Learning to be My Own Person

Since moving back home for a while, I’ve had extra time and exposure to think about how my parents took care of me when I was younger and how they imparted certain lessons that I was able to take with me even after leaving.

Not only that, but I’ve been able to more clearly see what I’ve picked up apart from them. I had been living mostly far away from home for nearly six years now and that time forced and allowed me to create an identity for which they provided the foundation but I continued building. It’s still exciting for me to discover how to do things on my own, even if it’s a mundane activity like how to structure my 401k and although I feel a little bit melancholy at the fact that I don’t really need their help for much anymore, I recognize that it’s important to embrace this stage because it’s crucial in order for me to build the identity of me as individual separate from relationships. As such, the list below are just some random thoughts about lessons that I didn’t learn directly from my parents –

Lesson #1 – How to invest. I’m not some hotshot, but I have a few passive income streams working now and this is something my parents aren’t super comfortable with. I did learn a lot about different types of investments in university, but using my own money has been entirely self-taught.

Lesson #2 – Travel tips. My dad has traveled a lot but not quite to the extent that he’s gained the kind of status I have from being a consultant – through this I’ve picked up a few work arounds and tricks to make things easier when traveling. I also travel for vacation much differently than my parents. I stay in hostels and spend a lot of time finding mechanisms to save money and live like a local.

Lesson #3 – Sunscreen is skincare. My parents can be sun bums, and I never realized how much my skin could’ve improved if I’d been more religious about sun protection before.

Lesson #4 – Cooking. My parents are both actually good cooks. But through my own unique experiences, I’ve developed a taste and proclivity for different types of cooking than I grew up with.

Lesson #5 – More skincare – washing your sheets and towels often can have a larger impact on your skin than any skincare product. Wash your pillowcase every three days to prevent breakouts.

Lesson #6 – Packing cubes are the best things in the world for travel. Everything stays organized, you don’t have to pull it all out and dig every time you need that one thing.

Lesson #7 – You don’t have to finish all the food on your plate or use items until they wear out to get your money’s worth. You can simply enjoy as much as you want and stop.

Lesson #8 – Texting is a perfectly acceptable way to keep in touch. I haven’t heard some of my friend’s voices in months but I’m still able to stay close with them.

Lesson #9 – Crying sometimes does solve things because it functions as a form of emotional release.

Lesson #10 – Parents just want you to be happy. I used to think my parents wanted me to be wealthy and stable, but really they just want me and my sister to be happy and safe.

There are tons of other lessons I’ve learned along the way, but honestly, these are the only ones I can think of that are separate from my parents. When learning how to do my taxes or get renter’s insurance, I leaned on them heavily. The only reason I feel comfortable learning things in new countries is because of what they exposed me to when I was young. The things I listed above are things that I can directly see where their influence ended and my own tastes and preferences developed. These are things I’ve picked up apart from them and have even taught them a thing or two as a result. Discovering this separation and continuing to discover it has been so crucial to my growth over the past few years and I’m really realizing that my parents have been responsible for so much of my development but becoming a person on my own is a task I also have to undertake on my own.

We can still go on family vacay together though 🙂

Invisible Success

We’ve all seen the rise of the presence of ‘success’ social media accounts posting pictures with quotes like “I woke up in beast mode” or “Want it? Work harder”. They go on and on about how they’re grinding all day and living this super successful life. They post pictures of flashy cars and clothes and many times, they’re also selling a guide for how to achieve an amazing (read: wealthy) lifestyle.

I think these accounts are complete bullshit. I believe the vast majority of people behind those accounts aren’t doing half the things they’re preaching, and their business model is to sell ‘success guides’ when they really have never built anything. They are literally trying to make it selling a mere idea, not actual success.

Because unfortunately, the idea of success isn’t enough. Maybe its enough to get you started, maybe even keep you motivated as I’m sure those accounts will claim is their purpose, but it’s not enough to truly achieve anything. Because building something successful takes work. And what these accounts are trying to do is glamorize the ease of that work. They’re trying to make you believe that by buying a guide and selling a couple things, you’ll be on your way to seven figures a month in no time. They’re selling ‘fast success’ like supplements companies sell ‘fast weight loss’. It’s not real.

Real success, in any arena, is slow, unglamorous, and does not follow a straight line. Sure it’s cool to say you started a company, but it’s not really cool to say that you had to spend last Friday night working late on itemizing expense reports since you’re the only employee at your new venture.

It’s frustrating.

It’s cool to say you qualified for the Olympics, but it’s not cool to give up every single weekend to training and competitions.

It’s tiring.

It’s cool to say that you’re a venture capital backed start-up, but it’s not cool to spend weeks agonizing about whether you’re going to get your next round of funding or not.

It’s stressful.

These are the parts of the journey that are way more prevalent than fancy cars. And this journey just isn’t appealing on social media.

Do me (and yourself) a favor. Look up actual successful people. Look up Bill Gates. Oprah. Richard Branson. Sarah Blakely. The Rock. Serena Williams.

These people have active social media, but they’re not posting ‘motivational quotes’ every day. They’re not posting e-guides to their success. They’re posting things that social media was intended for – snippets from their lives, thanking their fans, promoting new initiatives they’ve spearheaded, shining the spotlight on things they enjoyed, etc.

They’re not shoving how much money they make, how fancy their car is, or their expensive vacation down your throat. They worked hard to get where they are there’s no doubt about that, and from time to time they may promote a book they wrote or offer a piece of contextual advice, but their whole presence to the world isn’t defined by pushing ‘the grind’ at people. These people each have their own empires that are based in real concrete accomplishments – entertainment, software, air travel, athletics, philanthropy. They’ve become super successful by actually producing something tangible, not just by trying to sell the idea of creating something.

So the next time you’re scrolling through your feed and you come across one of those accounts, just remind yourself what the presence of an actual successful person looks like. Remember that those ‘motivational’ accounts are trying to prey on those who crave the idea of success. Remember that success does come from hard work, but it’s ok if it’s not glamorous, and remember that as long as you focus on yourself and bettering your ideas, you really can’t be doing it wrong.

A dreamy night in Crete, Greece. Greece always makes me remember to not get caught up in my own ambition – there are more important things in life than being rich.


Starting Over…Again

Phew ok, I am done with the breakup series for a while. This week I want to talk about the awkward stage I was forced into as a result of said breakup.

If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I was living in Calgary, Canada because that’s where my boyfriend was from. I had been working as a consultant in the software space and traveled frequently as a result. I had been trying to build a social life in a brand new place while I shuttled back and forth to the states for work and to see loved ones. On weekends, I would try and explore as much as possible. I had a couple of vacation type trips planned with my boyfriend and I basically knew what the next few months would look like. This was in January of this year.

Oh silly me. I should’ve known everything would go to shit the moment I got too comfortable. By the beginning of March, my relationship had ended, I was deeply unhappy at work, and I had left Canada and had no idea what to do anymore.

Where did I go? Luckily, I’m in a position where I have a supportive safety net – my family. Even though I’m grateful to have this, it is still hard for me to admit because I prefer to view myself as self-sufficient, and independent, and having to go back to my parents’ house felt like taking a few steps backward. Additionally, I was wallowing in resentment for a bit, because my boyfriend’s life didn’t really have to change at all. He got to keep on living in the same city, with the same apartment, and see the same people as before. I felt like my life was the one that was upended as a result of all of this. I was feeling sorry for myself and was grumpy that I was the one who had to move and change yet again.

But there’s no use in feeling tragic for myself.

For the first few weeks after I left Canada, I was feeling pretty awful. On top of the resentment I was feeling, I felt alone, confused, and lost. I didn’t know where I should move, what kinds of career options I should pursue, or how I should start over. I was afraid to commit to any city, leasing agreement, or job opportunity. For a hot second there, I was paralyzed by the fact that I hadn’t planned for any of this and now I wasn’t sure how to proceed.

I kept doing my job, hung out with my parents, and basically didn’t do anything else. I didn’t even tell most of my friends from my hometown that I was back because I didn’t know how to face them. Do I have to tell the whole breakup story over again? Are they going to see me as a failure? I just didn’t want to deal with it.

This was a pretty rough period, but when I look back now, it only lasted about three weeks. Because since then – well, let’s just say I’m not feeling quite as stuck anymore.

In the last two weeks, I accepted a new job offer that pays more and means I don’t have to travel. I resigned from my current job (effective at the end of this month). I applied for an apartment in downtown Chicago and now I’m just focusing on finishing strong at my current job and planning for my trip to Japan next month.

And in total, it’s only been about 5 weeks since I left Canada in the first place. It only took five weeks to go from not knowing at all what to do, to knowing exactly what’s next.

This may not seem like a big deal to some of you reading this but I’m a hardcore planner, and having my plans wrecked by my relationship was actually a pretty big blow to my self-esteem. My ability to think ahead, make decisions, act accordingly, and deliver on my promises is a huge part of my identity that I felt like I had lost for those first few weeks after leaving. I wasn’t used to feeling lost or confused or unsure. Every other move in my life thus far had been calculated and thought through beforehand so even though change was uncomfortable, it was planned. The intentionality of my previous changes made them all the more bearable.

This was a new experience for me in the sense that I hadn’t sought it out at all and still needed to find a way to cope with it. And cope I did. There’s only so long you can feel sorry for yourself before you just start making moves to make things better. BUT, I will say that the hard part was good for me to go through. If you find yourself in a period of being lost or unsure of yourself, embrace it. Use it to think through different options, ask trusted people in your life what they think, explore – because good things really can come from unexpected situations.

This is a picture of a cactus at the Getty Museum in LA. I officially have no more recent photos of myself suitable for posting here so enjoy.

Heartbreak Appendix

I mentioned this briefly in my first post in this series but the hardest thing about this break up for me has been the forgetting.

It’s knowing I will forget the feelings I had for my ex over time, but also knowing that he will forget his feelings for me as well.

This is the part that truly kills me about this breakup. It’s the fact that we were literally part of each other for so long and we won’t be able to keep that anymore.

Eventually, I’ll forget the exact shade of blue of his eyes. Eventually, I’ll forget what his laugh sounded like. Eventually, I’ll forget how he would concentrate when making cappuccinos. I’ll forget that he would put brown sugar in everything. I’ll forget everything eventually. One day, he will just be an idea of someone I loved.

He’ll forget me too. He’ll forget how I got mad over open chip bags. He’ll forget what my skin feels like. He’ll forget the face I make when I’m trying not to laugh. He’ll forget what my shampoo smells like. He’ll eventually forget everything about me that makes me, me.

Of course, we’ll both remember events. Like our trip to Peru, or things we did in Calgary and LA. But those are just pins on a timeline.

I will eventually forget how it truly felt to be on top of Macchu Picchu with him. He will eventually forget how it truly felt to swim close to me in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Santorini. We will both eventually forget how it felt to people watch from Bottega Louie together in LA.

We may never forget that we did those things, but we’ll forget how we felt doing them together and that wrecks me.

The only bright spot I can think of in all of this is in the fact that the forgetting helps with moving on. It’s devastating to forget these feelings, but it would also be devastating to still feel them when you can’t even have the person that’s causing them.

In other news, here’s how I’ve been coping in real time –

  • I bought a slinky red dress, a ton of skin care, and a ton of earrings
  • I am actively trying to text my friends and family to fill my communication void. I already apologized in advance for spamming them.
  • I became obsessed with a certain anime. OBSESSED.
  • I also look at my old messages with my ex to talk myself out of reaching out to him (most times this works, sometimes  not)
  • I workout a lot
  • I’m also making a ton of life changes (more coming soon)

Do what you gotta do, right? This marks the end of my heartbreak series for now. If you want to recap, you can start with the beginning here.

PC: Kiki Moussetis

Heartbreak Part Three: Reflection

As I’m working through healing from this breakup, a super important piece that I wanted to call out is reflection.

Let’s be clear though, this is the third part of a series being released weekly, so even though I’m going to talk about the last part in my process, these things don’t occur in nice, neat chunks and they certainly don’t occur this quickly. I’m still working through some ugly emotions, I still have weak moments where I want to reach out to my ex, I still can spend hours wondering what could have happened differently. I cry, I rage, I pout. This is a process, it takes time. Lots of time. So even though the following is attempting to focus on the positive, I don’t want to sugarcoat the fact that there is a lot of negative still mixed in for me – and that’s ok.

However, the negative emotions are almost the easy ones at this point. Anger, sadness, insecurity. They’re familiar now. I feel self-righteous in feeling them and that makes them comfortable. He did this to me, I was stupid, I don’t have this anymore, and on and on.

But then I think there’s an inescapable fact about all of this – we couldn’t have grown into the people we were meant to be without having loved each other. We also couldn’t have grown into the people we were meant to be without having left each other.

No matter how angry or frustrated or weary I am about all of this, the relationship caused me to grow and change and for this, the only thing I can feel is gratitude.

Before this relationship I had never done any of the following –

Lived with my partner, been in a long-distance relationship, traveled with my partner, started a life from scratch, been to Canada, skied, mountain biked, camped, cross country skied, or compromised for a relationship.

Apart from the outdoors stuff, those are not small things.  Those are actually pretty intense buckets of development in a relationship that could have only happened in this particular relationship for me.

Additionally, I learned a lot of things about myself apart from a relationship. I confirmed the fact that I’m restless, and I realized that I am far braver than I was giving myself credit for. It takes courage to take risks for love. It takes courage to move, or to move countries. It takes courage start over. It takes courage to try and make new friends from nothing. It takes courage to own your decisions when you can feel the doubt rolling off people. And the thing is, I am not afraid of any of it. It was hard for sure – there’s no sugarcoating that – but I don’t fear it.  In fact, I realized I don’t actually fear very many things at all (apart from spiders EW).

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment I gained from this relationship is that I no longer fear failure. I used to be terrified of it. Any failure, big or small, would completely cripple me and deter me from getting outside my comfort zone. But doing what I’ve done for this past relationship proves that I don’t fear it anymore. I took so many risks, some paid off and some didn’t, but I loved the process of taking all of them and the experience is invaluable to me despite the result.

I no longer fear investing my money into things that may not pan out. I no longer fear investing my time into people that may hurt me in the end. I no longer fear being alone nor figuring things out on my own. These things still make me nervous and you bet your ass I’m still going to do everything in my power to make sure things don’t fail, but there’s no fear to prevent me from at least trying. I can’t find reasons not to take risks anymore because sometimes those risks pay off big time whether in actual results or personal growth.

So as much as I’m tempted to see myself back at square one, that’s really not fair. I am so much brighter, and better, and braver than I was before. This relationship started by sheer romantic whirlwind*. We met in France, he followed me to Greece, and we continued long-distance from LA and Calgary. We fell hard for each other and I took a chance and moved to Calgary. It didn’t work out and now I’m figuring out what to do next. That is a wild ride from start to finish.

Parts of me are still embarrassed at the failure (I’m not immune jeez), of course it sucks to tell people why I have no place to live at the moment. But that embarrassment won’t stop me from being honest, and it won’t stop me from doing it again, because carrying that fear with me to my future can only hurt me, and then what was the point of all this pain I’m going through now huh?

Clara Yu coming in again with a great pic from my trip to LA last week ago

*In case you’re wanting to re-live my whirlwind romance those posts are linked here, here, and here. I made the mistake of doing this and ended up a sobbing mess so I hope you fare better than me.