Stop

I had a rough time in Japan, but there is one thing that I do miss. Awareness.

We live in a culture of rush. It’s glorified, especially here in New England. Trying to make plans with someone inevitably becomes an argument about whose schedule is busier because for some reason, being busy equates to being accomplished..

Kyoto was not a particularly happy place for me. We had curfews and restrictions, lots of restrictions, especially at the monastery. A lot of that had to do with trying to diminish our thinking, decreasing our choices, forcing us to do rather than spending every moment anticipating the future. It was hard, but it worked.

But my favorite part of Kyoto? Every night at 8:00, I set out on my nightly walk. I finished all my work in anticipation of my nightly walk. Then I would set out, headphones in. 20 minutes to the river. Just me and myself. Once I got there, a thirty minute walking meditation. And finally, I would pick my favorite rock, sit, and just watch the Kamo River in all its glory. The lights, the city, the water. Then I would stroll home just in time for 10:00 curfew.

I miss it. And its not like I couldn’t do it here. But, I keep telling myself that there isn’t any time to stop. That I have to keep going even though I know its not really true.

Taking time for yourself isn’t a waste of time. In fact, its probably the most productive use of your time. Those are the moments when you are literally living. You don’t even have to be straight up meditating. Just being aware of where you are, not just physically, but in life. Being aware of the people around you, people with just as many feelings and emotions and experiences as you. There’s this unspoken belief that we don’t want to waste our life and in order to accomplish that, we have to do as much as possible in as little time as possible. We have to avoid failure. I am just as guilty in going along with these sentiments, but lately, I’m trying just a little bit harder not to. I personally believe that we are just passing through. Its okay to take life little less seriously.

Look up.

The river from Gojo Dori

The river from Gojo Dori


The river at night

The river at night

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Blogaversary!

Whoops I missed my blogaversary but I wrote my first blog post January 6th,2013 and I have officially made it full circle! I honestly thought this effort would have been abandoned long ago, but in the past year I’ve written 55 blog posts and gotten more than 2,000 views! I know its actually not a lot compared to the serious blogs out there, but I’m proud of myself for following through. This blog is more for myself than anything and it has been a great release for me over the past year especially during times when I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. This also marks a full year of my taking cold showers (because eczema).

2015

I’ve never done the New Years Resolution thing before. I guess winter break just comes and goes so fast every year that it never occurred to me to make some big change in my life just because the world decided it was time to change a single digit. This year is different. As hard as I’ve tried to keep a positive outlook, 2014 has been a shit year. There’s really no other way to describe it. But next year, I’m starting over.

Over the past few months, I’ve found some things out about myself. I’ve learned that I’m really good at ignoring my body and basically forcing it to do things that it doesn’t really want to do. I’ve discovered changes that I should be making but haven’t because I’m either lazy or scared. And I’ve realized that as much as I pretend not to, I care way too much what other people think.

No more.

Next year, I’m getting priority. I’m going to take care of myself, mentally, physically, and emotionally. My health is not longer going to be second in line, something that I shove away just long enough to pretend it doesn’t exist. I’m going to do the hard things, because they’re good for me. I’m going to actually stop giving a fuck what other people think. I’m going to stop hating who I am. I’m going to do it so that when 2016 comes, I can look at myself in the mirror and really truly smile.

I know it won’t be easy. It certainly won’t be a smiley ride all the way. But it will be worth it.

Yes, 2015 is going to be my year 🙂

Where Am I?

This time last year, I never expected to be here. This time last year I was comfortable, things were good for the first time in a long time. Things were turning around in my family and the fights were stopping, I had a group of friends that I really really genuinely loved being around, and I had someone by my side who taught me what true happiness was. My health was a bit of a shitstorm, as it is every winter, but this was the one time I managed to smile through it. This time last year, I was in the middle of the meditation retreat that inspired me to start this blog and to love myself a little bit more.

But shit happens. Time isn’t meant to stand still.

Here I am now, on the other side of the world, blindly grasping for something, anything that will point me back to the right track. I feel like I’m just floating, wasting away the minutes until I find it, whatever it is.

This year is such a blur to me, it feels like a dream. I don’t think I’ve even processed everything that has happened. I don’t think I can. Makes the future really fucking scary.

I don’t know what i’m doing right now. I honestly don’t have a clue. It’s a scary thing for a planner like me. But I know that this is something that needed to happen. I’ve learned a lot about myself, some good, some bad. But I also know that it’s prepared me better for the future. and its brought my family closer than ever.

I know that I can do it, whatever it is. Doesn’t make living any easier. Sometimes I still want to bury myself under the covers and stay there forever. But it does makes me like myself and appreciate myself just a little bit more. And to be honest, I think that’s the goal I set at the beginning of this trip.

I’m lost right now. Really fucking lost, but I think I’ve got the puzzle pieces in my hand. I just have to put them together.

A Model Minority… and Ferguson?

Things are happening. Things are happening in America that I don’t even understand. Things are happening across the country and at my little college in the middle of nowhere. It’s weird witnessing something so huge blow up in your face when you’re thousands of miles away. It’s hard for me to focus on anything here when I think about how something so important is happening back at home. And yet, I don’t think I’d be able to handle it if I were at home. Because things are coming to light now that people have been shutting away, pretending that they don’t exist. But here’s the thing. They do exist. And I don’t typically blog about things like this, but I have so many feelings right now and my word vomit needs to come out somewhere.

Ferguson and racism and people not understanding what its like to be seen as a color and not a person. These are the things that have been bothering me. Not so much the not understanding part, but the not even trying to understand part. Because I honestly don’t understand myself, but I am really fucking trying. Frankly, the reason its so hard for me to understand is because this whole situation has put Asian Americans in a bit of a strange place. We, being the so-called “model minority”. To be quite honest, I’m not even completely sure what that means.

I just can’t even.

The thing is, I guess if you’ve never been a minority, it would be nearly impossible to understand what its like. Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to be a white person, because that’s what was normal. That’s what was beautiful. But more than that, it meant that I would have a personality beyond being just an Asian person. You would think that as a twenty-year old, I would’ve gotten over it. But you know what? I haven’t. Every time I walk into a new setting, I find myself having to prove that “I’m different. That I’m not just another Asian.” Whatever that means. I don’t even do it purposefully, its just part of my subconscious now. And I know that I shouldn’t have to prove myself wherever I go, but unfortunately, its become such a normal habit that I don’t even think about it.

The strange thing is, I just spent three months in Japan where for once, I wasn’t a part of the minority. But there certainly was a bit of racism going on. I spent a lot of time with expats who had been living there for thirty plus years. They admitted that they could never be fully satisfied because no matter how great they spoke Japanese or conformed to the culture, they would still be just another white person, never quite accepted. Most of their social circles contained just other expats because it was hard for them to become as close to Japanese people. One of my favorite professors talked about how he hoped to retire to America because there he would at least be accepted and have his own niche; but he couldn’t because he had raised a family in Japan so he had roots there now. To be sure, as a country built by immigrants, America certainly is more welcoming to foreigners than Japan is, but some of this stuff is sadly all too familiar.

I’m in Taiwan now. And despite the fact that I wasn’t raised here, I’ve always felt so at home here, so comfortable. Because here I get to be me, not just that Asian girl that people confuse with the only other Asian girl in the room. It’s a pretty nice feeling.

But Ferguson. And whatever in the world is happening at Williams right now. I’m with you. Words can’t express what I’m feeling right now, but I have so much respect. I might not be able to understand exactly what its like to be every other minority group in the U.S., but I do know what its like to be seen only as your race.

It just pisses me off when people say that these “minorities” are making a big deal out of nothing. Seriously?

Taking Responsibility

In ninth grade, my English class spent two months of our first semester putting together a book of vignettes. Every week or so, we would craft a short story about a specific moment in our life and at the end, we bound everything together with a title and a dedication page. I titled my book “No Regrets”. I actually forgot about it until just now when I was thinking about all the little bits and pieces that led me to this moment in life.

To be sure, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. As an impulsive person, I’d say I’ve probably made more mistakes than not (I don’t even know what the opposite of a mistake would be. Is there such a thing?) And what is a mistake anyway? Maybe I’ll just call them “decisions that led to an undesirable outcome”.

Here’s the thing: that’s what life is. Ever read one of those “choose your own adventure books”? It’s not about achieving ultimate happiness, its about choosing your own path and then dealing with the adventure. Despite the fact that I wrote this book of “No Regrets” in ninth grade, I actually spent the majority of high school with a significant amount of regret, something that caused me a lot of mental and physical harm. It was mostly about miniscule things, things that have become tiny little blips in my present life. They still matter, sure, because they led me to where I am today, but I don’t agonize over wondering, “what if?” anymore. The thing is, it just doesn’t matter.

So today, I have no regrets. And my life is certainly far from perfect, whatever that may be. I can barely walk, I miss my family and my home to no end, and I am literally on the opposite side of the world where I will stay for another three months. This past year, it honestly seemed for a bit like something was out to get me, and I try not to think about happiness because lord knows where that’ll take me.

But this is my life. This is where all the little things have led me to be, and this is where I am supposed to be. Maybe its because I’m one of those people that believe that everything has a reason or maybe its because I’ve been studying Buddhism for the past two months. But life isn’t over yet. This moment right now will lead to another and another, until suddenly I’m looking back in ten years trying to figure out how I got there. And when that time comes, I want to know that I’ve had a hand in getting there. So instead of looking back and regretting, I am taking responsibility and living now.

A few days ago, someone asked me if I made the right decision in coming to Japan. My answer then and my answer will always be, yes. Its far too early to see where this will lead me and how it has changed me, but this has certainly been an experience.

Making Peace

I’m a person who likes to do what I want to do. And I’m a person who will fight to do what I want to do… because I don’t like to be told no. A lot of times its a good thing, but sometimes it means that I don’t know my limits. And I do have limits.

I’m lying in bed right now. Where I’ve been for the past two days. I’m supposed to be exploring Tokyo right now. Taking advantage of my $465 rail pass, but I literally can’t move. Over the past month, my eczema has deteriorated so much that after a ten minute walk, I can barely stand up straight. Somehow I got it in my head that if I could just push through the pain, everything would be okay. But bodies don’t work like that, and that’s a lesson that I’m learning.

After a very expensive trip to the hospital yesterday and almost not making it to Tokyo, I realized that I needed to stop and listen to what my body is telling me. Partly because taking two steps feels like I’m setting my legs on fire. Well actually its completely because of that. I don’t think I would have stopped otherwise. So as I’m writing this, I haven’t completely made peace with myself, but I’m working on it. Because not being able to walk sucks. It really fucking sucks. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it makes life in Japan incredibly difficult and frustrating. And it’s really hard not to hate my own body for rebelling against me.

But seeing as I have no choice but to lie here and spend time with myself, its all the more important to make peace with what I have. So yup, that’s what’s happening right now.

Maybe its time to do some metta practice. That and ironically writing my research paper on healing in Buddhism.