I’m not the same person I was a year ago, and that’s okay.
A year ago, I would have probably rejected this idea and reprimanded myself heavily for even considering it.
To me, changing was synonymous to losing one’s identity. Over the years, I fought off any indication of it. If my interests for something was waning, I would try to hold on even tighter. If I started to drift away from anyone I was close to, I would try to initiate even more efforts on my end. If I noticed that my thoughts didn’t match the perception of who I thought I was, I would make the appropriate adjustments necessary to make sure they would align. It was clear how rigid, unyielding, and critical I was of myself.
Without knowing it, I was heading down a path contrary to everything I stood for — honesty, truth, autonomy. Externally, I was a picture of self-confidence. Internally, I was revolting. Every cell, nerve, and fiber of my being was screaming for me to let go. Let go of the strict principles that no longer aligned with my current values and priorities. Let go of the people that no longer contributed to my life. More importantly, I needed to let go of the perceived perception I had of myself and embrace the person I was becoming. By letting go of the hold that was impeding on my desired self-growth, the bridge connecting me to the person I aspired to be started to rebuild itself.
With any personal development, it happened gradually. Sometimes it would happen so gradually that we don’t even realize it was happening at all. All we know is that — there was something magical stirring inside us, and it felt good. For me, it took four months, a four hour drive back home, and one simple question to bring the transformation centerstage. The question itself was pretty trivial, but the thoughts and feelings that followed was anything but.
What was the question? It was simply, “Did I want crawfish?” Passing through Orlando never failed to prompt that question. To any of my friends, that answer was obvious. Of course I wanted crawfish. I’ve never not wanted crawfish. I’ve never driven through Orlando without stopping for crawfish. Crawfish was my ish, my obsession, my guilty pleasure. I was the girl who drove an hour and a half to Orlando just to get a pound of crawfish (and an extra pound for the drive back) on a whim. And yet, my answer was simply— “No”. In fact, it has been a long time since I’ve said yes. That got me thinking… What else do I not do anymore? It’s easy to associate the person we are now with the things we commit to on a day to day basis. But what about the things we don’t do anymore? The things we left behind in the past in order to make way for the person we are becoming? Keep in mind I don’t mean the big things. I mean the little things. Because it’s the little things that makes up your habit, the way you think, and the way you perceive life. Last but not least, its a representation of your values. To quote Tony Robbins, in his book Awaken The Giant Within,
“Once you know what your values are, you can clearly understand why you head in the directions that you do on a consistent basis.”
And why four months? Because that was the amount of time it took for me to establish my new habits and made it stick. Here’s what I learned—
I am a lot less tolerant.
Recently, I have come to appreciate a new sense of urgency in the way I think and do things. In a way, I’ve come to really value my time. That being said, I have a lot less tolerance for people and activities that I mark off as adding very little value to my life. I have very little tolerance for drama, frivolity, and apathetic people. The people who are dear to me are the ones who not only inspires, but challenges and holds me to a higher standard— much like I do for them. Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and I believe in that religiously. I will not hesitate to walk away from a person, or a job, that I believe no longer contributes growth or value into my life.
I make less excuses.
I used to make a lot of excuses for myself as to why I shouldn’t do something. Or why I shouldn’t continue to do something when it showed the slightest sense of resistance. It was a weak mentality and it’s become something I’ve tried to eradicate. To combat this, I would have a conversation with myself and ask the following questions. Is what I’m doing important to me? Does it add value to my life? And if it doesn’t, what will I lose from not doing it? And most importantly, what can I learn from it? How will it help me grow as a person? After awhile, it becomes almost intuitive for me to call myself out if I felt like I was making some bullshit excuse. And when that happened, I would kinda just let out a laugh. Good try, self. You tried.
I became more daring, more opportunistic.
I used to only go after things when I felt like I was ready for it. I was complacent and cautious with how I went about achieving my ambitions. I didn’t fear rejection. What I feared was failure— and the sense of not being good enough. Because of that fear, I would only shoot for goals and accomplishments that I felt was within my reach. Sometimes I would rock the boat, but not by much. I was a perfectionistic strategist who wanted to win by playing it safe. But that’s not how you get the big piece of the pie, is it? You succeed by throwing yourself in the deep ends, in doing so, you teach yourself how to swim and stay afloat. You succeed by trying and failing— a lot. You succeed and grow by failing forward. By allowing myself to become more daring, so did my dreams. In the words of Steve Jobs, “Stay hungry, Stay foolish.”
I became more disciplined.
I used to hate doing laundry. I would put my clothes in the washer, and it would stay there for a couple of days, or even a week. When I would finally came around to checking on it, I would rationalize that it’s been in the washer for far too long and deserves a second wash before I can put it in the dryer. This cycle would continue a couple of times until I was lucky enough to remember, allowing me to move the newly washed clothes into the dryer. Even when it’s in the dryer, it would stay there for a couple of days. Which by then means that it is completely wrinkled, and I would have to start the whole drying process again. Even after doing my laundry, the clothes would stay in the basket until (yup, you guessed it) it became too wrinkled which required me to start the whole washing/drying process again before I can actually fold and put my clothes away. I don’t know why the process of doing my laundry was so tedious and painful, but it was. I could wash a hundred dishes and be okay. But doing laundry, that was my kryptonite. Fast-forward to present day, the process has became rather effortless and straightforward. Now, I would wait till I have just enough clothes to wash, put it in the washer, and pushed for it to start. Immediately after the cycle was over, I would move it into the dryer. Once it was done, I would fold and hang up the clothes in peace (while it was still warm — so no wrinkles!). What would have took me a week to do, I was able to accomplish in just a few hours. Little victories, you know? This also goes to my other chores like washing the dishes. In the last four months, I’ve only left the dishes in the sink about twice. Even then, I would wash it the next morning. I made it a habit to do everything as soon as I can, and in doing so, this translated over to all the different areas of my life as well.
I began to live my life minimally, and routinely.
To me, living a minimal life means you needed less to be happy. You don’t need the latest whatchamacallit, or anything material to be content. You just needed to be present. One of the things I hate the most is being indecisive because the variable cost is obviously — time. There’s two events that takes up a lot of my time everyday; one is deciding what to eat, and two, what to wear. I solved the first issue by establishing a go-to breakfast item (half an avocado, 3 toasts, dried chili and tabasco sauce, and one egg) that was quick, easy, and delicious to make every morning. I had my lunch and dinner ready for the week by food-prepping the day before. This cut down not only time spent debating on what to eat but also money spent eating out. As to what to wear, I’ve donated more than half of my closet… reducing the options dramatically. Now I understand why Mark Zuckerberg wear the same T-shirt everyday. The other positive thing about living minimally is that your attachments to physical things also gets reduced. I’m a pretty sentimental person, but that didn’t stop me from implementing the law of “Fuck Yes or No”. To put simply, if it’s not a “Fuck Yes”, then it’s gotta go. In retrospect, I was heading down this path as early as my junior year. When I first came to college, I brought everything from home with me. My movie collections, my book collections, my game consoles, my Pokemon card binder. I wanted my room to be representative of me so I would hung up christmas lights across the walls with pictures clipped on to them using wooden clothespin. As the college years rolled by, instead of becoming more cluttered, my room started becoming more bare. Now my room is mostly white (and empty), with a window for light to shine through, a white rack parading a gradient of blush to white dresses, with small reminisce of the person I am now littered neatly around the room. Obviously some habits never dies, such as my love for christmas lights. Don’t worry, I didn’t throw away my Pokemon binder (secretly wishing that it’ll be worth several thousands once I hand them down to my grandkids) or movie/book collections. I didn’t have the heart to anyway. Instead, they’re now collecting dust in my parent’s garage.
I have better control over my emotions.
I’ve never been an emotional person, but there were several times where I would jump the gun on judging a situation. Either someone said something that didn’t quite sit right with me or something happened that was outside of my control— whatever it was, I did not hesitate to be vocal about how I felt about it. Over time, I’ve come to be pretty proud of my calm demeanor, but it’s not without practice. It’s easy for me to look unaffected by a situation, but internally, I cared deeply. With time, patience, and a changed perspective, I came to be more indifferent of the negative experiences and people that passes through my life. I don’t believe in having disdain for anyone because even doing that is a waste of mental and emotional energy. By directing my attention and emotions to the things that brings me joy, it gave me very little room to brood over complicated and trivial matters. In applying this mentality, I became more thankful of the things I do have in my life. It was like coming up for a breathe of fresh air.
My health became my number one priority.
After suffering from tonsillitis for the last two years, I became determined to take better care of my health following the recovery. My parents had always nagged me to get my tonsils removed but I never got around to doing it until my health started to worsen. In a way, I felt like I was untouchable. I don’t smoke or engage in destructive activities. I exercised from time to time so I was physically fit. I didn’t believe my inflamed tonsils would have the power to obstruct my way of living so I cast it aside. As days, weeks, and months went by, my symptoms got much more severe. I woke up everyday feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and depleted of energy— pretty much like a walking zombie. Even on days when I slept in, I would feel even worse. I couldn’t study efficiently because of the many naps I had to take throughout the day to stay awake because I was too tired to function. As a result, my grades began to suffer. With tonsillitis, my symptoms came mainly from sleep apnea. My parents worried every day of their life until I finally got the surgery. Would there come a day when I could just stop breathing in my sleep and never wake up? It was always a possibility. It wasn’t the idea of death that finally got me to do something about my tonsillitis. It was the way I was slipping away, slowly. I became lazy, unmotivated, and fragile. I also became sick a lot more easily during this time. When my grades started to drop, I blamed myself harshly for my lack of productivity. I even called myself a failure, a disappointment. This was, by far, the lowest point of my life. When I finally realized that my failing health and lack of motivation was due to my tonsillitis, I started to take immediate actions. Needless to say, I am in perfect health now after the surgery. I sleep normally. I wake up feeling fully refreshed and awake with the 7–8 hours I get a night. I haven’t gotten sick since. I am more motivated than ever. From this experience, I realized how valuable a role health played into my future success. Now, I run every morning for 20 minutes. I took up a boxing class. I don’t eat fast food or junk food (occasionally ramen, but not without cucumbers). All in all, I am determined to live a healthy, long life so that I can have the lasting strength to do everything I set out to do.
My other priorities shifted as well.
My priorities used to be myself, my career, and traveling. Now it’s my health, self-growth, success, and my family. It’s amazing how a shift in priorities can radically change the way you conduct your life. When traveling was a part of my top priorities, I spent a lot of money and time traveling to new places on my parent’s income, and the money I had earned from my part-time job. Looking back, it was really selfish, irresponsible and foolish. Yeah, I was pretty spoiled. I don’t regret traveling as much as I did because it played a role in shaping the person I am now. What I will do differently now is to travel when I am financially ready. When I have money to lavish on myself that is actually mine, and not my parents. When I can travel with ease without constantly looking at my bank account. When I have time, because right now, I have really big plans for the future that requires my undivided attention. For self-growth, I’m reading a lot more. My goal for 2017 is to read at least one book a week. As for my family, I have a nephew now. My parents are getting older. I ate dinner with them the other day and all I could think was “How much time do I have left with them?”
I found a new sense of purpose.
A couple of months ago, I asked a question that really shook the way I was looking at life. I asked myself what was the purpose of life. Wow, right? Yeah, I know. Here’s what I wrote in my journal,
“What is the purpose of life?
Are we suppose to just work and then die?
How do we manage to maintain a thirst to live?
Is that why people obsess over work? Over finding love?
Because when you don’t have either, all you have left is yourself.
Shouldn’t that be enough? Is it enough?”
Obviously I was going through a pretty tough time in my life to be asking a question as huge as this. I was in the process of changing my career from medicine to design/business. I had just gotten out of a relationship. I needed to give myself a purpose, because up until this point, I was just living for myself. I didn’t think that was enough of a motivation. The best thing about journaling is that you just let your mind wander. And what you ask, you will receive.
“What keeps us moving?
Are we always suppose to look for the next big thing?
When is it okay to just settle and be happy with what we have?
Do you need to have love? So that you can share your life with another being?
Do you need to obsess over work to feel like you’re useful?
Is there a reason for living?
Is that reason more than ourselves?
Is the purpose of living more than ourselves?
Is the purpose of loving and working more than ourselves?
Maybe our purpose in life is to be useful—
To invest in other people and leave our mark before we fade out of this world.”
Kinda morbid, but I think I’m onto something here.
“Maybe to be useful means to give.
Maybe the purpose of us is to give to others.
To give love, motivation, knowledge, support, inspiration, wisdom…
When we give to others, they in turn, give it to someone else…
A continuous cycle. Endless. Intangible.
Is that the purpose?
Is that how we can leave our mark and feel fulfilled?
I would like to think so.
It makes living less daunting when you think that there is a purpose to it all.
You weren’t made just to die.
You were made to be useful.
And to be useful is to give.
Maybe the journey is— how?
To find the answer to how, to the purpose of being useful.”
After this revelation, life became a lot more… interesting. I truly believe my purpose in life is to be useful, to do something great. I want to leave this world knowing that I did my part in shaping it. This has been the fuel to my fire. I’m in it for the bigger picture that is so much bigger than myself.
There were other things I learned about myself, but this is as far as I’ll go. It’s clear to say that I have matured as much as my priorities have. I am, not without my idiosyncrasies however. I am still the girl who makes witty remarks and poorly crafted puns. I still listen to hip-hop and pretend that I can rap. I still laugh at my own jokes. I still visit coffee shops often and sit at the same table by the window every time. Chipotle and crawfish is still my ish. I still love Fruits Basket, Inuyasha, and Pokemon. Playing sports and video games is still my past-time even if I don’t play it as much as I used to. Sure, a lot of things have changed. At the end of the day, you just have evaluate and honestly ask yourself— Am I headed in the right direction? If not, what do I have to do to change? For me, I’m happy to say that I am my favorite version of myself right now. Lastly,
Change is inevitable, progress is a choice.
Change is inevitable. You meet people, they change you. You experience things, and that change you. Whether the people or the experience was bad or good— it doesn’t matter. What matters is the takeaway. What did you learn from it? And how can you use it to your advantage, and grow yourself as a person? Yes, everything happens for a reason— but only if you give it one.