before I met my beau, I’d spent a lot of time working on myself and reflecting on my past relationships. I read A LOT of self-help guides. The rules are always the same: Don’t sleep with a guy on the first date. Don’t obsess over him. Don’t talk about kids and marriage early on. Give him space. Have your own life. 

I tried to follow those rules and waited and waited for love to come find me. At times I also took initiative. Every time I met a potential guy, I’d start wondering how he could be the one and obsessing whether he liked me. I wanted him to like me even thought I didn’t even know him that well. When he didn’t, I’d get angry. “How could he not like me? I’ve done everything right!”

During the break I did meet a person who was everything that I had dreamed of. Sparks flew, and I thought there was nothing that could come between us. I was ready to risk everything for a chance of happiness with him. Then he broke my heart in a way that I didn’t know he was capable of. It was the first time I realized I had matured as a woman. I picked up my heart in pieces and walked away. I was hurt and scared, but I knew if I grew from the experience, it would make me stronger and a better woman. I knew I had to be the one to mend my own heart instead of waiting for another guy to do that for me. Every day after that, I focused on myself and went after what I wanted in life and worked on actualizing my dreams. I still believed in love, but I wasn’t boy crazy. I was happy just being in a new city even though I kept joking about how all my friends were paired up. 

One day not long ago, this man came into my life. If I still had that mental checklist of traits that I wanted in a boyfriend, I would have failed him almost immediately, but my past experience had taught me perfection on the paper doesn’t guarantee relationship success. He seemed to be a nice guy. I shouldn’t deprive myself from the chance of enjoying his company. 

Was I scared? A little bit. But you know what the beauty of having your heart broken numerous times is? You’ve seen the worst. You know you will get over it even if it gets broken again. I will not let fear ruin my future relationships because I’m not a coward. 

At the very beginning, I was a bit insecure. I didn’t know how to act and how to assume my role. I had been out of the game for so long and I was dating someone from a completely different culture. Things were a little intimidating. 

Amazingly, the lessons I’d learned from the past suddenly came back to me before I was about to do something stupid. In the past, I couldn’t stop nagging my exes and checking in with them when they were out with friends. I wanted them to call me every day. I wanted to know everything, more importantly, whether they were thinking of me as much as I was thinking of them. I needed their assurance and validation all the time. This time around, I just went with the flow. It was hard not to try to be the one in control, but eventually it got easier. I’ve stopped wondering where he is, what he is doing, whether he misses me, and I’ve refrained from freaking out when he occasionally excludes me from his plans.

It got easier because I love myself and my life more than ever. 

I’m happy to give him space because I need my space too. I enjoy spending time with my friends as much as he enjoys spending them with his. I don’t nag him because I don’t think forcing someone to do something they otherwise wouldn’t do carries the same value. When I tell him to have fun, I really want him to have fun. Sometimes I feel a little hurt when he doesn’t invite me to everything, but I’ve learned to think in his shoes, there are things I don’t invite him to either. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like him. It’s just not the right occasion. 

Have there been times that I wonder if he’d lose interest? Definitely. I think women tend to want their guys to be the one who care more. Whenever I know I’m about to drive myself crazy, I just remind myself I’m a beautiful, intelligent and sexy lady. It’d be his loss not mine. I know it sounds very cocky, but I truly believe your main source of confidence should be you, not your man. 

The other very important thing I’ve learned is not to fall in love with (only) words but action. I’ve been guilty of falling for men who were so remarkably eloquent that I just wanted to jot down the sweet nothings they said to me. My beau is not exactly bad with expressing his affection, but it is better shown in the little things he does here and there. Had I forced him to tell me how much cares about me, I’d have stressed us both. Instead of asking for grand gestures, I appreciate the small things that he does, like how he spends time chopping wood for the fireplace to keep me warm, how he always makes sure my water bottle is filled, how he makes me breakfast while I am sleeping in, how he saves the bread crust for me. I have had guys telling me how much they couldn’t live without me one day and disappearing on me the next. When there is an inconsistency in a guy’s words and action, trust the action. 

I am not an expert, of course. I’m just a woman who has failed enough in love to know better. I don’t know what the future holds for me and my beau, but I will make the best of it and be grateful for his kindness for now.

I hope every girl will learn to be confident and enjoy life regardless they are in a relationship.

 

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I was a prophet and a therapist

Ever since I finished writing Florid Eyes: A Novel last year, I’ve considered my heroine Violet to be the woman I strive to be. She always does that right thing. She is the strongest yet most realistic fictional heroine I’ve encountered. Best thing of all, I know how she thinks and operate because I’m her creator. It used to be that when I faced any dilemma in life, I would ask, “What would Steve Jobs do?” Now I also ask, “What would Violet do?” Cuz Violet always knows best.

I have been really stressed out by my scholarship application lately, and I have been in and out of my freakout cycle. After chatting with everyone around me obsessively about how my life would be over if I didn’t get this, I’ve decided the best way to calm myself down is to seek help from Violet. As always, I wrote a letter to myself on behalf of “Violet”. It really soothed my mind. It was a very effective therapy session. 

Out of curiosity, I looked up old letters that “Violet” wrote for me in the past year. I was surprised at how many of my/her predictions have come true. I have almost forgotten how down I felt and how I exactly I have helped myself to move on. I remember all I had was hope, which was an important part of Violet’s character. I didn’t know when things would get better, I just believed it eventually would, and it did. 

Here are some excerpts from her letters.

“Being strong makes you beautiful inside and out. Not everyone will recognize how amazing strong women are in a culture that glories airheads. I didn’t get recognized by every guy I met, but you only need the right ONE.”

 

“Remember what we’ve learned about rejections? Just that you are rejected doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. Remember you’re special, and it takes a very special someone to be able to appreciate something so special like you.”

 

“It may really suck now, but don’t become cynical and bitter. Don’t lose faith in life and love. If you do, they win. Like with your acceptance, when you finally succeed one day, when you finally find your true love, you’ll know all these pain and hurt are intended to make your story more worth telling. What is Steve Jobs’ story without the firing by Apple?”

“Keep making yourself better. Keep preparing yourself to be the person who deserve a guy like Josh. You need to be broken, be stripped from your pride, to know what it is like to be deprived of something that you want, to learn how to appreciate it when you do score the one.”

 
I took Violet’s advice. I waited patiently and continued working on myself until one day he walked into my life. Life was good. He just made it better. 🙂
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I’ve stopped looking for the perfect match

I've stopped looking for the perfect match

Then I realize everything he does is perfect.

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