personal essay

i’m beginning to see many statuses on facebook about graduation, and i can tell there is both the hidden message of an unbelievable ‘hurrah’ feeling and also the unpaved path that makes everyone’s minds swirl with the question, ‘what’s next?’

as having been graduated for 6 months now (exactly! holy shit), here’s what i’d like to tell you: you will not have anything figured out. for a while (unless you do, in which case i think you should tell me your tricks). but you know what? this is okay. it is okay to live life in blank pages. it is okay to not get that call back, or five. it is okay that your resume has more white space than it does words. and it is okay to return home. it is okay to be sad. you live your whole life up to this moment, and then bam, it just happens, this chapter closes but another chapter doesn’t open, at least..yet.

don’t let the social clock of society drive you into madness. it is okay to be indecisive, but also, don’t let your dreams dissolve. you must remember that when you take a step back, you also will need to take a step forward. life is a sort of chacha like that.

take time off, take care of yourself. let yourself breathe. don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t find a job. the real world is much different than the way society portrays the dream to us. but remember, don’t take too much time off. don’t be so lazy that your mind becomes a void. remain in touch with education, with what interests you, this way you can understand what motivates you, what inspires you.

don’t limit yourself to the careers relevant to your major. be open to starting over, be open to many opportunities, because there are a million. find out what you like, and start looking for places that offer that sort of environment for you. look up organizations that fit that niche, contact the supervisor. it doesn’t matter if there wasn’t a job posting. dropping an email doesn’t hurt – it is so simple in comparison to the number of cover letters you will write.

the process of applying is a process of understanding what you want. so what if people don’t contact you 10, or even worse, 15 cover letters later? the reality is: this will happen to you if you are targeting competitive jobs. it will. you will spend all this time in a day refining a cover letter specialized to that supervisor and the company’s goals only to not even receive a response. but that’s okay. my first cover letter was shit. so was my second one. ..and third. you get the point. i blindly wrote cover letters not knowing the difference between left and right, except a “hey! hire me! because, well, uh, you should?” interviews at different places are all structured differently. don’t be hard on yourself if you made it to the interview but was rejected the offer. and heck, who knows, you might even reject the job offer once you had a chance to reflect on it. some places are not for us the same way we don’t work for some places. maybe the job didn’t look as ideal in real life as it did in text. it happens. sometimes the thing about an interview isn’t to prove to someone they should hire you, but also for you to scope out the environment, the supervisor’s personality and goals, and see it this all matches yours.

don’t get so tied in the idea of having a job that you dismiss what you look for in a job. and you know what? that’s what i did. in my first job, i wanted to quit a month before i actually did, but i just stayed there. i found all the reasons to justify staying there, and one day, i just had to do it. i was bawling my eyes out and saying sorry and i realized that in that moment, i would be filing through many jobs in my lifetime. and that is also okay, to want to quit. if being at your job starts to feel like a death sentence (or maybe that is just me), something is seriously wrong. if you begin to have thoughts such as, “i’ll quit in 2 weeks when…” because abc-xyz, you need to just confront your boss and quit. don’t be like me and don’t be like so many other people who just stay at their job because of the fear of quitting and what happens after you quit. there are no consequences from leaving your job, just new opportunities waiting for you. you are not someone’s employee. you are not a contract. you are you.

and lastly, discover your voice….with life. with yourself. take up that hobby you’ve been meaning to since…freshman year of summer. take time to sleep, to lay in the sun. reread your favorite novel from adolescence. take time to even feel troubled, feel stressed, feel somewhat slightly depressed. this is all normal, this is all fine. but don’t stay there for too long. remember that just because you don’t find the perfect job that fits you, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a place in this world. find what you love since the stress of rushing to finish the last paragraph of an essay is no longer within the borders of your mind. work a minimum wage job if you need to. stay at home if you need to. cry a little if you need to. scream if you need to. we are all human. we are 21 and have barely lived a fourth of our lives and are asked to find our calling. but maybe life isn’t about finding our destiny. maybe life is about chasing destiny.

as the wonderful rilke has once said before: “Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Our culture teaches us so little about the meaning of love. In fact, its ideals are distorted. We live in a world where live is defined as dangerous, and we’re reminded of this every time a relationship of ours goes awry. Society teaches us it’s more important to protect our self-image than it is to form an open and deep relationship with others. Well, that’s just it. How can we form a true relationship with anyone around us when we can’t even connect to ourselves? If I asked you – are you easy to love – would you truthfully and genuinely say yes? Would you say yes at all?We live in a society where we focus on the flaws, unable to recognize the recognize the beauty of the soul. We’re always seemingly on the defense trying to be the offense. Everything centers around retaliation. Why is that? Why do we feed our ego with lies and justifications? Why do we assign labels to revealings of the soul as weak more often than strong? How different would life be if we were less judgmental of ourselves, and more open?

Why do we view love as a catastrophe instead of a miracle? A gift sent by angels? Perhaps it is because of how love is conceptualized in society – too fanatical, too out-of-reach, too unreal.

So then what happens? We pretend to be in love. We pretend that accumulated time equals to love. We deceive ourselves with the thought that someone who makes us feel secure (or moreover, keep the walls of the ego high) is love.

We are mistaken. We are deluded. We think that the more attractive we are, the more we’re able to win over somebody. We try and fit this idea of “pretty” so that we can be fit for this idea of pseudoromance. I don’t blame this, you see. Romance exists everywhere in media. We live in a world where everything is romanticized but nearly holds zero meaning. For example: dinners where he pays, where he escorts you back home, nights where he asks if you made it home safely. We care more about the idea of love than the person itself. We care more about materialized love than an actual connection. We think we owe it to others to be the best boyfriend or girlfriend we can be, so we dress ourselves up with fancy cologne (seductive, they say) and an expensive attire only to be worn once to see how fast it can be ripped off from your body. We buy our way into love.

We search for signs where our presence is touched. We seek temporary relief from loneliness and believe that that if enough of these instances of relief add up, they must be the one. We’re only looking to be loved. How can true love exist if it’s one-way? When we rummage for people to fill the emptiness in our lives, we aren’t forming a relationship with the person across from us. We’re filling a gap in ourselves. We’re seeking validation that we have a purpose. We have checklists, we weigh the pros and cons.

One of the most profound philosophies that I’ve learned is that everything we do is a reflection of ourlseves. When we hold onto images of love in society, it is also an extension of the image we hold of ourselves. We compartmentalize, distinguish “good” qualities from “bad”, actively search for desirable traits in another.

Love is not a criterion. Love is, and never will be, the black-and-white phenomenon you’ve created.

Everything we do either brings our loneliness into our awareness or soothes it, but taming loneliness doesn’t mean we aren’t still lonely. It just means it’s been briefly subsided before it rises again. But it doesn’t always have to be like that. In fact, you can change your life in a moment’s spare. Love is not a solution. Love is your very being.

When we love ourselves, we don’t need to sit day and night waiting or savoring our “love”. When you love yourself, it simply means your interactions with others no longer revolve around the perpetual wonder if you’re being accepted. You no longer immediately reflect if you said or did the right thing. You are able to be yourself. I’ve struggled with years to find a definition that could begin to describe love, and I think I like that one. Love is being able to be yourself in front of others. And then, when we truly find love, we are able to be ourselves in front of that person too.  That’s love.

But, if we invest in a relationship in which it’s a constant reaffirmation to make us feel loved, safe, and secure, how long will this last before it erupts into another seemingly love tragedy? We live in a society where real love has struggles, where a relationship is strengthened through countless arguments – that’s how our society justifies the pain and sorrow. We view problems as an indicator of growth, and we view that process of working through it as commitment. I’m not saying by any means a relationship doesn’t require struggle and that problems don’t foster growth, but here’s something I want you to consider. Love is easy. Relationships can be effortless. Is this to say the relationship is much less meaningful and substantial compared to the relationship I mentioned previously?

Absolutely not.

It’s impressive how much we believe from society, yet we don’t break from the pattern. We just become disturbingly aware about it.

I proposed the question earlier asking if you’re easy to love. When we believe we’re easy to love, and live under that very emotion, lightness radiates into all our relationships. Our relationships with others are easy – weightless as a feather, fluid as a stream. When we fight with others, we are actually fighting with ourselves. We inadvertently drag people into our darkness. And unfortunate as it is, from these experiences, there is a certain level of comfort reached when we no longer hesitate to pull others into our demons.

And instead of facing our demons, we create demons in others. And that’s where a majority of our fault lies. When we patronize others, aren’t we only really patting our ego on its back?

We search for the idea of love that is still faceless to us, because society says somebody completes us. They say love completes us. This part, is true, but it is the source of love that i beg to differ with. The love must come from within. At the core of us is a soul filled with bountiful love.

Love is who we are. We are not all this extra junk that has manifested within us out of fear. We see love as something to chase after in the outside world, but all of it is already in us. Maybe even too much for our body to withhold to be honest, but it finds a way. Love always finds a way.

Yesterday I bought a $20 lavender-pink peplum top from Urban Outfitters. It wasn’t one of those impulsive buys that occur weekly in my life, because as some of you may know, it’s a rare occurrence that I buy a top above $12 (ah, ah, rules I know. It keeps my bank account happy and my closet expansive!) It was the fact that when I first laid my eyes upon it, I was outrageously happy. i also instantly knew it would be $20, because all tops on sale at Urban Outfitters have always been that price. Within split seconds, I am already looking for an XS. The price ceased to place any sort of tug on my buying decision. The design, the color, I already know this beautiful shirt will accent my body and brighten my personality. That perfect shade of lavender pink matches my childlike happiness so well. This I know is wonderful. This I know is a shirt that I’d like to wear as often as I’d like.

In moments like these, I realize that there is a path, a quite simple path at that, to happiness.

Take the initiative to surround yourself with people that uplift you. I am not trying to propose the idea that you discontinue friendships at all. I’m saying that you should spend more time with people who understand you, who value you, who you not only have a good time with, but those who you feel alive around. Those friends that you drink with bimonthly, who’ve known you for 4 years, will always be there. Make new friends. Mend old friendships. Find meaning. Don’t do the same old shit all the time. There’s a reason why it’s called the same old shit. Do what your heart desires. Please. Search for something fresh. While creating peace with all that is around you is vital to growth and understanding, sometimes life is not always about incessantly meeting halfway with every encounter. Sometimes life means weeding out what doesn’t contribute to your happiness. Stop waiting to see if you’re in love, to see if your “significant other” is the one for you. They probably aren’t but you have convinced yourself to remain where you are. Stop confining yourself to the known instead of branching out into the unknown. If you always play it safe, you’ll never see all of life’s treasures. This waiting game is a losing game. Exit now. Don’t sit around waiting to be happy, waiting to be noticed by others, waiting for something to change. When we wait, nothing happens. We put our lives in the hands of our environment. We let the environment control us. Instead, leave what doesn’t make you happy. Be brave enough to start over. Know that starting over also does not necessarily mean a blank slate, it means shifting your perspective in how you process the world, and in hand, how you take action from these thoughts. Understand that it is important to take care of yourself, to love yourself, that your happiness should not be far and in-between. Happiness should not be a sigh of relief. Happiness should be the very core of your life, found in work as well as with relationships, and most importantly, with you.

William Gibson, a fascinating science fiction novelist whose intelligence skyrockets through the roof, once said, “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”

I am so unbelievably happy when I walk into Jamba Juice on a warm day and order a Razzmatazz smoothie. It makes me so happy when I wake up to a sunny kitchen, because my kitchen window faces east, telling me it’s going to be a bright day today. I love when I finish showering before the water runs cold, and I love when I have the motivation to cook breakfast, whether it be oatmeal or scrambled eggs or anything simple really. It beats just taking a slice of bread on the go, if even that. I love when my thirst for life outweighs my everlasting desire to lay in bed, because I tend to justify this behavior due to my love for lucid dreaming.

Every day I wake up and realize that less and less is needed to make me happy. Does this make me passionless? Of course not. It’s, actually, a silent but ever constant light enthusiasm. It’s bubbly. Today I woke up at 8:30am. After heading to bed close to 3am, I am surprised myself, seeing as I don’t have work until 11:30 and I would have otherwise woken up at 10am, probably 10:15am to be honest, and you know what, probably actually 10:30am because I have a committed relationship to the snooze button. At 8:30, the air feels alive, airplanes are zooming by, flocks of bird are zipping by. Everyone has already left for work at this time. I can feel the quietness.

The less I need from the outer world, the more I can create from the inner world. What does this mean? This means that all the little things not only satisfy my soul, but my heart screams with happiness. Instead of trying to create happiness in the outer world, I find happiness in the still-life. Dare I say, I find happiness in the mundane? A good find at a bookstore, a cheaper item than expected, a toddler who shares with me his thoughts, the smell of laundry, freshly brewed tea, and back to what originally started this entry: a lavender-pink peplum top.

We can be happier at a more constant level when we simplify our lives. Instead of filling in every space in the calendar, take time to do nothing. Take time to sleep, to rest, to breathe. By simplifying our lives, this does not indicate that we reduce our lives to nothing. This does not mean you quit your job, find new relationships, and fly out to a new place, although if that fits your niche, then go for it! By loving life as is, instead of expecting change, we don’t set ourselves up for perpetual disappointment. Simplifying our lives does not suggest that our lives have become less meaningful. Instead, it’s to recommend a new set of eyes with how we approach our life. If we can walk a little slower, talk a little slower, become aware of our emotions and what our body is trying to tell us, and follow this, we can become much more at peace with ourselves. We are in a constant fight with ourselves. Our body wants sleep, yet we go out for not only that Friday night, but Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Our body sends signals to us that we’re hungry, but we’re too “busy” finishing an assignment at work or too lazy to get off that couch and into the kitchen to grab something to eat.

I can tell you what makes me happy. I know that I’m happy when I’m preparing food, when I’m baking brownies or muffins, and I’m off to share it with my friends and co-workers the next day. I know I’m happy when I’m writing, when I’m laughing with friends, when I discover an article or a piece of artwork that melts my soul. I know I’m happy when I drink orange juice and when I read poetry.

What doesn’t make me happy? Working 40 hours a week. When my dad asks me when I’m going to go to graduate school. When I’m irresponsible, whether it’s bills, parking tickets, or overdue library books, and am fined as a consequence. When I can’t seem to relate to the people that I’ve met, but I still say yes to that Friday night of drinking and put on a smile because I tell myself friendship with all persons are important. When the food in the fridge expires or has gone rotten because I was just too lazy, for many days on end, to cook. When I put others’ needs in front of mine in such a manner that it ceases to contribute to my own happiness. When I apologize when I shouldn’t. When I constantly respond to, and adjust my energy to, pestering people in my life because I don’t have the heart to tell them that I feel stressful when we converse.

Do you see the pattern in what I have just listed? The overarching theme is that most of my suffering is, indeed, self-induced. What does this mean? This means that if I live within the borders of an unhappy life, it is my choice. I choose to stay where I’m at instead of becoming aware of what I can do differently, and extracting that plan. This is the hardest part to admit for some people, that our lives are in our hands. We commonly put the fault at others in order to negate our own responsibility for the lack of action we take in our lives. We wait for other people to change so that we can be happy, instead of being courageous enough to alter the situation ourselves. It is important to fight for your happiness, right? So what’s stopping you?

If you’re unhappy living at home, but there is an offer to live at a friend’s place, then so go do it! Close your laptop, find a job, save up enough money so that you are able to live on your own, so that freedom and independence may soar through you. Stop buying that morning coffee. Let’s say you buy a morning coffee every weekday for a whole year. If you extinguish this behavior, there’s a round trip ticket to Europe right there (with spare money!). Instead, replace this act by waking up a few minutes earlier and let the smell of freshly brewed coffee illuminate your home. Work hard, know that the small details contribute to the big picture, but don’t let the work prevent you from starting.

I’ll tell you a secret. Our fear of missing out on what we already have prevents us from moving forward to what we could have. Once, I told someone that there are no such things as missed opportunities, it’s just our imagination spinning scenarios based on the past, not the future. You can’t miss what didn’t happen to you. He exclaimed, “that’s exactly what it is!” But here’s the thing, when you justify your current life, you’re trying to rationalize an emotion, you’re trying to tame the impulsive. When you battle with your conscience, you fight between what you should do and what your heart yearns, and you scrounge for reasons to instead take the former route. To put it simple, you give yourself excuses. Instead, ride the waves of desire with confidence. Like the saying in Taoism, you move with the waves, you recognize your energy and you align yourself with it. As silly as it sounds, you go with the force!

I leave this with you today. “I know it feels like you have all these options and when you make a decision, you lose a world of possibilities. But the reality is, until you make a decision, you have nothing at all.” -Janet Fitch

(sorry about the grammar errors. i wrote this for ap literature, and we’re required to write something to read to the class, so grammar wasn’t an issue)

I couldn’t even get myself to sit down and write this, I guess it’s because I didn’t really know how to write this. There were so many things I wanted to say, and I didn’t know how to put it into so few lines. I’ve had this empty document titled: “My Final Key Club Words” and it has been on my computer saved for months, but most of the time I was trying to organize my thoughts into one whole piece. And now here it is.

I wish I could experience Key Club again; it has been a blessing to experience it the last two years with different groups of people from various parts of the world that I call my friends. It almost seemed as if every convention I went to was shorter than I imagined it would be. Time would fly by like no other. And that’s when I realized I will NEVER have these kinds of experiences with a new group of people like this ever again. No matter how great college will be, no matter what is in store for the future, I will never meet people who are so genuine in such a comforting environment. It wasn’t that I “took it for granted,” but I didn’t necessarily realize that these experiences only come once in a lifetime. Nothing will ever be just like this with the same feel – things can come close, but will never compare. These are experiences that I will never get to relive ever again, but that’s the beauty of everyone unique memory I have about Key Club.

I remember the first time I was at a Key Club meeting. Julie was doing the jiggalo. And I was so scared that I didn’t go back to meetings for weeks. And now, I’m the Key Clubber at leadership workshops that is enforcing others to try the game. It really is a great icebreaker. But I would never do it on school grounds, of course.

When one of people on the Southwest District Board asked me what my favorite memory of Key Club was, a bunch of memories instantly started flashing through my mind. Images of places, images of me rushing around, but mostly, images of people. And this is what I told him: “I have loved each and every Key Club experience. I have loved International Convention as much as I have loved Weekend of a Lifetime, and District Convention at El Paso this year was truly unforgettable. I loved hearing Austin Gutwein speak for Hoops of Hope and walking for March of Dimes. The legacy speeches at Weekend of a Lifetime even made me cry. But if I honestly had to choose one thing, it would be meeting everyone. I have made so many friends the past year from workshops, bunking with them, or simply just introducing myself.”

Key Club has truly been a great experience and I would relive it all over again if I could. I have met people from California to New York. They are all unique and they have touched my heart eternally. And even just the presence of Key Clubbers makes my world go round. There is no greater feeling than knowing International Key Club has raised $32,000 for March of Dimes and over $1,000,000 for UNICEF.

It’s even unreal as I type this, it’s finally all coming to an end, and that this chapter is really closed. I understand the rest of my senior year will be about closing chapters and beginning new ones, but unlike books, you can’t just go back and “re-live” it by reading it. You can only remember the people and the emotions and memories you shared with them.

I’m going to miss Key Club so much.

(march 2009)