Connectedness

A few years ago, my ex asked me who I’m closest with: friends from home, friends from school, or friends from abroad.  I never answered him, but I’ve since thought of that question on occasion, and I have come to the conclusion that I’m not more or less close to each of the groups; the levels of friendship and connection are just so different.  These people are part of significant phases of my life, and perhaps each group knows me in a different way than the others.

My friends from home have known me since I was ten years old, and they have, no doubt, seen me grow the most.  These people have watched me change, and vice versa.  There’s something about growing up constantly surrounded by the same friends, seeing slow evolutions in each other, and sharing experiences that shape us both as individuals and as a system.  All of this transforming brought us to a level of friendship that can only be achieved with time.  And all of this time has brought us ups and downs that only continue to bring us closer.  They are my cornerstone, the building blocks of who I am, the very core of where my growth began, and one of the main ingredients to my happiness.  My friends from home are the ones I am glad to always have.  No matter how far down the road, I know I will have them to come home to.

It was hard to imagine who my college friends would be and what role they would play in my life until I found them.  Turns out, they’re some of the best friends to have around.  College friends get to know you in incredible ways–at house parties and bars, hungover in dorms, during all-nighters at the library, and every other second in between.  These are friends who live with you–sometimes literally–and get to see who you are while you’re in the process of finding yourself and potentially, who you’re going to be for the rest of your life.  They are there to watch you overcome the most difficult challenges you will ever face, and if you’re lucky, they’ll be right next to you every step of the way, making the same exact horrible decisions.  I have formed unbreakable bonds with my college friends, and with them I’ve learned how little time can affect friendship.  They are my support networks and secret-outlets, my squad, and the bottom line is that they get to know me better than most people ever do.

Sigh.  Sevilla friends.  These are people with whom I have created an entirely new bubble of friendship.  They are there, living in the stories that I will be telling for the rest of my life.  These friendships formed exceptionally fast, and I think that might be the reason for our extremely high comfort levels with each other.  Suddenly I found myself in a foreign country with just a suitcase and this group of people to hold on to.  And I did.  We all did.  Fortunately I don’t think we will ever let go.  What we’ve been through were some of the best moments of our lives, and that is not something to be taken lightly. We’ve seen the world, pushed through borders and boundaries, and fell in love with the same city together. Through all of this, and in less than half a year, what we did was more than travel. We left parts of ourselves with each other, in all corners of the world, and if that doesn’t bond you for life then I’m not sure what does.

Since this question was posed to me, I entered a new phase in my life which has brought yet another incredible group of people into my life: my Seoul friends. The last three years in South Korea have been life life life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all my experiences here. I’ve grown part of different communities–teachers, foreigners, local yogis and runners–who have welcomed me and helped me to see the life I’ve built in this country. I hold close the group of friends I made within the first few days of arriving, and I think that through meeting them I became solid in who I already was. We all got to know each other exactly as we were and as we still are, and I have nothing but gratitude for the fact that we loved each other through flaws and mistakes.

Most recently I’ve been thinking about the running and yoga families I’ve come to know and love here in Seoul the last two years. When I first walked into Zen Yoga studio, and first went to an open run for Crewghost, I never thought it would become a completely engrained and habitual attendance. Now I go to my yoga studio 5-8 times and to a crew run at least once or twice, both per week. Spending as much time sharing a mutual passion with a group of people for hours at a time brings you together without even trying–certainly regardless of language. These two communities have brought me joy and support, and a family to back me in the goals that no one else can understand.

As I come to realize that I have just five short months left before a new adventure, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I’ve spent my years with. And as I get ready to leave this group of friends to visit the others, all I can feel is gratitude. To have so much love from around the world. To know that I can turn to so many to receive all kinds of needs. To understand that I can be a different version of myself and still be loved for it. To find that I am open and lucky enough to be able to connect with so many souls. And to recognize that with time, I am changing for the better. How do I know all this? Because each time I come back to all of the people I love, no matter how long it’s been or how far I’ve gone, I never doubt that the love and connection and friendship remain.

Advertisements

What It Was Like

I stepped off the plane and walked through the airport with my family. It was 2001, the summer before 9/11. We had a layover in Alaska before flying to New York City, our final destination. Through the tall windows lining the airport waiting area, we witnessed snowfall for the first time in our lives.

Needless to say, my brother and I–age 10 and 11 at the time–were overjoyed. Winter wonderlands were not exactly part of our childhood experience growing up in the Philippines. We took pictures with a big polar bear display, and pranced around with no cares. As the snow came down, we watched in awe with our noses pressed to the glass until the next flight called us for boarding.

Later that night, we landed in New York. We had several suitcases, filled with as much of our life as we could fit. And that was it. When the plane grounded, it was home.

I remember driving through Times Square as soon as the car started moving. I sat looking not exactly out of the car window, but up. At tall skyscrapers in a city full of life and light in the middle of the summer. It was my first impression of America: an endless bright sky even at night. I couldn’t believe that I was here.

Before I knew it, we were driving on quieter streets, much darker than 42nd and Broadway. Suburban houses. White picket fences and people walking their dogs on sidewalks. Exactly like I saw in movies and books.

We pulled up in the driveway of a quaint little home.

My home.

My new home.

In America.

This was the home my mom prepared for us in the months before the move. She flew the day-long flight back and forth getting all sorts of things ready. Paperwork, visas, green cards. Our house, our school, our neighborhood. It was all waiting for us. And everything fell into place, a dream and reality at once.

My mom walked us through the front door and gave us a tour. A living room, a kitchen. A piano. Bathrooms. A basement. A backyard with a deck and a pool, and a swing set for my brother and me. I had never dreamt of living in a house in America before. But there it was. A dream I didn’t know I had, come true.

I had a room.

My room.

My own room that had a bed for only me.

My brothers and sister had their own rooms, and my parents theirs. My mom decorated it with toys and posters, and a clock with Tweety Bird on it. I had everything; my whole family in one house, and a bedroom that I could call “mine.”

In the following months and years, the American dream kept unfolding, and I know exactly who I have to thank for that.

I had a neighbor on one side who asked me to come over and play in her backyard in the summers, and a neighbor on the other who went out of his way to plow our driveway when it snowed in the winters. I had a friend in school who taught me how to use a computer when I told her I didn’t know how. I had teachers who treated me and encouraged me the same way they did all the other kids. I had invitations to birthdays and block parties from classmates and neighbors. I had friends to ride bikes with, a team to play sports with, camp friends to spend summers with, a brand new culture to participate in, and a safe home to return to at the end of each day.

Looking back, I feel so lucky. I just had so much–all of which I can now say I took for granted. I grew up to call America “home.” And in some ways, it felt more like home than where I came from because of the strangers who, over time, became the people I shared this “home” with. They showed me love and kindness and respect as I grew up and found myself in a country that wasn’t mine until they showed me that it was. Actually, they showed me that it was ours.

Today I woke up and cried because I feel so lucky, and I also cried because there are children right now who aren’t. While reading the news this morning, I was brought back to the first time I arrived in New York, and how I felt no fear. I was a child, and I didn’t have a single worry–and that’s exactly how it should have been. I didn’t know I was an immigrant. I didn’t even know what that meant. Surely I didn’t have a full grasp of how much bravery and doubt it took to pick up and move lives the way we did.

What it would be like if we had arrived in New York today? Would I be terrified? Would I just want to go back where I came from because this seemed so much harder and scarier? How would I feel? What would people think of me? How would they treat me?

It pains me that there are children and families facing these questions as I write this. In ten or twenty years we’ll be reading what it was like for them as they landed in America to find that people didn’t greet them with open arms. We’ll read about those who came to our country in these last few years, and those words will be much different than mine. They’ll be about how much it hurt to be looked at differently, or what it was like watching their parents deal with disrespect. And they’ll write about how they didn’t understand why.

I feel a ridiculous sadness in recognizing my luck and circumstance sixteen years ago, and how it would have been different today. It makes me guilty thinking of how the families like mine might be treated in the current state of our country and politics, and the hardships they’ll face that I never did.

But through all of my tears and sadness this morning, there was one thought that gave me hope and assurance that immigrant kids like myself will discover goodness in their new lives in this country: There will be people who will make this place feel like home. 

There will be people who understand. There will be kind strangers who open their homes to share their food and time, and there will be children who will play with them and treat them well. There will be people who go out of their way to help. There will be teachers and leaders in the community who will show them that they are part of something important. There will be parents who will teach them to be brave. There will be others like them to remind them that they are not alone. And there will be all of us, those who came before them, who will continue to fight to give them the new beginning they came here for.

Motivate me Monday

Guess what?

I’ve made a very bold decision.

To cross #65 off of my bucket list.

Run a marathon.

AAAHHHH.

Yeah I’m nervous.  And because I know myself too well and I want to do this the right way and take my time in doing so, I’m giving myself two years to reach this goal.  Yes, YEARS.  A marathon is 26.2 miles.  So by the end of 2015, I will have run a marathon.  At least that’s the goal.  If it doesn’t happen or as long as I am still working towards it by then, I think I’ll be okay.

I’ve been doing a lot of research and reading about running marathons and the training the comes with it, and what I’ve taken away from all of it is that this will be a long, hard process that I’m going to need to take seriously.  And I think I need something like that in my life right now.  A project, if you will.  I’m going to start by training for a 5k, then a 10k, a half marathon, and finally a marathon.  To start, I’m going to use Cool Running’s The Couch-to-5K Running Plan that I heard about a few years ago.

I started today, and I feel great about it.  About halfway through the workout, I felt amazing.  I was like what is this 60/90 second running/walking alternation?!  I could run that marathon right now!  And then I lol’d because that was a sick joke.  But it has never felt better to set such a huge goal for myself, and after just the first day of working toward it just a little, it already feels rewarding.

Here’s the thing about setting goals.  Slowly getting closer to achieving them is an incredible feeling.  Running (literally, in my case) towards what you want gets your life going.  And that’s how it should be.

After running I had a really super good awesome wonderful meditation.  I remember when I first started meditating (I don’t really actually know if I’m really meditating but that’s what I call it…) aka thinking only positive things for 2-10 minutes and doing some deep breathing.  Is that meditating…?  Cause that’s what I’ve been telling people that I do every morning.

ANYWAY.  When I first started, I remember thinking like 4 positive things and I thought it had been 2 minutes already but it was really only about 15 seconds… This morning I couldn’t stop thinking of all the good things.

I just had an awesome run.  I feel really good.  I’m out of breath in a good way.
I have an awesome family, boyfriend, friends, and there are good people in the world who are working to make it better.  Including me.
I get to see my nieces today.  They’re going to change the world in a decade or so.
I’ve been to more places than most people have in their lives.  I’ve seen countless sunsets.
The sky is blue today.
I am blessed, grateful, happy, deserving.

Literally I couldn’t stop.  And then my phone went off and I remembered that I have work to do.  But I stopped and also remembered that life is too good to me.  And it could be for everyone.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

How to waste your time

DOnt worry be happy - Do You have a problem in life - Yes - Can you do something about it - NO - yes - Then Why worryThink too much about your problems, and not enough about the solutions.

Never say how you feel.  Hold it in until you explode and feel better, then start building it up again.

Be too proud or ignorant to apologize or come to compromise in a situation you want fixed.

Always have a frown on your face.  Waste it even more by not allowing yourself be happy.

Be and think negatively.  Waste your time by not feeling good.

Do something you hate.  Just wake up every day and do things you don’t enjoy.

Worry about all of the things in the world that are out of your control.

Blame yourself for something that had nothing to do with you.

If you are guilty of any, or worse, ALL, of the above, I’m gonna guess that you don’t want to be happy.

That’s a shame.  And I don’t know about you , but all I ever want to do is be happy.  And I think that time spent being anything else but what you want to be is wasted time.  Looking around lately I’ve found that a lot of people are wasting time, including myself sometimes.

Last weekend the BF and I got in a fight that wasn’t really a fight–one of those I-thought-you-were-mad-at-me/No-I-thought-you-were-mad-at-me fights. Stupid, we know. And we’re working on it by realizing together that negative time and energy is a big, big mistake.  Why go a few hours being upset or mad when you could release all of that bad energy by way of words or some type of expression–therefore ridding yourself of it–for just a few relieving minutes?

Well the answer is: you shouldn’t.  Why?  Because it will, without a doubt, be a complete waste of your time. I promise.  Take it from us.  We had a perfectly beautiful Saturday spent walking around Philadelphia, wading in public fountains, tossing the football around, and drinking mojitos.

 

Then whatever happened happened and it led to 3 or 4 hours of confusion, silence, and a spritz of awkward atmosphere.  AKA waste of time.  We could’ve fixed it in 10 minutes but instead we went hours thinking something was wrong.  And guess what?  Nothing was wrong!  So haha, the joke’s on us.  And what I learned from all of this is that I would love to never waste a precious minute like that ever again.  As far as I’m concerned, Philly is the city of not just brotherly love, but of all love.  And we can keep it that way.

This past Wednesday, I had dinner with my sister-in-law.  I talked a lot about the yoga/meditation and green things I do in attempt to make a social and environmental difference, and she couldn’t get enough of it.  When I talked about a stress management class I took last year and all the habits I gained from it, it’s like she discovered a whole new world of beautiful possibilities that never crossed her mind before.  “You inspired me,” she told me.  And nothing feels better than hearing those words.

After our dinner, I just kept thinking about unhappy people.  My sister-in-law isn’t unhappy, but a lot of people are.  They’re stressed and sad and hate the way their lives turned out.  To me, that’s totally unacceptable.  Unacceptable AND a waste of time.  If that’s not telling you that it’s time to make a change, then you are doing something very wrong.

Wanna know the best thing about all of the worrying, the stressing, the anger, the sadness, and the madness?  No one is forcing you to be a part of it.  You are doing it to yourself.  And life is so that you can control it.  If you hate what you’re doing…get ready for some good advice here…STOP DOING IT.  That’s probably what will get you one step closer to spending your time wisely.

Nike, baby.  Just do it. ✓

Oh, and HAPPY FRIDAY!

tumblr_mpu223IUMc1qabikyo1_500

Summer for grown-ups

Summer isn’t summer anymore.

Well, maybe it is.  Summer is always summer I suppose…but it’s not the same now.

I remember my first summer in America.  I was 9 years old, and we went to Disney World.  I got Mickey and Minnie’s autographs, met my favorite Disney Princesses, rode teacups and roller-coasters that I was tall enough for, and I was not in the least bit concerned about wasting time or money.

This summer, right when it began, I went to Disney World again.  This time, I was 21 years old, and my eldest niece was 9.  I remember the day she was born, and suddenly there we were at the happiest place on earth, where I too made memories as a 9-year-old.  It was mind-blowing to say the very least.  I didn’t know time could be so fast.

Instead of buying endless rounds of cotton candy and souvenirs, I opted for eating the kids’ leftovers and buying a single postcard.  And instead of needing to hold someone’s hand while walking around the parks, I was the one whose hands were clutched tightly by one or all three of my nieces.  Instead of waiting in line for the Disney Princesses, I wanted to wait in line for the Disney Princes… I mean, Gaston and Prince Eric were kind of nice to look at.  Ten years from now my family will be at Disney again, and I bet my nieces will have moved on to the Princes too.

Our day at Magic Kingdom this year turned out to be a magically bittersweet day for me.  We watched the fireworks over Cinderella’s castle (only the most iconic symbol for Disney World there is) and I cried the entire show and then some.  I stood in a crowd of thousands, with my youngest niece in my arms, my entire family around us, and a real-life fairytale ending in front of my eyes.

My eyes were waterfalls for a number of reasons.  I wasn’t 9 years old anymore.  I just came back from Sevilla, Spain, where I spent the last 5 months gallivanting with new friends and living my dream of doing nothing but traveling, writing, jumping off cliffs, spending time in the sun, and meeting people from every walk of life.  I’m almost two years into my twenties.  I’m an aunt.  I’m entering my senior year of college.  I’m finding the version of myself that I want to be.  I’m looking into what will be my career and full-time job.  It felt like the culmination of my life as a girl and the beginning of life as a woman.  And it hit me like a firework.  It’s time to grow up.

And so began the beginning of summers for grown-ups.

I’m working in New York City and also from home.  My weekdays consist of work and routines instead of sitting by the pool with my friends like we did back in the summer for kids.  No more trips to theme parks or concerts or beaches.  Every weekend is packed with plans because that’s the only time anyone has time.  My alarm goes off at 6:30 am–something I thought was unthinkable in the summertime.

It kind of hurts and feels weird and makes me tired, and nothing’s worse than associating those negative things with Summer.  But I will not let change get the best of me for there is always happy hour, weekend trips and adventures, backyard BBQs, bonfires, and always always always a way to have too much fun.

Summer is for grown-ups too.

An obligatory Christmas post

Merry Christmas to all of you lovers, dreamers, nonbelievers, humans, creatures–whatever you are, I hope you are having a beautiful Christmas.  A Christmas that is overflowing with joy and exploding with love.  Or at the very least, I hope you’re having a good day.

As usual, I can’t believe it’s Christmas.  It always just sneaks up on me every year.  Life just goes by so fast, doesn’t it?

December 25th brings up a lot to think about, but mostly the 365 days that came just before and that will come after today.

The last year has been fantastic.  I traveled to places I’ve always dreamed of visiting.  I finished another two semesters of college.  The people in my life remain happy, healthy, and full of love for each other.  I met some incredible people and made some really meaningful connections with people.  I’ve had my fair share (and maybe a little more) of adventure this year, and I could not imagine my world getting any better from here.

But the most amazing this is, is that I know it will.  I have a beautiful future to look forward to.  You want to know how I know that?  Because I won’t accept anything else.

To some degree, I believe in fate and destiny but I also believe in chance and making my own luck.  All of the experiences I’ve been blessed enough to have had this year were not random strokes of luck–they were plans.  I worked hard to be deserving of everything I got, and I intend to do the same for the rest of my life.  Fate and destiny have their own roles to play but when I look ahead to the next 365 days, I know that only I can get myself to where I want to be.  Same goes for you.

So, friends, never stop being thankful.  Do it all day, every day, during every moment you can.  THAT is how you spread love.  It’s how we keep ourselves moving forward to bigger and to better.

There are too many sunrises and sunsets to see, chocolates to eat, days to enjoy, oceans to swim in, air to breathe, people to meet, and trees to save.  Look ahead and find the future that you want.  Take it, and make it.

PS- I tried so hard not to include a rant about consumerism and how I think money/material totally replaced the true meaning of Christmas…And I succeeded!  So for that, you’re welcome.  You have been spared.

A night in New York City

Some pictures from Friday night in New York City with my family:

IMG_7772 IMG_7775 IMG_7784 IMG_7785 IMG_7809 IMG_7841 IMG_7843