2013 (A Look Back)

In a Facebook post way back in February, I declared, “The Year of the Dragon was a Year of Transformation. Here’s to the Year of the Snake being the Year of Being Unreasonable.” Who knew when I wrote it that Being Unreasonable would actually give me access to Transformation? The Year of the Snake isn’t over yet, but the shakeups in the Year of the Dragon are mere blips to the seismic changes in the greater part of 2013.

There are people who can vouch for me and say that the Cat of late 2013 is different from the the Cat of early 2013, let alone 2012. But more than that, the world around me is different. The colors are brighter, the situations are funnier and more fun, and people have never been more real or more beautiful. Sometimes I take a step back like WHOA, this is my life now. It still scares me sometimes, like I’m afraid I’m not equal to it. But gosh darn it, it’s my life now, it’s mine and no one else’s and I love it to pieces.

2013 Highlights and Lowlights:

  • My car got totaled by a hit-and-run over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Thankfully, I wasn’t in the vehicle at the time.
  • I took up self-defense (Krav Maga) for the first time… then broke a bone (my ankle) for the first time in my life too.
  • I went speed dating for Valentine’s Day.
  • I went snowboarding for the first time on President’s Day.
  • I started the Talk to Strangers project and my event planning hobby went into hyperdrive! I’ve planned Girls Night Outs, an excursion to see Bruce Lee’s grave, meetups for Internet people, karaoke events, and more.
  • I discovered that I could sing after all. I started singing lessons in June. I hit the high C in Phantom of the Opera’s “Think of Me” which I never thought was possible!
  • I got my braces off and my retainer on.
  • My uncle passed away in July. I am so proud to have been in the financial position to help my mother come to the US for his funeral and be with her family.
  • I applied to teach English in South Korea but didn’t make it. I am in the process of applying for it again.
  • I completed Landmark’s Curriculum for Living and coached the Self Expression and Leadership Program for the first time.
  • I tried improv (improvisational theater) for the first time and fell in love with it.
  • I said goodbye to my faithful roommate of one year, Teresa.
  • I welcomed my new roommate Vania.
  • I emceed the National Association of Asian-American Professionals’ Gala in November.
  • I worked for a non-profit corporation in small business loans and a drydocking company, both amazing eye-opening experiences.

And those were just the facts! More importantly here are a few of the things I learned in 2013:

  • You get what you give out: Smiles, money, love– it matters not. If there’s something you want, be willing to give it. Too often, I’ve heard (either myself or other people!) complain about how that one person hasn’t called them in forever… and yet, they never tried to place the phone call themselves. And all too often, this is the same reason given by the other person on why they haven’t made the call.Be willing to make the phone call. Be willing to give money to receive money. Be willing to invite if you’ve always wanted to be invited.As a child, I always wanted people to come to me and want to be my friend. But I would never go and ask them myself, because I was afraid they would reject me. In 2013, I finally realized that everyone’s like me: waiting to be asked to belong. Waiting to be invited.

    I am now quite the inviting machine. People are free to say yes or no, I simply don’t make that decision for them. The results have been very interesting so far…

  • Ask, so that the universe can begin to bend in the direction to give you what you want.
  • I love people and people love me: I stood in front of 50-some semi-strangers and admitted that I made other people small so that I could cope with myself. I half-remember what Patrick told me after: “You really love people. Go love people.” I’ve been trying ever since. It scares me constantly and I don’t think I’m completely there yet in tearing down all the barriers I have between myself and other people, but I’ve come a long way from the girl who used to bring books everywhere so that I didn’t have to talk to people and deal with them.And that’s when I finally got to see and feel how much other people love me. I turned 25 in 2013 and am dropped to my knees that I’m only getting this now. People don’t always show it the way you want them to, but the love is there, underlying the universe.
  • Relationships aren’t 50-50, they’re 100%-100%.
  • A “no” (or a “yes” for that matter!) is nothing to be afraid of: People (and that includes me because I’m people) do the craziest things to avoid being told no. Or yes. Or having to say yes or no. Or having to commit and be responsible.But when I do this, when I pull the trigger and commit myself, the world can begin to move, change and work. Every choice opens new actions. I find little to gain in the waiting, the procrastination, the indecision that only stresses me out. Time and time again, knowing whether it’s yes or no (no matter how much it hurts) was better than being left out to wonder.
  • I can sing like a bird: I sang a few lines for a friend once, and he convinced me to record myself. That’s how I discovered my voice wasn’t the awful braying I imagined it was, but actually a decent foundation to create something beautiful with.I love singing and to discover that far from causing people pain when I did it, I could actually contribute to people’s happiness… I’ve never been so happy in my life. I am able to sing and bring forth joy at any given moment. I feel so free to express myself.
  • How to accept being gorgeous: I don’t think I ever thought of myself as all that pretty until the summer of 2013. The standards of beauty I’ve grown up with don’t look a thing like me, so I’ve always felt like I looked weird. (Although growing up looking weird is apparently standard procedure for models.) But getting a flattering haircut that made full use of my natural curls, finally figuring out how to wear makeup, taking my braces out, and gaining a healthy dose of self-belief and self-confidence made a huge difference.Moreover, I didn’t realize I had so many negative connotations associated with being gorgeous that prevented me from just being so. Being gorgeous and owning it doesn’t make you a bitch, doesn’t reduce you to little more than a face (what do you mean you can be smart and gorgeous and more besides??), doesn’t mean the universe owes you anything, doesn’t mean you owe the universe anything, doesn’t make you more or less than other people.It means I’m gorgeous and I own that.
  • My ideas are good and worthy of consideration: It was a pattern that I finally noticed. I thought it’d be a great idea to encourage people with social anxiety to talk to strangers on the bus while documenting the experience. And then I never told anyone about it because I thought people would think it was stupid. (Actually, I talked about it when I first came up with it and that experience sucked so I stopped.) Then I came up with the idea of holding an improv workshop for a mixed group of bankers and low-income housing residents. I really liked that one and thought it would make a real difference in how people relate to each other, no matter how much money they made or had. But I never told anyone about that either. I thought everyone else would think it was stupid.It was a difficult and stilted experience to begin giving my ideas voice. But when I finally became completely comfortable with it, I realized just how worth it my ideas were. They’re good enough to be heard, discussed, and potentially turned into reality.
  • Life is easy: If you live life thinking life is hard, it will be hard. If you live life thinking it’s easy, it will be easy.This lesson became particularly clear on various projects I took on. When I wasn’t sure what to do or had no idea what to do, I would usually just stop and give up. I tried a new course of action: I would come up with the question I was trying to answer then come up with the actions that would get me the answer. Sometimes this involved asking other people who would know better than I would. Sometimes this involved biting the bullet, getting down and dirty with my finances, and squeaking out the numbers.It was really that simple. I realized how much my thoughts would overcomplicate things, make things harder than they were, whereas the most direct way of doing things was the best way to go about it. And if the obvious way that occurred to my brain didn’t work, it would at least start to push me in the direction of the way.
  • “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
  • That I’m unbelievably powerful and so are you: I realized more clearly than ever how much say I have in my life. We have our barriers and I have very real experiences that will tell you that gravity and physics are not to be messed with. But my life is mine, I own it, I am responsible for it, and I create it. That’s all there is to it.

Frankly, 2013 was insane. But it was awesome and it ends with me in the best position of my life thus far. Here’s to 2014!

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