Yes

I read a quote by Eckhart Tolle the other day that resonated me:

“It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle is bad, except in the mind’s judgment”.

That quote sums up pretty much the work I had to do on myself for over a year to be at the state of happiness that I am today. It’s crazy even just thinking that it took me more than 12 months but I made it and that’s what counts.

When I came into my professional field as an accountant, I really had high hopes that I would be great at what I do. Six months in, I think I was considered the worse of the new hires. I couldn’t learn fast enough like my peers, I constantly made mistakes, and I was just always lost. I also found myself in a state where I was not getting along with certain coworkers which made working a hostile environment. So the career that I thought was good for me, turned out to be the career I didn’t want.

At this point in my life, I played what I typically call “the victim”. I surrendered myself and said I suck at this job, no one likes me, and I should simply be fired (as there were points where I hoped to be fired because I wouldn’t be brave enough to quit on my own). My reaction was very much resistance and intolerance to accept the circumstances that I was in and make things better. As a result, it left me to isolated and stagnant thoughts of my limitations in life, which ultimately created my depression. In other words, I continually spent months of holding onto this burden that I did a terrible job in the past that I couldn’t even focus on the present to make things better. I kept allowing others to define me with past experiences that I couldn’t move myself forward to be better.

After spending months of healing myself, I discovered that to move forward, I have to allow acceptance and forgiveness as a way of actively responding and participating to my resistant and intolerant thoughts. In other words, just say yes to life when it seems like a complete, chaotic, crowded mess. And instead of asking “Why me?” – ask “Why NOT me?”

Things happen for a reason. I could look back and say it was a terrible experience at that point in my life once I discovered I hated my job — but I do not one bit. My lowest point in my life a year ago was actually the best thing that happened me. And I’m happy it happened to me because I learned so much about myself as a person. And with that, great things in life are happening.

In fact, my senior at work told me he felt I was the most improved staff in my year. I also regained my confidence back in my job such that my clients grew fond of me and my managers respected my request in my interest to transfer to a new industry group within the firm. Most of all, I actually like my job now and I love the people I work with. Things are now looking out for the better all because I said yes to life and its challenges.

Life has its ups and downs but your judgment dictates what those moments and experiences in life can become. You’ll be amazed that taking ownership of your life by simply saying “yes” can give you a whirlwind of new opportunities. 

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Meditation

I recently started meditating after it was assigned as my homework from my acting class. Strange that that would be my homework for acting, isn’t it? At least that’s what I initially thought. My unconventional acting book by Anthony Meindl called At Left Brain Turn Right illustrates that meditation is key to allow yourself zone into the moment leaving behind all preconceived thoughts, judgments, and anything else that’s junk in your head. As an actor, this is essential as it allows you to really live in the reality of your character as opposed to having predispositions of how things should be, which makes the acting more choreographed when it should seem like you and your character are just one. But this also rings true to real life because we tend to have “an idea” of how we should go about doing something as opposed to just doing it.

At Left Brain Turn Right

Even before I read the book, I knew that meditation was linked to all sorts of good things: happiness, success, and overall greater health. I just never adopted it because it’s so hard. But one thing about myself that I was certain before going into it was that I carried no judgment of myself. Or so I thought…

On my first attempt of meditating last week, I tried so hard to focus on my breath. But I kept running all these thoughts about people in my life and I somehow developed fictional conversations with them unconsciously. For example, there was a female in my acting class who kept staring (up and down) at me for a good amount of time last week. I sat diagonally behind her so it’s not just easy to just stare at me as she did. We’ve talked before and had a lovely conversation – but in class, her glances back at me did not make me feel comfortable. So as I was meditating, this memory came back to life to me. Although she did not say any words to me in my memory, her stare read to me as if she wanted to tell me the following in her sassy voice “What are you wearing? Your dress is too short. You’re showing too much skin. You’re in class, not at a bar”. [FYI: I was wearing a sleeveless black and white striped dress that was mid-thigh length and my military boots]. This is one of several thoughts I generally have while meditating. It’s always involving another person in my life who is either speaking or unconsciously speaking to me in a negative connotation. At the end of each meditation, I find myself either saying in my head or aloud “SHUT UP MIND, JUST SHUT UP”. I know that attitude is really the opposite of what I’m really trying to achieve when meditating but I just get so frustrated when I can’t close my mind at peace.

So then I asked myself why I kept having these negative, confusing, and yet fictional conversations with people in my life. Even when I’m not meditating, they still exist. Then the light bulb went off. The reason all this was happening is because I do judge myself – A LOT – and NEGATIVELY. All this time I was so in denial about it. The first chapter of Meindl’s book essentially said “stop judging yourself” in order to reach my deepest, most authentic self. My response: “Psh, I don’t judge myself.” But I DO! I don’t realize it because I use people in my life to say the words that I would say to myself if I looked at me. So even though the girl in my class looked at me, all those thoughts I had of what she was saying, was ME all this time thinking those things about me. For all I know, in reality, she could have said “I like her outfit” and kept staring at me for inspiration. Who knows!!?

Now that I look back at that class, I felt very well put together that day because I wanted to feel good. And when I saw everyone in class wear jeans and a long-sleeve tee, I started to feel insecure. And that insecurity transcended to fictional ill-judgment of everyone who did stare at me. How do I really know that people think of me THAT negatively? I don’t. Should I care? No.

It comes all down to being comfortable within my own skin and letting go of any judgment of myself. I know who I am more than anybody else in this world so I will let judgment pass.

I highly recommend everyone to just meditate – not just for better health, success and happiness. It’s the journey to unravel who you really are as a person and letting go of all the junk in your mental capacity that you don’t need so that you become a more awesome you.

Cory Monteith

I arrived in LA this past Saturday to pursue my passion for acting, knowing that I had a very limited time off from work to do so. I booked 3 audits within my first week of arrival to the best studios known in LA. My first audit took place at the Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop just yesterday.

An audit is essentially an observation of a class being taught live in front of you. I could not begin to describe how inspired and amazed I was from the start and end of the audit. I was even lucky enough to meet Anthony [studio director] himself as this typically does not happen until you reach a certain level in the studio. He started the class off by remembering Cory Monteith, who played a lead role in Glee, as Cory was actually a student at this studio. Seeing that I was watching a stage where Cory used to perform, just astounded me.

Cory

I was also struck by Anthony’s messages in relation to Cory’s death. His message was simply to say that life is too short and sometimes you have no control over it – so ask yourselves, what are you delaying your life for? Go for what you want, and don’t live in the routine of what life gives you. Give yourself greater permission to do what you want to do and don’t ever seek happiness from the outside.

Society has it backwards for us to believe if we work hard, we can succeed, and when we succeed, we can be happy. Inner happiness creates success, not the other way around! As long as we are happy with who we are inside, then everything else in life will fall in place for us the way we want it too.

And that is why I love acting. It’s constantly affirming me at the present moment and loving myself from inside out.

I hope I can get into this studio before I depart back home. Apparently, there are some people who have waited 5 months to get into this studio! As for now, I have two more audits this week – one in which I actually had to prepare my script! I’m excited and nervous all at the same time. Nonetheless, I do feel at home here.

Tough Love in Translation

“You’re so fat”

“You’re stupid”

“What’s WRONG with YOU!?”

After almost two years living on my own, I finally moved back home with my parents. Those were the words that spat at me the first 7 days of moving back. Did I cry? Of course. I didn’t even know what I did to encourage those words from my parents.

I knew moving back with my parents would not be easy but necessary given the many changes in my life. But I never anticipated it to be as hard as it was.

Since 18, I knew I had to run away. By that, I mean going to a university that required me to live away from home and near campus. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. At that point, I felt more loved by my parents than ever before. My lack of presence gave them excitement whenever I came home. They missed me and cherished the 48 hours of my weekend that I could offer to them.

Before university, it wasn’t pretty. It never was. I was never good enough, smart enough, skinny enough. You could say it was an “Asian” thing but I’m sure there are non-Asians who had parents alike.

But during university, and into my young career as a professional public accountant, I found my confidence to allow myself to acknowledge that I am good enough, smart enough, and healthy enough.

As a child, your natural instincts is to make your parents proud. That’s all I ever wanted. But somehow, they constantly remind me that I haven’t achieved that yet, despite what they may might say to their friends. And it breaks everything inside of me, from my confidence to my soul.

I spent probably 30 minutes on day 7 [of moving in] just crying my eyes out and wondering why this is happening to me. I didn’t want to talk to my friends because I didn’t think they could understand.

Somehow, through the lowest times in my life, Sara texts me at the most ironic yet perfect times to ask me “how I am”. We probably haven’t talked in months before then. From our conversation, I was reminded that “[my] self worth isn’t determined by what they think of [me] but what [I] think of [my]self”. As much as my parents can emotionally beat me down occasionally, I have to remind myself of where I am today, what my accomplishments have been in the recent years, and how I’ve grown to become successful in my life on my own. It was a relief to cry in the moment at that time, but now it’s time to just move on to keep going and doing what I do because I know I’m at a great place in my life right now and it will only get better from here.

My parents may not have the heart to say that they love me and are proud of me in person, but I know deep down they are. I think they probably have some belief that their negative reinforcement has contributed to the achievements and successes in my life and want to continue to be a part of that in their own way. But I can’t take everything they say to heart because I know myself better than anyone else.

Stay Strong

More Than…

When your friends, family, or loved ones compliment you, do you shy away from them or do you thank them? Or both? Believe it or not, shying away from compliments is the worst thing you can do for your overall self-esteem and self-recognition. I’m definitely no stranger to this fact.

I was always the person who did not acknowledge compliments at all. It’s almost like a fight or flight situation when I was given compliments. When someone said I was “pretty”, I would get all awkward and nervous, and throw back a generic response, “No! YOU’RE PRETTY!” Or when someone said I was “smart”, I would give a fake smile and just say “Ohh, okay” and walk away. Because at the end of the day, I didn’t believe what they said.
It didn’t take long for me to realize why I was that way.

Growing up, my parents were very strict with high expectations of my sisters and I. Being Asian, this isn’t breaking news.

In Grade 2, our class had to sing Christmas carols in front of the entire school. It was an evening performance and my mom dressed me up to the nines. I did feel pretty and I felt confident and ready to sing my heart out. I got on stage with all my classmates, and as the red curtains unveiled, our class sang. I gave it my all. I was so proud of myself. As soon as I came to meet my mom, she said to me, “You looked so boring up there – like you didn’t sing at all” and started mocking me showing me how bored I looked on stage. I almost broke into tears. But I didn’t know any better. She was my mom. I never spoke out of line at that age – not like kids in this generation at least.

It was a cycle that never seemed to have ended since then. And it didn’t just impact me, but also my sisters.

My older sister was, and still is, very conservative in values and taste in clothes. When she got ready for prom, that was the first day I noticed how pretty she really was. So I told her: “Wow! You look so pretty!” She looked at me with these glaring eyes and said “Shut up” as if she was somewhat embarrassed by that fact. And that was that.

I can’t blame my parents for how they raised me because they were only victims of their own parents. And I realize that my self-esteem is a battle of my own and no one else.
I was inspired to write this post because I had so many limiting thoughts of myself this past week that I had enough – I was really sick of myself.

Things come into my life the funniest ways when I stop saying I’m not good enough and this week proved that:
• I used to always tell my roommate, an avid (amazing) runner, that I can’t run. Just yesterday, I ran 3K for the first time in over 10 months. Well, now I know I can. Next goal: 5K!
• I thought I performed poorly on the last two client projects I had. I didn’t think I would get recognized because of that. Turns out, my managers were satisfied with my performance and I was rewarded for my efforts. I couldn’t be any happier.
• I kept thinking I wasn’t as funny as my classmates in my improv class. Seems like, every class I enter, they think I’m hysterical. It feels so good to be able to entertain people. I just need to trust my instincts and go with it!

I am more than who I think I am. And I need to embrace who I really am. I am smart. I am funny. I am more capable of achieving anything as long as I put my heart into it.

No doubt that I am getting better in accepting compliments because it helps me reflect who I am and what I am.

And I don’t think anyone else should shy away from compliments for that same reason.

Not Like Therapy

In acting class, a common constructive feedback in my performance was the fact that I tend to only touch the surface of choices I make in a character’s emotional journey. When I was sarcastic, I wasn’t sarcastic enough. When I was happy, I was still reserved. It was really frustrating for me to think I performed well and only to find I was short on emotions from watching my playback.

The great thing about the instructors I’ve worked with was the fact that they open up to me and ask me why I made such choices. As much as I was told that acting class should not be treated like therapy – I treat it so. I found out through self-discovery that working in the corporate world, I have a poker face. I can’t express too much as it’s considered a sign of weakness, unless I want to get fired of course. But I don’t. Who does!?

My instructors constantly reminded me that acting class was a safe haven to express emotions and carry that journey to places you’ve never been before. And I loved that. And I loved it even more when I saw the class react to my progression in a positive way.

Now that I’ve joined improv at Second City, my first class experience has really let me come out of my shell. To be spontaneous, proactive, and impulsive were things I never knew I could embrace.

There was one game called “Yes, Lets!” where someone would scream out “Let’s do this [fill in the blank]” and the group would scream “Yes, Lets!” and act out what the person screamed out. So when someone in the class screamed “Let’s audition for a reality show!!” and we responded “Yes, Lets!” my instinctive reaction was pretending I was on camera, taking off my shirt and flashing to everyone. Everyone who saw me started laughing hysterically. And to be honest, I was so taken aback, I flushed. I just couldn’t believe the response. But it made me feel good inside because it’s been quite awhile since I’ve made complete random strangers laugh (unless it’s me embarassing myself like falling off a curb while walking, which I’ve done before). And through that, it reminded how I love making people happy/feel good/laugh.

To say to treat acting/improv class not like therapy, how can I not!? I feel like I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago. And I can’t thank you all for sharing this journey with me.

Success

Happy new year to all my readers! It’s been a whirlwind of chaos (good and bad) since my last post. But to say the very least, I have made huge achievements in both the professional sphere and in my life in the last few months of 2012. In fact, I successfully passed the CPA/CA national exam and advanced to the next level in my acting classes. What a great way to end 2012!

I find a lot of people don’t take the time to really reflect on their achievements over the year . It seems as though everyone looks at the year at a high level and quickly move on with their lives for the new year. But I’m a true believer that it’s really important to give yourself some self-recognition, if not, A LOT! Of course there’s going to be some bad or embarrassing moments in your year but they definitely don’t define who you are today. Every moment has its place.

So without further ado, I’d like to highlight my successes in the year in hopes to inspire you to reflect on your own achievements:

  • Passed my CPA/CA exam at my first attempt!
  • Took on acting class for the very first time. Even though I didn’t successfully advance to the next level at first attempt, I didn’t quit. After my second attempt, I successfully advanced. And I can definitely say I love it more every time I do it.
  • Took on dance classes for the very first time this year and eventually worked my way up from the back of the class to the front of the class
  • I began this blog which allowed me to channel my creativity and spark conversations with close friends on similar stories of inspiration, hope, struggle and challenges
  • I committed to making positive changes in my life by doing things that I love to do, reinforcing positive affirmations, and maintaining and strengthening genuine relationships with loved ones

I have a gut feeling that 2013 is going to be a great year and I can’t wait to share my stories to you along the way. I have some big plans coming up so it’ll be interesting to see what will happen next. For now, I can only dream with excitement.

Dream Your Heart Out!