Think About Yourself More

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with the amount of self-improvement advice out there. On the one hand, it feels like everyone is saying all the same things – eat your veggies, go to the gym, start investing, stop looking at your phone etc. But on the other hand, it feels like there’s more disagreement in this space than ever. Should I eat veggies as part of a keto, paleo, vegan or vegetarian diet? Should I box, swim, HIIT, lift, or run at the gym? How much and with who do I invest? There are endless factions under every piece of seemingly straightforward advice.

If we zoom out a little bit – it’s quite possible that all of these things are just trends. When you look at human habits on a macro level, tips for wellbeing go in and out of fashion pretty quick. And while we might have a teeny tiny bit more science on our side nowadays – don’t forget that there was actually a time not too long ago where we thought bathing regularly was unhealthy, who knows what the state of self improvement will look like in the next decade or so.

Which brings me to my next and main point – we aren’t doing enough thinking for and about ourselves. The main way to see if any of these tips and habits hold any water for you are to try them for yourself and then diligently analyze yourself to see your responses.

We hate to admit it but actually we love it when people tell us what to do.

‘Best of’ listicles litter the web telling us what the best music, books, restaurants, bars, vacation spots, superfoods, fashion, and on and on is. And many of us take these listicles and run with them –“this must be what’s popular, and would it be popular if it wasn’t good? No, so let me try it too”. But then our questioning stops. I’m not going to penalize people for being taken in by endless articles and amazing advertising, but I will fault you for not thinking for yourself after the fact. We are constantly trying new things without honing in on the problems those new things are supposed to fill in the first place. And then, once we’ve tried the new thing, we don’t ask ourselves if this thing or action is actually making us happier, better, healthier, more productive, etc, we just keep going.

I used to fall prey to this all the time. I would ravenously consume content related to health, success, and travel, and try and accumulate as many of the items or habits that content dictated I should implement. But I only really did it because those articles said to. I didn’t think about if they would provide tangible value to me, and I didn’t spend that much time reflecting afterwards. As a result, I spent a lot of money on things I didn’t need or even want that much, and new, seemingly exciting, habits fell flat.

Nothing about your life should be automatic. You shouldn’t be solely reactive to all the inputs of your life because you will almost certainly end up, at least partway, down a path that you didn’t want to be on and that’s because you didn’t choose not to be on it.

It’s exhausting though – to constantly be asking yourself if every choice you’re making is the right one. And then to ask yourself again after you made a decision if you would do it again. Everything from what you’re eating for breakfast to what you wear to the work you do to your relationships. The bright side of this is that some of these questions have consistent answers. A simple example – I will only buy high-waisted jeans now because they make me feel the best. Boom – now I don’t even have to look at most other cuts of jeans because I answered that particular question for myself. Now I will never waste time trying on different fits or buying a pair of a different cut online just in case – because I already have analyzed myself enough to know that I won’t feel as good in those as I would in high-waisted ones.

We don’t like to spend time with ourselves lots of the time because we’re afraid we’ll uncover or spend too much focus on our failures and flaws. But while those are there, the exercise of examining ourselves and examining how our choices are affecting us can consistently lead us to uncover our real wants and needs and ultimately make our lives so much clearer.

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A beautiful ski day in Lake Tahoe

A Sexual Breakthrough

Recently I read this book called “Come As You Are” by Emily Nagoski Ph.D. It was actually recommended to me by my boyfriend (extra points for him), and the book kinda blew my mind. The overall topic is about female sexuality and sexual experience and reading it felt like someone had opened a window into all the things I felt insecure about when it came to sex. 

I had at least three major breakthroughs while reading it but today we’re just going to tackle one: 

Context is everything. Nagoski introduced me to the concepts of brakes and accelerators when it comes to arousal. Accelerators are things that make you more likely to be turned on and brakes are things that make you more likely to be turned off. Notice I didn’t say ‘turn-ons’ and ‘turn-offs’ because it’s not that simple. The book has a simple quiz you can take to determine if you have sensitive brakes or accelerators or both or neither. 

I have sensitive brakes and sensitive accelerators so for me this means I’m turned on by something as simple as a few kisses but I’m also turned off by something as small as the thought of my pants being turned inside out when I took them off and the fact that I’ll have to turn them right side out again later (I am a control FREAK). 

The brakes and accelerators discussion feeds the larger topic of context. The context of the situation has to be right for someone to be in the mood. It explains why you probably shouldn’t try to initiate sex right after your partner just had a fight with their best friend and why you maybe should initiate after a really thoughtful date night. But context is different for everyone and it’s your brakes and accelerators that inform your specific responses in any given context. It’s also important to note that all the accelerators can be revving but if the brakes are on the floor then it will still be tough to get in the right mindset to enjoy the sex. 

The part that was especially groundbreaking for me was the fact that accelerators and brakes aren’t just external – they are internal as well. So every time I was feeling insecure about my body or about my sexual history, or I was stressed about work=BRAKES. But every time I felt calm and good about myself=ACCELERATE. 

And it explained so much about why I wasn’t able to respond in certain contexts as opposed to others. Once I broke down what was taking me out of the mood versus what put me in the mood – I was able to see extremely consistent patterns. 

One thing that always hits my brakes? Deadlines. If a reservation or appointment is coming up in the next hour or so and my boyfriend tries to initiate with me, I won’t enjoy the sex as much as I could have otherwise, because my mind will be worried about the time. So no matter how great the sex itself was, there will still be a nagging feeling preventing me from having as good of a time as possible. 

The solution? Figure out your brakes and accelerators, talk about them with your partner, and see how many brakes you can remove and how many accelerators you can hit. Keep in mind, your brakes and accelerators may differ from your partner’s so finding a balance between the two of you is extremely key so that you can both be in the right frame of mind to enjoy yourselves. 

And in the meantime – I seriously cannot recommend this book enough. Not an ad – it just really opened up my eyes to arousal and my own sexual cues and I can safely say it has had a net positive effect on my sex life 😉

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PC: Clara Yu; this is an oldie but a goodie. Being tan? Accelerator.

How I Survived Being 24

It’s that time of year again. You know, the time of year somebody somewhere decided we have to reflect on time past? This year is apparently even more special because it has us reflecting on the past whole decade. 

Though I try, I cannot escape this reflection activity (especially since I love thinking about myself), SO as I was reflecting on the 2010’s I realized it’s actually kind of crazy to do a decade reflection as someone who is (now!) the ripe old age of 25. I was 15 (!!) when the decade started. I was in the middle of my sophomore year of high school (gross). So in the past decade, I graduated high school, attended Pepperdine University in Malibu California, lived in Shanghai, China for a year and worked at an investment firm for part of that, I then graduated university in three years and started a software consulting job while living in LA. Following that, I moved to Calgary Canada for a relationship, said relationship ended, and now I live in Chicago doing a different consulting gig. 

In the past decade, I’ve lived in 4 cities. I’ve visited 13 countries and 15 states. I’ve had 2 graduations, 3 internships, 2 full-time jobs. I’ve had four boyfriends, been on numerous dates, and met countless amazing people.

Even this year by itself was a rollercoaster from start to finish – let’s recap real quick, shall we?

In January of 2019, I was living in Calgary while my long term relationship deteriorated under me. I was traveling to San Francisco every week for work, which was a double-edged sword because travel for work is exhausting but I did get to see some friends all the time which was so nice. I also crashed a ski trip to Big Bear with some of my best friends from University.

By February my relationship was over and I was still traveling all the time from Calgary. Spent some extra weekends in SF to avoid Calgary as much as possible while I figured out my move. 

In March, I moved out of Calgary, put all my stuff at my parent’s place in the suburbs of Chicago and effectively lived nowhere, mostly traveling for work and staying with friends on weekends. 

By April I had accepted a new job and had given notice at my old company. 

By May, I had ended my old job, did a leisurely trip visiting friends and family in LA, celebrated my sister’s 21st birthday and spent 3 weeks in Japan. 

In June, I started my new job, moved into a new apartment in downtown Chicago, and was dating again. 

In July, my LA friends came to visit me and I started making more connections while starting my first client at my new job. 

August brought a lot of strides for my personal projects, I finally got all my furniture delivered, and my wonderful friend Grace came to visit. 

September was all about work but I squeezed in a quick trip to NYC to repay Grace’s visit from the previous month. 

In October, I delivered a talk about adapting communication styles and did a huge girls trip to Spain and Portugal with my college friends. 

November was a lot of family time between my mom’s birthday and squeezing in a last weekend with my dad and sister before they departed for Europe, and then Thanksgiving’ of course. 

And now it’s December! And I’m 25!! PHEW – did you get all that? I sometimes get whiplash if I think about it all at once. 

A LOT changed this year. Let’s break it down —

2 jobs – went from traveling every week in an isolated culture, to a stable location surrounded by people all the time

3 living scenarios – went from living in Calgary mostly alone, to living nowhere, to living alone again in downtown Chicago

3 U.S Cities – Visited LA, San Francisco, and New York this year for fun and friends

3 Countries – Visited Japan, Spain, and Portugal for various vacations/trips

Because this year was kind of all over the pace – so was I. There were lots of ups and downs, not only emotionally, but also in my pursuits. Because breaking up, moving countries, and trying to build a new social life are so time-consuming, many of my other projects sometimes took a back seat to my emotional work. But then my emotional things would settle down for a moment and personal projects would ramp up again. I started formally dating which I had never really done so that’s been a different kind of constraint on my schedule. I changed my fitness routines, changed my skincare cycles, changed the types of media I consumed (hello anime, nice to meet you), did some of the best writing I’ve ever done, learned new recipes, drank way more alcohol than the rest of my prior years combined. I made a lot of new friends and learned more about which old friends I wanted to prioritize. This year, I’ve spent the most time alone, as well as the most time surrounded by people.

I feel like I went backward, stayed the same, and took giant leaps forward all at the same time. It was a weird year and an even weirder decade, but I think the most important thing I’ve learned in the past ten years (which was specially reinforced this past year), was how to analyze my life and make choices. I can look at myself and notice the things I want to keep the same, and the things I want to change. Not only that, but I know how to change them – and really what other skills do you need in life?

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PC: Marketa Benedetti

 

Giving Thanks Doesn’t Have to Be a Big Deal

It’s Thanksgiving week which means we’re all thinking about one of two things – the food or what we’re thankful for (or perhaps the devastating effects of colonization, but I’ll leave it up to you). In any case, gratitude should be a part of this week, and some would argue that it should be a part of daily life. Gratitude is definitely having a moment in the self-care space with people spouting all kinds of practices surrounding it that promise to increase happiness and decrease stress. There are multiple different ways to integrate it into daily life that can be far more impactful than just spending a few days on it each year. 

In my opinion, the thing people most often miss about gratitude is the feeling of intention, which can be applied to a much wider range of things than the big ideas. Of course, I’m enormously grateful for my loving family, my friends, my health, the fact that I have no problem affording all the basic necessities in life. But those are easy to think about – because they are so ever present. So I stop actively thinking about how much they do for me. They are huge facets of my life and I would sound insane if I said I wasn’t grateful for them but they aren’t the only things to be grateful for. 

What about all the little things? I personally prefer spending a little time each day being grateful for little things. I spend maybe a minute every day thinking about three small things I’m grateful for and, I hate to sound cliche, it does improve my day. 

For example, on Thursday of last week, I wrote down that I was grateful for having a good hair day, that my sister always picks up the phone when I need to cry, and I was grateful for that the sun had come out that day. These are random, the first things that came to mind as I started the exercise, nothing groundbreaking. 

But the reason this works for me is that throughout the day I inevitably get stressed a little bit – I’m high strung what can I tell you – and thinking about these little things in the morning gives me something to come back to when I start to get angry or annoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I still let the negative emotions flow, but I don’t spiral because my gratitude practice produces this little nagging voice at the back of my mind that is actually positive. I’ll be frustrated at the slow response from a team member and the voice will say ‘yeah that sucks, but look outside. Look at how the sun sparkles off the lake’ and then I can’t really marinate in my misery quite as well with that little thought peeking through. 

That is the power of gratitude. If you find new things to be grateful for every day then the feeling retains its impact. You don’t feel the need to roll your eyes at yourself for picking the same things. You’re allowed to be grateful for the same things all the time, but you’re also allowed to be grateful for things that only apply to you – the seemingly small things, the seemingly insignificant things. Because if you allow yourself to intentionally feel for them, you may end up with more positivity than you thought. 

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PC: Tiffany Wong; Grateful for vacation time to take this photo in Portugal

Fall Favorites

I love favorites videos on YouTube – they’re how I’ve discovered a lot of products, books, and apps that I consistently use and adore in my own life. As such, I’m going to try and post Seasonal favorites for awhile. These lists will always be varied as I don’t typically shop a lot for fashion or beauty items, but I am always trying new things.

Wellness: 

Breakfast – recently I added a new breakfast recipe to my rotation. It goes like this: One large toasted piece of sourdough bread with salted butter, arugula, two pieces of bacon, a fried egg, and some grueyere cheese shaved on top. Takes about seven minutes to make and looks like a restaurant should’ve charged you $17 for it. 

Jump Rope – There’s a standard speed rope in my apartment building’s gym complex that I picked up one day and have absolutely fallen in love with using jump rope for warm ups and as part of HIIT circuits. If I use it as a warm up – I do 40 sec on, 20 sec off for 5-10 min and I vary my jumps throughout the 40 seconds. If I use it in HIIT circuits, it’s usually 30 second intervals of speed jumping. It’s amazing at getting your heart rate up in a short period of time. I highly recommend it if you’re looking to get some cardio into your routine but hate the steady state of a treadmill, bike, or elliptical.

Olly Vitamins – These are gummy vitamins that exist for all sorts of purposes. I have the women’s multivitamin that comes in a berry flavor. Typically I don’t take any vitamins or supplements, but these are so fun I couldn’t resist. For women they also come with some extra vitamin D and biotin to cater especially to our body’s needs. I like them because they make vitamins fun. That’s literally it.

Beauty/Skincare: 

Kosas Weightless Lipstick (Fringe) – I am not a lipstick girl, precisely because I find lip products to be super high maintenance. Lip gloss? Gets stuck in my hair. Lip stains? Turn flakey too quickly. Lipstick? Fades unevenly as soon as I eat or drink anything. So when I discovered Kosas’s lipstick as recommended as one that is easy to stain lips but doesn’t try and fades evenly I was intrigued. I picked up Fringe which is halfway between a bright red and a brick red and I love it. I put it on over lip balm, blend it in with my finger to make it look less done and I don’t have to worry about it after that. Yes it does fade, but it fades EVENLY which is all I can ask for. 

Ole Henrikson Truth Serum – This is one of the best vitamin C serums on the market and it’s probably one of the most affordable as well. I recently had some pretty bad breakouts and put this product back in my rotation to prevent any scarring and I had forgotten how much it helps my skin look brighter and more even consistently. As such I’ve added it back into my regular routine with the products I mentioned last month here. 

 

Media

Red Notice by Bill Browder (book): An incredible nonfiction story about one man and how he became the highest financier in Russia, to one of Russia’s biggest enemies, to a champion for international human rights. It’s all true but it reads like a thriller. I would describe very few non-fiction stories as true page-turners but this one qualifies. The stuff that happened to Browder is so unbelievable that the end of almost every chapter leaves you shocked yet ravenous to find out how he survives it.  

One Punch Man – Season 2 (subbed) came out on Hulu and I was pumped! I love this show so much mostly because the main character is just so amazing. The show is basically about a  hero who is so strong he can defeat any villain with one punch, easily, comically. As such, he faces an existential crisis because no one is strong enough to offer a real challenge. Season two focuses more on other characters and the infrastructure behind the world and there’s some pretty incredible action sequences. 

Parasite (Bong Joon Ho) – the Korean film that stole the show at the Cannes film festival is out in theaters in the states right now and it is a banger. The movie is about a con artist family who preys on a wealthy family. It’s an edge of your seat type film with some amazing dissection of the class system baked in. The imagery is insane, the characters are charming to a fault and it keeps you guessing. This director also did Snowpiercer which is my favorite movie of all time. 

Demon Slayer (subbed) – is another anime that is on Hulu. A girlfriend recommended it to me while I was in Spain with her and it is so good. The story revolves around a boy whose family is killed by a demon. His sister survives, but barely and he becomes a demon slayer to turn her back into a human. The art is absolutely beautiful and despite the simple description I just gave, the story is rich and keeps you clicking that next episode button. 

Miscellaneous

Zojirushi Thermos  – This is it. This is the thermos to end your thermos. I have been using this to take coffee to the office on days where I just CAN’T, and I have to literally leave the lid off the thermos in order for the coffee to cool down to a drinkable temperature. I didn’t do this one day and the coffee was still burning hot well into the afternoon. Also the lid fully seals and locks so spills are kept to a minimum. Worth the investment, especially as we move into colder weather. They also make a food jar which I also have to keep soup and stews warm. I heat up my soup in the morning and it’s still piping hot when I sit down to eat at lunch. This brand is no joke. 

Dagne Dover Backpack I hate company branded attire. Even though I like my company, I don’t want to be a walking ad for them. I had been on the hunt for a good work/multifunctional backpack to replace my company bag because I hated that my company provided backpack had the logo on it and also that it had a flap top which I find ridiculously annoying. I came across Dagne Dover and finally invested in their large Dakota backpack (I bought the color Siren), and it’s amazing. The thoughtfulness of all the pocket placements internally, the minimalist design, and the comfort of this bag all make it well worth the price. 

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PC: Tiffany Wong in Girona Spain! The real fall favorite – travel

 

I’m Selfish

I’m selfish. That’s not nice but it’s true. I believe we’re all selfish at certain points, though few of us care to admit it. I’m not always selfish, but lately, I have been feeling it more and more often.

Lately, all I want to do is what I want to do, when and how I want to do it, and I don’t really care about what other people want – and what’s worse is that I don’t want to care about what others want. 

In fact, I don’t even want to know. Knowing what someone wants from you is a burden. Because with this knowledge comes a choice with consequences. You can choose to give them what they want or you can choose not to. But if you never knew in the first place, you can make your decision without the burden of knowing you may, in fact, have been acting completely selfishly. 

Once you have knowledge of others’ expectations, you truly have a dilemma. Because ignorance granted you immunity. Not total immunity, but some. No matter how selfish the decision, you could always claim a lack of knowledge if accosted after the fact. But once the awareness is realized – you must own your selfishness if you choose to act in a way that disregards others. It’s the choice that hurts others. It’s the fact that you knew something would hurt them and still chose that route anyway. Isolated selfishness can be completely benign, many selfish choices have absolutely no impact on others, but if not, they can cause immeasurable pain. 

However, I refuse to believe that being selfish is inherently sinful. Being too selfless can be detrimental to your health, and draining to your soul. Pursuing the actions and things that bring solely you happiness can be incredibly freeing. If you constantly tie your pursuits to others than how will you ever know what you can truly handle, what your true taste for life is? Prioritizing your own wellbeing and pleasure should not be looked at as a flaw. Bettering yourself is a worthwhile endeavor in and of itself, especially since that path often leads to more selfless behavior than if it hadn’t been indulged at all. 

My current feelings are a little bit of both. I have made some isolated selfish choices that have affected no one but myself, but I have also made some knowingly causing pain for others. It’s not a path I will be on forever, but right now I really feel like looking after myself is best for where I am right now – and that is sometimes necessary. 

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PC: Kiki Moussetis

Little Secrets

We all live, walk, and breathe while carrying secrets. 

Some are big, but most are small. The secret of saying you’re fine when you’re not, of saying you can when you can’t. 

We tell ourselves that these secrets are ok to keep, in fact they must be kept so as not to burden those around us. After all, these are small secrets. Who wants to hear about small things? The fact is, we just don’t feel we have time for others’ secrets as well as our own. 

You see it when your friend’s eyes glaze over as you’re telling her how you’re frustrated with your love life. You see it when your partner’s eyes dart over your shoulder when you just can’t put your finger on why you’re feeling unfulfilled at work. You don’t even realize it but you learn to stop. You learn that people pretend to listen so that you’ll pretend to listen later. In one ear and out the other. 

So you keep your secrets, you dwell on them. Small ones pile on top of tiny ones and before you know it, your entire being is composed of secrets that you no longer have the ability to define nor share. 

But then someone will ask you about them. They’ll look you in the eye when they ask but you won’t believe it. The first time they ask you’ll gloss over one little secret with a laugh. That usually works. But they ask again, intently. This isn’t fair, you think. Why would you ask for my secrets when I know you won’t care? Why make me go through the pain of defending them when you don’t really want to hear them? 

But they look at you and ask again. This time, you allow your suspicion to show and you ask them if they’re sure they know what they’re asking. If they’re sure they want to see a part of you that’s insecure, lonely, or sad. If they want to see a part of you that while soul-defining is not charming, or positive, or attractive. 

They say they’re sure. Steady, attentive, waiting. You’re going to tell them now, but you feel tears prick the backs of your eyes out of fear. What if they don’t think of you the same after this? What if your delicate balance of keeping secrets has been ruined? Or worse, what if they betray their indifference? 

It’s too terrifying to tell your secrets and tolerate their eyes staring so directly at you so your gaze rises to the ceiling, falls to the floor, lingers just past their shoulder as you talk so you don’t feel the full force of their unwavering observation all at once, you’re not trained to take such concentration.

But you take the risk and you tell them. And when their attention doesn’t flicker and their eyes fill with sympathy rather than indifference, the sense of relief you feel is powerful enough to forget all the other people who didn’t listen.

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PC: Kiki Moussetis

 

Summer Vibes

When I think of summer, I think of Greece. 

Because Greece is the only place that seems to shine in the summer as it slows down.

Summer in Chicago, or Calgary, or Los Angeles means more – more drinking, more activity, more festivals, more plans. 

But in Greece, summer means more of doing less. Summers here are simpler, slower more sensual. 

The air gets hot. But it’s ok because the hottest parts of the day are spent napping, with cicadas buzzing in the background. Everything gets so quiet in the afternoon that you actually feel like the world has stopped for a second to let you breath.

Near the water everything smells fresh despite the heat. The sea breeze is the top note, with middle notes of burning sand, and finally the fig and citrus trees overladen with fruit releasing a brightness through the palette. 

It’s of course too hot to eat heavy food so instead we eat thoroughly red tomatoes that taste like candy, and cucumbers that taste like gulps of ice cold water. We eat fish fresh from the ocean drenched in plive oil and lemon. We eat bright fruits, and juicy watermelon for dessert. And because it’s summer maybe you have a frappe or a gelato too, because why not?

It finally starts to cool off a bit when the sun goes down, but not so much that you would ever need a jacket, just enough that you stop sweating. It’s perfect weather to sit with people outside and talk, drink, laugh, and eat for hours. You could go dancing, I suppose, but I would want to be outside and as close to the sea as possible.

Summer is my favorite season, but the way of life in a Greek summer by the water clears my skin, and brings me peace so that’s the version summer I’ve chosen to love the most. 

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Crete. A typical Greek summer lunch.

My Blood Ran Hot

I see you as you walk into the room and I feel my blood run hot. All long limbs, smooth skin, and a quick voice. 

Now’s not the time, I think to myself. But I can’t help it. I watch you as you speak to everyone else but me. I watch your lips curl into a laugh. I watch the tendons in your wrist flex as you write. 

I’m getting distracted. Every movement you make this morning I see in my memory of last night. 

When I tell the story I can pretend that I was reluctant. I can pretend that I was naive, but we both know I wasn’t. I wanted you. I wanted your skin, your mouth, your hands. 

And you wanted me. You ran every one of your fingertips across every inch of my skin and devoured my body. 

My desire was powerful but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to be perfect. Certain ideas prevail no matter the partner, but I didn’t care about those. I needed your nuances, your secrets. I needed to know what I could do so that I could permeate your mind and make myself irresistible to you.

But there’s no way I could’ve known those things. You don’t tell your secrets to someone you just met…yet it seemed like you knew the secrets of my body without ever having to hear me say them and that terrified me. 

It terrified me because I hadn’t known I was out of my element. But it became apparent quickly that you seemed to know exactly how to touch me and I had no idea how to touch you. Everything I did from that point on became laced with doubt.

In the moment when I realized your actions betrayed nothing but confidence, my mind abandoned me. My want dissolved into anxiety. What if I was doing something wrong? What if my body looked unattractive from this angle? What if everyone you’d been with before was better?

My mind took my lack of knowledge of you and transmuted it into insecurity, which in turn, suffocated my passion. My mind never considered the possibility that you wanted to impress me as well. It wasn’t about my want anymore, it was only about your want. 

I wanted to be wanted more than I wanted to satiate my own want. If I couldn’t satisfy you, what good was I? 

So when you walked in the room, my blood ran hot, not from lust, but from embarrassment. I was embarrassed that I had let everything in my world tell me that my own pleasure wasn’t as important as yours. 

………………………………

This piece was inspired by some of my thoughts that have pervaded my mind over the years in my sexual encounters. I feel like from my earliest memories of these types of situations, I remember wanting to feel wanted more than any other feeling. I wanted to be so mesmerizing and irresistible to someone else, more than I, myself, wanted to feel good. And while there is a peculiar kind of power in becoming that seductive to someone, it’s also difficult to achieve, and certainly not lasting. It has taken me, and is still taking me, a long time to consistently put my energy into feeling good instead of worrying about what my partner is thinking of me the entire time. Honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing for me to release it now when I’ve always been such a strong advocate for women owning their own sexuality. Because I still fall into the trap of wanting to please my partner so badly that I will compromise my own pleasure to do so, and that’s not ok. It ends up being hugely frustrating for everyone involved and it’s something I continue to be aware of in my interactions.

 

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PC: Kiki Moussetis on location somewhere in Greece

She’s Not Me

I want you to be happy, I said. And I meant it. But then I see a picture of you with her and I feel those words in the back of my throat like bile. I’m stopped dead in my tracks as my truth becomes a lie.

Because she’s beautiful. I know nothing else about her but I know she’s not me. And knowing just that much is enough for me to create her entire being in my mind. I tell myself that she’s my opposite, because that’s what I had to tell myself you wanted when you told me you didn’t want me anymore. 

She’s light where I’m dark, soft where I’m hard – it’s easy to hate what’s not me.

But it’s easy to hate what you don’t know. And though I don’t know her, I know you. I know you couldn’t be with my opposite no matter how hard you tried, not when you loved me so fiercely.

My hate pauses for a moment as I realize she’s probably the kind of person I would have been friends with. I shake the thought away.

I must hate her. And I must hate her without hating myself so I decide instead that any similarities to me that she possesses are mere shadows of the traits that I used to love you. I now disdain the very idea of her. I repeat this over and over and convince myself that I was simply too much rather than not right at all.

I must hate her. I have to believe that she is lesser than because if she’s more, then the end of us wasn’t about you, it was about me, and my failures.

She’s yours, and I’m not. She’s your present, and I’m your past. I take a deep breath as I reconcile my lie. Turns out, I did mean it when I said I wanted you to be happy. I just forgot the part where I meant not quite as happy as you were with me.

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

I know what you’re thinking but surprisingly, this piece isn’t directly about my most recent breakup, merely inspired by it, and by the rupi kaur poem below. This piece is an amalgamation of all the feelings of I’ve ever had when I find out the other person is moving on. No matter how far along in the healing process I am, there’s an ever-present need to convince myself that I’m still better than whoever their new person is so that I can cope and protect my own confidence. I’m not proud of thinking this way because logically I know that the end of a relationship has rarely been only about me, or only about the other person, its end almost always has to do with the way we fit together. Eventually, I do move past this phase but my gut reaction is always negative and I wanted to capture that. 

This piece started out a lot differently. I had written a kind of repetitive poem pitting myself against this imaginary girl that represented all of the things I was insecure about in my relationships. But then I called my sister to run it by her and she ripped it to shreds. It stung a bit but she was right. The original piece was petty and superficial and honestly didn’t capture the depth of these feelings the way the piece above does. 

Last week I got a ton of good feedback and I’d really appreciate it if you could leave your thoughts on this one somewhere as well! Did you like this week’s or last week’s better? I’m really trying to get better at this type of writing so please let me know what you think!

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the woman who comes after me will be a bootleg version of who i am. she will try and write poems for you to erase the ones i’ve left memorized on your lips but her lines could never punch you in the stomach the way mine did. she will then try to make love to your body. but she will never lick, caress, or such like me. she will be a sad replacement of the woman you let slip. nothing she does will excite you and this will break her. when she is tired of falling apart for a man that doesn’t give back what he takes she will recognize me in your eyelids staring at her with pity and it’ll hit her. how can she love a man who is busy loving someone he can never get his hands on again. 

– rupi kaur, milk and honey

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PC: The inimitable Clara Yu