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.