birthday goals

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It’s my birthday month!!! And I’m celebrating by not celebrating? I never liked the idea of partying (erm, going to brunch and then having to go to work, then coming back and sleeping by 9pm, if we’re being honest) for more than my set date of birth. But I do like the idea of reflecting on the past year to measure growth and to celebrate the lil things I did to better my wellbeing, so that I’ll do!

In my 26th year of life, I feel like I did quite a bit. I got coffee with artists. I created zines. I tabled at 10+ events. I stated they/them pronouns for the first time. I moved (well, I’m in the process of it) to a bigger place with windows and a normal-sized shower. I wrote a lot. I grew in ways that I didn’t know I could—I learned how to nurture my heart and mind and rested (not always) when I needed to. I meditated. I took walks. I released big ideas into the universe and allowed her to take it from there. I trusted.

Now, I’m looking to expand on what I did before. My theme for this year is SPACE. Holding my own space. Creating space. Knowing when I need space.

In holding my own space, I want to speak out more when I am not satisfied. I plan to push back when someone tries to marginalize me or take advantage of kindness. I would like to be more vocal about the work I am willing to do, and decline the work I don’t feel will promote growth. I’m also going to do that thing at concerts where you don’t let the blonde girl in heels push in front of you and then block your view of Hellogoodbye the whole time.

To create space, I want to encourage artists to be artists. I want to volunteer my time at events that literally provide space for artists of color to perform. I want to let people know that they don’t have to be the most talented to tell their truths. I’m also going to remind myself that helping others succeed does not mean that I cannot succeed. It’s a challenge sometimes, but I’m doing my best to remind myself that there’s room for everyone, and that if we all keep creating, it will become easier for our marginalized voices to be heard. Plus, I think it would just be cool to not be the token Asian person at a zine fest whose “Yellow Fever” zine attracts white dudes for the wrong reason. So, that part is purely selfish.

Knowing when I need space is easy. Acting on it is the difficult part. As a workaholic/compulsive people-pleaser, I often find myself putting other peoples’ wants first. BUT I’m making an effort to do some real self-care this year. I’m going to say “no” to the things I don’t want to do. I’m going to separate work time from rest time, and really follow through (and, like, maybe lock my phone in a box or something, and then throw it into the ocean). I yearn to find moments where I can set aside labels (writer, illustrator, disgruntled employee who doesn’t get a single day off, etc…) and just be a person. I think it’s so easy for people—me, especially—to get lost in work and what we want to be, instead of taking a look in the mirror and seeing who we are now, in all our struggling-but-not-dead, work-in-progress, kale-in-teeth glory.

Cheers to 27!

gift of failure

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I’m gonna be real here. It’s been a rough first quarter of the year, y’all. I was waiting to hear back from three separate things, just to get three separate rejections. Each “no” that came in gave me hope that maybe the next one would be a “yes”. It did not happen, LOL. I was sad (also LOL). But what made me less sad was thinking about how far I’ve come since just one year ago. This time, I was able to step back and say, “That sucks. Okay, next.”

A year ago, this would have crushed me. I know, because it did. And I wrote a zine about it. It seemed like my life was falling apart as others’ were starting to pick up. I cried. I wanted to hide in a dark corner until every negative feeling left my body and sank into the ground. I thought about getting a 9 to 5! Holy shit.

I became tough on myself, vowing to work hard to achieve my goals. I pushed myself to get better. I cut out breaks. I drank a lot of coffee. (Sidenote: one time, I read that James Franco didn’t like to sleep because it was just wasting time, so I did the same, and lasted for like three days before I fell asleep for 14 hours straight) It did not work, and also, I totaled my car.

So, I tried a different approach. Thus, began my mindfulness journey. I meditated daily. I took walks on the beach even though I hate the sand. I did things for fun in between work. I asked the universe for help. Yeah, like The Secret. I manifested that shit, y’all.

Slowly, I began to see change. I began to love my journey, and appreciate that others’ journeys are different than mine. When someone had good news, it wasn’t crushing anymore. Did it suck? Yes, tbh, but it didn’t send me into a depression spiral of “why wasn’t that me I’m a loser!!!” I began to trust myself, and trust the process more. I was able to focus on my goals and my adventure, and how much I was learning and growing.

And I did grow. I became a better writer and illustrator and was… happy?? And my work reflected it.

I wrote a script that was a finalist in multiple competitions. I wrote and illustrated four zines. I went to lunch and coffee and connected with people in my field even when I really didn’t want to leave the apartment. And every time I did something small, I noticed I’d get little rewards. It’s possible I’m reading too much into it, and there’s actually no causality between taking a meeting, and then immediately getting an email saying my zine fest rejection actually turned into an acceptance. But, by treating these as gifts from the universe—gifts I received because I’m taking steps forward and learning—it makes me that much more aware of the li’l good things as I continue to stumble my way around.

Yeah, rejection still sucks, but it doesn’t have to suck that much. We learn, we grow, we move on. Even if it’s after some tears and a playlist full of of sad music. We’ll be okay.

Holiday (Self) Love

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The ho-ho-holidays are upon us! Reindeer! Jingle Bells! Food for literal days because you’re poor and have to ration the leftovers from your family gathering! To be honest, though, as I’ve gotten older, this time of year has started to feel less magical and more like a constant source of stress. I feel stretched out in every direction, whether it’s figuring out how to split time between my family and my partner’s, how I can buy gifts with the zero money I have, or even just worrying about work hours. It’s exhausting, and it makes what was once my favorite time of the year feel like something that’s trying to break me.

The holidays used to be a time when I’d get weeks off from school, a chance to catch up on the “Gossip Girl” or “Supernatural” episodes I missed, and an opportunity to dress nicely and eat a bunch of food in someone’s home with my extended family. It was amazing. Magical. It never felt like it lasted long enough. Now, I feel like I’m trying to budget my non-existent money to afford gifts for everyone on my list on top of trying to organize my schedule to accommodate everyone, all while picking up shifts at work to mitigate the fact that I am both broke af and am maybe looking for an excuse to not attend certain holiday functions.

So, basically, I dread the holidays now lol. Everything I used to look forward to feels like it’s turned on me and is now trying to feed off my misery. But, like, I get it. As we get older and take on more responsibilities, whether that be at work or in other peoples’ lives, the holidays can feel like they’re less about that warm feeling of togetherness and peppermint mocha, and more about how to survive a couple days of panicked shopping, or in-laws, or thinking about how you have to go work on Christmas Eve or on the 26th. For many of us, Christmas can start to feel like just another day to get through.

But, what if it didn’t have to be? What if you could wake up and be excited about presents and family and food (mostly food)? What if you could, instead of expending energy wishing you could be a hermit, enjoy the magic and wonder of the holidays?

This year, instead of thinking about everything swirling in your head, I’m going to try to do just this.

For me, this means that I will try to be aware of what is happening in the moment and showing gratitude for what I have. Rather than think about how early I have to wake up for work the next day and letting that make me sad, I’m going to focus on how much I enjoy being around my loved ones. I am going to listen and have conversations with my family as we sit around the table eating dim sum out of Styrofoam containers instead of worrying about what my partner’s family thinks of my not being with them. I am going to make a gingerbread house while listening to the Hanson Christmas CD (or my curated self-care holiday playlist). I am going to appreciate the holidays and the joy they bring me again!!!

Showing gratitude for the things you are surrounded by is a mood booster like no other, and can help when things start to feel overwhelming. Also, if all else fails, my former therapist told me to find a small dark corner and hide whenever I feel like I want to cry or combust. So, that might work, too.