Reflections on Love & 2018

I stopped writing this past year because I was in a place where I couldn’t be honest and reflective in writing without infringing on the privacy of those around me. I started writing on Medium in 2017 with a post on my new year’s resolution — to choose myself — which I had succeeded in doing while traveling alone in Europe and studying abroad. But my life, in a sense, was not my own in 2018. My life was shared with 68 (give or take a few) brilliant, bright-eyed, and vulnerable individuals as I took on a new role. I stepped back onto the UCI campus after spending 9 months learning how to be alone, how to love myself, and how to live without labels — and chose my new label and all the wonderful responsibilities that came with it.

Being a resident advisor.

That was the first big change during the months approaching 2018. I had to relearn how to be an extrovert again, how to love others without expecting love in return, and how to live with labels and wear them proudly.

I was also in a committed relationship after 20 years of “what are men and why do I need those?”

That was the second big change. Learning to love someone and letting them into my life without losing my sense of self and my natural independence. Learning to grow with someone instead of growing alone.

I left college, joined the frictional unemployment group of newly-grads, and eventually moved myself to DC to start my career.

That was probably the biggest change. After finally learning to love others and put them first, learning to love being around people and to depend on them, I now had to do another 180 — learn to let go and be alone again.

I said that this post was supposed to be a reflection on love, but let me backtrack and start from my 2018 new year’s resolution. To be honest, I don’t remember what it was — I think it was something shiny and pretentious that I immediately forgot about once winter break was over. But if I had to choose the biggest lesson — what my resolution should have been — it’s to understand love. In all its forms.

I spent most of 2018 feeling very unloved and alone (ironic). I was so exhausted from constantly being an emotional crutch for others, that when they reciprocated love back to me, I couldn’t decipher and understand it. Being an RA made me feel extremely distant to my friends. I couldn’t do the irresponsible senior year stuff that they were doing because I felt an obligation to always be in my hall. I felt a deep guilt anytime I wasn’t available to my residents. This job was just that important to me. Despite everyone constantly trying to convince me otherwise, even up until the last moment of spring quarter, I was still unsure if I really did a good job, if this experience really had made an impact on my hall.

Most friends also stopped reaching out. After you cancel plans 30 times, people naturally just assume that you’re busy and stop asking you. I was busy, extremely busy, but in my 3 minutes a day of time to myself, I felt a deep sense of loneliness. Of course, my friends were also busy with their lives: work, internships, boyfriends, girlfriends, midterms, finals. And so our time together became short and scattered.

But I was loved all along— and it took all of 2018 for me to figure that out. People love in different ways, in different languages. It takes time and effort to process and understand love. It can be a bowl of fruit my grandmother places in front of me at the end of a long day. It can be a short message that says “hey, I miss you.” It can be an article sent to me from a friend who thought I’d enjoy it. It’s the trust that is placed onto me when people show me their vulnerable side. It can be in the form of harsh honesty or endless validation. It can be a hug. A smile. Anything can be love.

Here I am, entering 2019 with my heart full and head clear as I had my final realization: It’s time to learn to love myself too, because if I had loved myself before, I wouldn’t have questioned if I was important to those around me. That means believing in my abilities and experiences and battling my imposter syndrome. That means leaving behind phrases and jokes like “I’m trash” and “I hate myself” in 2018. That means spending time to cultivate myself this year — my talents, my mind, my heart, and my spirit.

Cultivate you.

That is my new year’s resolution for 2019. And that’s why I am back on medium. I’m excited to write again. I’m excited to learn more about myself this year and to continue being a student in life despite the end of my formal education. I’ll keep you posted on how these grand plans go. Thanks for reading and I hope you’re feeling loved and doing well, too.

Happy new year and cheers to us.

Dear Girls.

This is for all who identify as women and have been hurt by others who identify as women.

I may not know you and you may not know me but there is something that makes us the same despite our different narratives.

We need to remember to be kind to each other

because the world is not kind to us.

We are all women and we have all struggled.

We have all been cat-called,

Slut-shamed,

Fat-shamed,

Told that we are not (insert adjective here) enough.

We are condemned as dramatic when we show emotion

But labeled as heartless when we don’t.

Girls are catty, they say.

Girls are drama, they say.

And the worst is that sometimes they is we.

We’ve all disliked other women,

Almost as often as we’ve disliked ourselves.

We have all been called a bitch behind our backs,

We have all called some one else a bitch behind theirs.

If you’re like me and come from a conservative family

then you’ve also been told your place in society —

“Women need to be smart but not too smart.”

“Women need to be pretty but not too pretty.”

“Women should be feminine but not too girly.”

If you’re a woman of color,

You’ve been objectified, fetishized,

Told that you’re ethnic — or worse — exotic.

When we go out for drinks,

dress too little and you’re a slut.

Too covered up? Prude.

And when we get hurt,

when we are attacked,

when we are violated,

It’s our fault — we shouldn’t have dressed this way,

smiled this way,

moved this way.

The right to our bodies,

The right to reproductive care,

The right to decide for ourselves

— when will that come?

It’s hard enough to be a woman in society as it is,

I’m sorry for making it worse for you.

You’ve hurt me and I’ve hurt you.

I forgive you. Will you forgive me?

Because we need to stop this nonsense. We are not each other’s competition. We are not threats. Bringing one woman down will not bring you up and of course we know that already. So then why do we do it?

The way we act or are perceived to act is not predetermined by our gender because we identify and define our own genders. We have been socialized to think a certain way. We have been told that the world is comprised of binaries so you should stick to one side and conform to all its labels. And once you decide to identify as a woman, if society even gives you the decision, these labels are then dumped onto you as you struggle to catch them. But then we grow up and realize that we didn’t need to fit these labels in the first place. And then we just feel silly.

We have been taught to be afraid of other women but that is wrong.

We are each other’s best allies,

So let’s treat each other with kindness.

Please.