The Hardest Transition Into Adulthood.

Adult puberty is like puberty you experience during your pre-teens minus the braces and your terrible fashion sense. We all go through it at some point in our lives. Some of us will get out of it, some will not.

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Photo by Charles Duque.

The twenties is a period of uncertainty, self-discovery, and figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life – that’s what they all say. And it’s true. Adult puberty is this chaotic mess where we’re either searching or creating the person we want to be. Everyone will undergo different experiences, some may not have these experiences. But regardless of the next chapter in your life, it’s all about the process and the journey you undergo that enables you to grow and develop.

High School

In my senior year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do.

I was lost.

I hoped to do something more with the world and I felt university could help me grow and provide opportunities for that. I just never thought I could do it. By having an I-probably-can’t-do-it mindset, I was my own barrier to moving forward.

If my seventeen year old self were to look four years ahead of her life, she would have never have imagined how much closer she is to the stars.

First Year

I took a lot from this unadventurous, treacherous, stressful first year. One regret I have is not going out and not making an effort to meet new people.

Take chances.

Explore the unknown.

We have so much to see and offer in our community. I was so absorbed in my own world and obsessed with studying I did not take care of myself at all. I held unreasonably high expectations for myself. I didn’t eat, I hardly slept, and dragged my body to school until it collapse.

Please take care of yourself.

Don’t wait until you pass out in a classroom.

It’s a little embarrassing.

And if you’re ever struggling during midterm season and wondering if all you’re suffering will ever be worth it in the end, just know you’re probably not alone in thinking that. It may not look like it but chances are everyone else is struggling as well. Another lesson I’d like to pass on to other students is never let a bad mark bring you down. Grades do not define who you are and what you can offer as an individual. Failure is alright because surprisingly, it’s actually the key to success. Mistakes are inevitable but they’ll give you opportunities to make things better.

Take your time.

Enjoy what life has to offer.

School is important, but so is your life.

Go out and enjoy it.

You may only be able to do it at that time and age once.

Second Year

This year was so exciting because I was able to transfer into dream university in the city I’ve always wanted to live in.

I was amazed at the campus culture and how internationally diverse the student population was. I was surrounded by brilliant, bright, and accomplished people. I felt very intimidated but at the same time I was inspired. The downside to a big campus is it’s too big. It was harder to make friends, class sizes were huge, and professors for the most part didn’t even know half of the students they taught. I felt alone. I began involving myself in campus activities which helped and I made some amazing friends and discovered as well as gained many memorable experiences. I explored a lot during this year.

I was so excited to move out and be independent. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this but this is the time where we think we’re all grown up and we know everything and have it all figured out.

If you haven’t found out already, you’re wrong.

In trying to find what I wanted for myself, I was involved in casual relationships that came and went.

I got caught up in one only to get entangled into a mess I couldn’t get myself out of.

I began to question my identity.

Who was I?

I didn’t know.

But I wanted to know.

I wanted to mould myself into a person I knew I could be proud of so I decided to get out there by traveling to Vietnam in the summer to discover my roots and find lost family.

This trip changed everything. It was a journey of self-discovery and it elicited another side of myself I didn’t even know existed.

The atmosphere was saturated with chaos, unknown sights, sounds, and smells which excited me. I never felt more alive. It was in that moment where I understood this was who I was. A wanderer. The world is a big interconnected place and the friends and momentary relationships formed will impact you in ways you’ve never even imagined. I took a step out of my comfort zone and that was when my life truly began.

Vietnam held a lot of intangible moments and experiences for me. It was wild, dangerous, chaotic, dramatic, and crazy.

Third Year
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Photo by Charles Duque.

I came back to school feeling empowered and inspired but it was this year where I was challenged with one of the most difficult obstacles of my life. I came back thinking I had my life and the world all figured out. But I was so wrong. Life has its way of showing you otherwise.

My lola had a stroke and was in critical condition. She lived on the other side of the globe. Though I’ve only met her once, I had such a strong attachment to her. This threw my world off balance. It hurt to think I may never see her again. On top of other ordeals, my mind began to get murky and foggy. In ignoring the transforming state of my mind, I allowed darkness to fester breeding demons that poisoned my mind with destructive thoughts and distorted thinking dragging me into an abyss. In the subsequent months that followed, this silent, malicious force grew until it was too overwhelming to handle.

I fell apart.

I woke up every day questioning my existence and wishing for my non-existence.

I couldn’t eat, I had constant headaches, and I was unable to absorb or process anything properly. I was a moving shell who operated methodically with no reason or purpose. In continuing to not acknowledge my current state, I created illusions and sought to keep myself busy.

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Falling back on casual relationships, my actions were a cry for help and I longed to remove a mask that concealed my inner demons and pain.

For some reason I wanted to be vulnerable with someone. I’ve never felt so alone in my life. I was trapped in an isolated bubble. I began thinking to myself I can acknowledge its existence or continue to let it gnaw at me until I ceased to exist.

I wanted change.

So I decided to do something about it.

Recovery came when I faced the demons head on and acknowledged its existence. I had depression. And I needed help. I disclosed this dark secret to my best friends and family and it felt like a weight was lifted off of me. In attending counselling and therapy on campus, I slowly began to reconnected with friends and opened myself up to the world.

Recovery welcomed itself to me in the form of a spark which ignited into a flame and morphed into a tranquil light that shed a path out of the bottomless pit I drowned in.

I began to find purpose in myself again through training for a trek I was committed to undertake in Peru.

Don’t turn a blind eye to your emotions or state of mind.

Demons will take advantage of you that way.

Therapy is not a one time fix for mental health,  I had to acknowledge these demons were a part of me. They will resurface when I am challenged with negativity and barriers in my life.

To cope with these demons is to accept the world is out of our control. We are better off redirecting our energy to the things we do have control over like our mindset or our passions. Negativity is short-lived and it’s within your power to choose to let it go or let it affect your life.

Peru created a new lens for how I saw life. I found inner strength in my solitude and I realized I didn’t need someone to fall back on.

It’s just me, myself, and I!

And I’m okay with that. If I can drag my body through the Andes, I can do anything. I stepped even further out of my comfort zone backpacking alone in a country with a culture and language I was not familiar with. Through this experience I came to understand people and places will come to you at the right time and place.

Have patience.

Things happen for a reason.

It may not make sense right now but the pieces will fall together in the future.

You will discover there is kindness and good people in this world.

Give them a chance.

Make an effort to dispel your misconceptions.

You’d be surprised.

In reaching the endpoint of my journey, I realized there’s no such thing as impossible. We all have within us the inner strength to breathe life to our dreams.

Fourth Year

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Everything that has happened to you in the past will lead you to this moment. Reflecting back on everything that has happened so far, I’ve come to appreciate even more my parents who have sacrificed and put themselves before my brother and I. In living on my own, I begun to appreciate and see in a different perspective everything they have done for me. Nothing inspires me even more than watching my parents work hard to create a bright future for us. Love your parents. Because they have done nothing but loved you back and invested their time on a bright future for you.

The things we take for granted now are the things we come to appreciate even more in the future.

New knowledge and truths will give voice to itself.

We are only human.

At this moment in time, my lens are clear. They are knowing and they look at the world through forgiveness and acceptance. But they are dynamic and will change throughout my life course. Yours will too. As long as you can keep them clear, you’ll be able to move forward in the direction you want to go.

Surviving adult puberty will be different for everyone but to do so is to:

Live a life you will not want to regret.

Involve yourself in the pursuit of happiness.

Laugh lots.

Go on spontaneous adventures.

Cultivate a positive mind.

Follow your heart.

Meet new people.

Be kind.

Explore.

Smile more.

Because we’re all in this together. And you are not alone.

What’s your story and where will it take you?

A Letter To My Non-Existing Children.

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To my non-existing children,

I’ve done a lot of thinking and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may not wish to have you in the future. When I was a girl, I was so sure I wanted to start a family and one day have you. But as I grew older, I saw the world and discovered more of myself and my passions. I am a wanderer who will forever have the itch to escape from the comforts of home to see the unknown. My lifestyle is one of unpredictability and is absent of monotonous routines. One that’s is adventurous and nomadic. I began doubting whether or not you were what I truly wanted. Initially, I had many fears for you from bad parenting (on my part), to bringing you into a messed up world, to living under a financially insufficient household. But later on, I had fears for myself. Fears of you holding me back, regrets of having a child, having to make sacrifices for you, compromising my career for you, not being able to travel because of you. I began to resent you.

The more I ventured out into the world, the less desire I have for you and the idea of a family. I played with the idea of having a future with no kids and it didn’t seem so bad. Bringing you into the world would require my duties as a parent to carry you for as long as I live. That’s a big responsibility I may not be able to commit to. Society has put so much pressure on women to conceive and raise children. It’s considered fulfilling and meaningful to have a family. I’m not saying it’s untrue. It can be true. But only if one wants it. Because it has changed people in good ways and transforms their lives for better or for worst. If I do not have you, I am labelled in society as selfish. In all honesty, I don’t care what people think. And I don’t find that selfish at all. If I don’t believe in my abilities as being a potential mother and don’t have the heart to have you due to other goals and aspirations, why would that be selfish on my part? We live on this earth to find ourselves. This may sound selfish but it’s true. We also exist only for ourselves. I want to grow to my fullest potential. But I don’t think I can if I have you. I’m scared to bring you into this world where you’re own mother resents you for holding her back and is not the selfless, loving, and nurturing parent that’ll help you grow into a decent human being. I do not wish for that kind of pain to be inflicted upon you.

Troubling childhood experiences have also degraded my desires for a family. Through that experience, I’ve come to understand before you carry a family, do things for yourself. Put yourself before anyone else. You deserve that kind of respect and it’s not at all selfish. Don’t be afraid of what others may think of you. Do what makes you happy. Do what you think is right.

Life is unpredictable and things change. Perhaps we will meet in the future. If I do want to have you, the reason I wish for you to exist will be past obligations, expectations, and pressure and is replaced with a genuine desire to create life with the one I love. So we can guide you. To show you the beauty of our world amidst the darkness. We will teach you many things and raise you to become a good human being. If I do not have you, it is for many reasons. But both scenarios factor in my love for you.

My non-existent child who has not yet (or perhaps will not ever be) been born into this world, for me to bring you into this world even when I do not wish to have a child will bring upon you suffering and to be nurtured in an environment that will compromise your own growth, potential and make you feel unloved or unwanted is selfish and I would failed in my duty as a parent. I do not want that for the both of us. I want nothing more but a good life for you and I.

If you and I can coexist in this world peacefully where we both help each other grow rather than hold each other back, I cannot wait to meet you. But that decision is not ours to make until the distant future.

Love,

Your non-existent mother.

The Journey of Mental Health: Goodbye, But Hello.

If I were able to go back in time and visit my younger self, I’d tell her life can and will get better. There’s always a hello to a good bye, a beacon of light amidst the darkness, and with sadness and pain comes the greatest gift of life, happiness.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

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There’s a vulnerable side in all of us that we do not feel comfortable showing or exposing to others. It’s hard to be open and honest with the agony we go through but I hope in sharing my personal story, this creates more mindfulness around the well-being and mental health of our community. The challenge is people often wear masks to hide how they are truly feeling so it’s difficult to tell who’s not okay. We live in a society where discussion around mental health is not well understood and is still considered a stigma though initiatives exists with the intention to decrease barriers by normalizing mental health. I hope this reaches anyone who is going through the same thing to get the help they need.

Overcoming the Dark Clouds.

I had a perfectionist personality. I’ve always set incredibly high standards for myself and would beat myself up if I couldn’t met them. To add to that, my perceptions of the world were distorted. Destructive thinking was habitual and so normal it stopped me from living freely and being happy.

 I suffered from severe depression. I was fortunate to get help before it became worse. It wasn’t long ago that I started on the road to recovery with therapy. Throughout this semester I have come to realize and understood more about myself and my mental prison along with the the impacts behind my actions, the coping methods, and destructive cycles that I have self-perpetuated. There are things I regret doing. I wish I could change them but it’s important to not dwell in the past. Although I cannot undo my actions, I know a little bit more about myself and what I want so I take it as a lesson and seek to approach it differently the next time.

I had a dark cloud in my head. A cloud that I thought for years could just go away. Something that could be disregarded and ignored. But I learned it couldn’t. Little did I know it harvested anger, resentment, jealousy, and sadness. I’ve recognized it’s a part of me and if not properly dealt with can come back with a vengeance. If I am engulfed in my own negative thoughts, no matter how far I run, the cloud will catch up and drag me back into the same dark hole I’ve crawled out from.

When the dark cloud is fed with negative thoughts, it removes your sense of control. It lives through the mind’s underlying emotions and trauma from the past as well as the present. It is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the root cause and triggers to it.

The dark cloud has a mind of its own and has the power to alter how you perceive the world. It steals all the energy, goals, and motivations you may have and leaves you feeling empty and alone. In your waking moment, you are just a shell. Your body moves, but your soul has left you. Stripped of the energy to accomplish daily tasks, you lay in bed all day and do absolutely nothing. You close your eyes and wish for your soul to sleep and never wake up again.

I was successful in creating a mask for myself that prevented me from opening up how I really felt. In a sense, I became a part of the stigma as I downplayed my emotions a lot so I could feel normal and fit in. I felt I couldn’t express how I really felt with anyone. In ignoring the condition I was in, I was allowing the dark clouds to take over.

Experience is what shapes who we are at the present moment. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can change our approaches such as our way of thinking. This creates the ability to overcome adversities and yields a resilient individual who has the strength and hope for the future. Life is so unpredictable and full of complexities. One of the most insightful things I have come to realize is everyone is fighting their own battles in life and I am not alone in struggling to get by. We’re fighting to find our place and purpose in this world.

I came so close to dropping out in the middle of my school semester. I felt that I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the strength and energy to continue. But what gave me strength to overcome those dark clouds was a phone call reaching out to my mom. I slowly remembered the reason why I was here. Getting a degree wasn’t just for myself. I want to contribute to creating a better world for others and to positively impact communities. Another driving force was doing all this for my parents who have made sacrifices to give my brother and I a better life. They’ve opened up a world of possibility for us they’ve never had growing up and worked hard for it through their blood, sweat, tears, and unconditional love.

I wanted change. One of the most important steps in overcoming adversity is acknowledging you want change to happen and being aware it can’t be done alone. It’s a terrifying first step mixed with emotions of shamefulness, fear, and uncertainty. But to have the courage to move forward will lead you to a better place.

Although you reach out for help, that doesn’t mean the battle is over. You still need to understand yourself and your rationale behind your actions, way of thinking, perceptions, and adopt skills to developing more healthy, realistic habits which takes time and practice. The strongest impact comes from opening up to the people you love and walking through the process together.

The Power of People

Why is this more effective in making change? 

We need people. It’s because they care and they want to do what they can to help you back on your feet. Humans are social beings and by nature attribute meaning to things. We find purpose in the actions we undergo and the experiences we have.

If I were able to visit my younger self, I would assure her practice and patience is needed in changing unhealthy habits (i.e. negative thinking). What she is going through can be overcome, but is not something that can be done alone. Also, things will get better because time is healing.

There’s always a hello to a good bye, a beacon of light amidst the darkness and despite the sadness and pain that’s experienced, it is accompanied by one of the greatest gift of life, happiness.

Embrace life fearlessly. Because life can get better. It will.

Evonne

Journals 2016: Embrace Life Fearlessly

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Riding a bicycle in a rural village in South Viet Nam.

This has been the life motto I’ve lived by for years and with each passing year, I’ve come to learn more about myself and perhaps the meaning of life. Important lessons such as happiness is absolutely essential and the fact that time is precious are the philosophy that I carry with me. Whether or not the people or friends you meet are temporary or lifelong, they are still precious. Friends don’t have to stay in your life for a long time for them to be considered special. For the twenty years I’ve lived on this earth, I’ve met people who have added sunshine to my life when I was drowning in the dark. Oddly enough, they always seem to appear at the right place and time. This greatly supports my theory that things happen for a reason. We were meant to converge with others at some point in our life at precisely a specific time. Now that’s just a theory. I don’t know if it’s actually true but I think it’s pretty legit.

The reason why embracing life fearlessly is my motto sounds cliche but it’s the fact that  we are presented with one-of-a-kind chances that can carry us further in life. Think about it, the most awful thing you could ever experience near the end of your life is regrets. What’s worse is you can never go back and change what you know now. There’s no such thing as time travelling, at least not yet. So trust your instincts. Because at the end of the day or even looking farther ahead, at the end of your life, what do you want to remember? What you’ve done or what you could’ve done?

I haven’t met anyone who has not asked me why I do what I do. The FAQ’s are all the same. How is it that I’m braveadventurous, or even fearless? Well I’ll tell you. It’s simple. I’m just that type of person. I’m all those things because I’m curious. I’ve learn to  cultivate my curiosity by not considering the potential barriers that may stop me from doing the things I want to do. That in turn drives me to do things I would have never expected myself to do. It pushes me towards the direction of growth and learning. In summary, it’s an eat, pray, love kind of thing. You have to understand life is limitless. If you set limits for yourself, you will never reach your full potential. Try something new and take on that challenge. Don’t be afraid of failure because you learn valuable stuff from it. And that my friend is one of the keys towards success and happiness.

Because I’m so nice, and in case some of you didn’t feel to read the whole post entirely, I’ve condense it all into a list.

embrace life

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!