Life Outside Social Media

A Step Away from Toxic Masculinity

     I recently attended an orientation at MOMS Orange County, a non-profit organization that provides free access to prenatal care, health screenings, health education, and referral services for low-income families. It's an agency that primarily aims to empower new mothers to raise healthy newborns and establish strong bonds with the entire family during and after the pregnancy. While MOMS OC offers plenty of exceptional programs for all kinds of women, what really fascinated me about their vision is that they serve families holistically to deliver the best possible health outcomes for the new little member of the household.

     A service that I found particularly influential is the workshop for new fathers, in which "veteran" or experienced fathers bring their new infants and mentor fathers-to-be in basic skills of newborn care. While these hands-on training sessions help these men bond and empower each other, another remarkably compelling aspect of the workshop is providing a space for them to candidly share their feelings about this imminent phase of their lives. Since it's a male-only workshop, it reserves space for men to be vulnerable about their prospective roles as fathers and strong emotional supporters for their partners.

     The underlying purpose of this program is to encourage society to step away from toxic masculinity by ensuring that children won't grow up with absent or uninvolved fathers. Rather, it's a movement towards normalizing acts of love performed by men through acknowledgment of their integral role in shaping a healthy, functional family unit. Remarkable outcomes of these services from the past couple of decades show that parents working as a team truly leaves a powerful impact on the social and emotional development of the child. When a child grows up witnessing sincere acts of love between their parents and towards others, they tend to adopt the same nurturing behavior when forming close relationships as they mature.

     Innovative programs like these, no matter how seemingly small, ultimately serve to prove that vulnerability is power — not weakness. Stoicism, the absence of outward expression of emotion, needs to be detached from the image of masculinity as it fosters nothing but distant relationships that the next generations tend to bear through adulthood. If we could just implement this incredible service in every crevice of the planet, the world would become exponentially loving and kind. If men were taught to be unashamed of vulnerability by boldly nurturing the people they love — toxic masculinity would be nothing but a myth.

     Just imagine how different the world would be if men displayed unconditional love and support to their kids and their partners.

    ...where kids grew up modeling the warm and loving nature of their fathers instead of only associating it with mothers.

    ...where men listened, respected, and elevated the voices of women who nurtured them.

     ... and where men simply knew how to love.

     I m a g i n e    a    w o r l d    w h e r e    m e n     j u s t    k n e w    h o w    t o    l o v e .

Friday, April 12, 2019


"I have something to say. Can you listen?" 

     One thing I've always prized about myself is that I always make people feel heard. There's not a single close friend who hasn't told me that I'm a great listener throughout the course of our relationship. While lending an ear seems like a passive skill,  it's something that makes me feel actively selfless and nurturing to the people I care about. Intimate one-on-one interactions with me often turn into therapy sessions for some people because my strong willingness to listen immediately paves that foundation for trust. 

     The more I learn about the impact of active listening in the nursing practice, the more I hone my therapeutic communication skills — whether it's with a long-time friend or an ordinary acquaintance. Whoever it may be, I always remember everyone's stories down to the most minute details because that's what I do — I listen. But nobody really knows my story other than one of my best friends since junior high who has read nearly every single personal piece I've penned. 

     An empty text box or a piece of paper has been, and will probably always be, the ears I trust the most. The best way I can communicate my thoughts — and more importantly, my feelings — has consistently been through writing. No matter how many workshops I've engaged in or communication techniques I've learned, my words will never be nearly as articulate and vulnerable as the ones I compose in a heartfelt letter or an introspective reflection. 

     Unlike others who use journaling as an outlet for self-expression solely for their own safekeeping, my underlying intention is to share pieces of my story either to a particular individual or an audience — depending on whether it's a personal note or a public post. When I write something that I make available to anyone other than myself, it's my way of saying, "I have something to say. Can you listen?" 

     On occasional moments when a loved one eagerly asks when my next blog post will be posted or readily wants to read my letters addressed to them, it makes me feel entirely heard. Although my densely inundated mind has got a lot to say, I rarely have the desire to be listened to, but when I do — I will write — and whoever receives my vulnerable words openly without judgment is someone who I know truly cares. 

     I'm willingly all ears for anyone who needs them, but sometimes I just need someone's eyes to hear me out. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2019


     Prior to being in a relationship, I swore to myself that I would never put the weight of my happiness on someone else. I always wanted to strive for self-sufficiency – to know how to be content on my own regardless of the happiness that someone else grants me. For a little while, I actually felt like I reached that point, then I committed myself into a relationship that truly does make me happy, but I just somehow lost myself along the way.

     Lately, I don't know how to be happy anymore when I'm not with him. I don't enjoy the activities I used to love doing on my own because I would always crave his presence. That feeling of being so inadequate or lifeless has been revisiting me as if I'm my 16-year-old self again and that irritates me considerably. I spent years trying to grow at my own pace and I've honestly come such a long way from being an insecure, self-loathing teenage girl – only to regress and feel the same way all over again.

     I just want to make myself feel beautiful, intelligent, kind, loving, independent, and all the things I used to think I am – without desperately wanting to hear it from someone else. I just want to feel enough again and be whole on my own because at the dreaded circumstance that he stops loving me, I don't want to feel like I'm worthless and undeserving of love. I suppose I just miss being independent, secure, and accepting of who I am because that was the closest feeling I had to internal bliss.

     Ultimately, I know that self-development isn't always about moving forward. It actually involves quite a bit of reevaluation of the past, which I suppose is the part of the process where relapses may occur. It'll take some time for me – preferably alone – to rediscover that resistance to the cynical voices in my head, but I'm determined to fill it with my own voice again by reigniting my passions and lifting myself back up.

     If you're in a deeply co-dependent relationship, remember this in the empowering and moving words of Rupi Kaur,

"you are in the habit 
of co-depending 
on people to 
make up for what 
you think you lack 

who tricked you 
into believing 
another person
 was meant to complete you
 when the most they can do is complement."

Thursday, November 11, 2018


Beauty Matters some extent. Self-esteem on a surface level always seems to come down to the concept of beauty, no matter how often we convince ourselves that it doesn't matter all that much. In reality, appearance almost always plays an initial role in everyday human interaction.

     Several months ago, I wrote about how the emphasis on outward beauty should be disregarded because women need to be valued and celebrated more for their intrinsic qualities. While I still firmly stand by my words, one thing I wish I addressed in that entry is the ludicrous beauty standards that society imposes on women (especially of color) and the inevitable impact of that pressure on their self-worth. In other words, I didn’t consider the potential impact of validation on women who may not feel beautiful in their own skin. While they should be empowered and elevated for who they truly are, they also sometimes need to hear that they’re beautiful when societal standards constantly make them feel like they’re not.

     As I’ve said before, I grew up being called pretty especially as a light-skinned little girl in the Philippines. Even until I got older, I would get complimented on my formerly tinted hair and my big eyes that "don’t make [me] look Asian.” It's not until recently when I realized that what people often find most beautiful about me are features that abide by these socially constructed beauty ideals. That is — white, Euro-centric beauty. I’d always get asked if I’m half-white or “Eurasian,” as if it’s impossible for a full Filipino to be beautiful unless she has European blood. For a while, compliments of that nature inspired me to enhance my “white features” by dyeing my hair platinum blonde and making my big eyes stand out even more with colored lenses.

     Gratefully, I eventually reached a moment when I looked at myself and didn’t like what I saw because it just wasn’t me. I absolutely despised being a complete blonde. I'd look back at my past selfies with blonde hair, colored contacts, and heavily contoured nose and cheekbones and realize that I’m just one of those girls who try to conform to the social media norms of what "pretty" is supposed to look like.

     Over the past year, I've worn significantly less makeup and dyed my hair back to my natural, raven-colored Asian locks, and to my satisfaction — I actually look like myself in a way that I haven't for a really long time. And I've loved it ever since. All of it — not just the white parts of me that people tend to flatter me for. I may not be conventionally beautiful to perhaps the majority of the people I've encountered, but this is the most I've ever looked and felt like myself and it's incredibly liberating. I don't receive nearly as much attention as I used to for my appearance, but that doesn't bother me one bit because it keeps me focused on who I actually am as an individual instead of the facade I used to present. I look around and see all these strikingly beautiful women surrounding me, and their distinctive ethnic features are the first to stand out to me instead of the white characteristics I used to long for. It's incredible to witness that once you embrace parts of you that everyone tends to neglect or even condemn, the more you feel liberated and at peace. The more you see beauty not only in yourself but in everyone else.

     I wish that at some point in every woman's life, she recognizes that, too.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

"Find the Gem"

     I met a young, pleasant couple who approached me at the Self-Growth section of a bookstore and engaged in an enlightening conversation with me. Not trivial small talk where you struggle to find something in common, but a truly riveting intellectual conversation about self-development, societal flaws, and healthy relationship-building. They told me how refreshing it was to find someone as kind as I am, but I think it was really them who brought it out in me because their genuine nature was so communicable. It then crossed my mind how regrettably difficult it is to find truly genuine characters – as in people who spread positivity and actually mean what they say. I find that most people who seem wholesome tend to act for their own benefit instead of genuinely empowering and believing in others, but I could tell that this couple was different. Their persistent drive to seek knowledge in understanding themselves and others was a reminder of why I constantly look within myself to find my strengths and evaluate my flaws – and in turn, proactively work on them.

    Not only did that interaction fuel my motivation for self-improvement, but it also reminded me of the one thing that my mental health professor preaches in nearly every lecture, "Find the gem." That is – find that one positive thing in every single person (no matter who they are) and hold on to it. Nurture it. Let it flourish until it embodies their whole being. And help them step off the ledge by amplifying that one thing they have going for them. My professor particularly employs this mantra in the context of mental illness, but it can easily apply to anyone who may be stuck in a rut or pushed so close to the edge that they don't have the power to bring themselves back up. I, myself, often struggle to find people in my life who lift me up whenever I can't do it myself, but I've built enough resilience over the years to the point that if I can't have it, I'll give it instead. I'm incredibly fortunate to recognize my strengths in the face of adversity, but other people aren't so lucky because they've suffered at greater lengths than I've ever had.

     Regardless, occasionally being validated for one of the qualities I deeply value about myself was surely therapeutic and moving. This random couple went out of their way to dig up one of my gems, which empowered me and excavated my hope in humanity. There may not be many people like them, but I'm determined to be someone who can leave an impact on others just like they did. Hopefully, someday, I'll have the power to radiate the kind of positivity that they instilled in me in that brief, once-in-a-blue-moon encounter.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Self-Love is Selfless Love

     If you ask me if I'd rather be with someone I love but I’m not loved back or someone who loves me but I don’t love them back, I'd choose the first. People always think of relationships as a give-and-take arrangement as if it's a 50/50 business partnership – if one is giving more than the other, then there comes a breach of trust. Why is it so hard for us to give without expecting anything in return? Perhaps, we feel like we deserve to be rewarded when we treat others with our utmost love and attention, which makes sense because we live in a society molded by binary thinking. It's as if a relationship either has to be built on fair shares or none at all, and frankly, I find that incredibly restricting and unwholesome. 
     I must admit that in my own relationship, I've certainly felt like I love my partner way more than he loves me, which would often bring me down considerably, but upon moments of self-reflection shortly after, I always successfully convince myself that the way people feel about me (or lack thereof) doesn't reflect my worthiness to be loved. I've fought a long and hard battle to be happy with who I am, and now that I'm finally in a position where I truly know I'm worth loving, all I want is to radiate the love I have for myself towards those who mean volumes to me, particularly my significant other. From now on, at times when I don't feel wanted, I will continue to give because I see worth in people who may not always see it in themselves. Call it self-destructive if you will, but my decision to love selflessly is rooted from years of building myself up to a point where I know I'm enough even when my feelings aren't always reciprocated. 
     It takes a great deal of strength and vulnerability to love without expectations, and I'm willing to take on the challenge of giving it as long as it is accepted. It's time to stop thinking of love as a transaction or a debt that needs to be paid because it's one of the few valuable things in life that should come for free. 
Thursday, March 15, 2018

Choosing to Love

            I’ve never been one to idealize relationships because of my firm realist outlook of love. To me, meeting “the one” in a grand, elaborate manner always seemed like a delusional idea instilled by unrealistic romantic comedies. But still, to some extent, I believe that everything happens for a reason and fate plays some kind of role in our pursuit of love. However, that extent only lies in finding each other when you’re both at a good place with yourselves, not in a perfectly coincidental, romantic encounter that people like to call “destiny.” I’m still trying to dissect the idea of “the one” and whether I truly believe in it or not, but for now, I most definitely think the right person exists in many points of our lives. It’s just that staying with that person depends on whether you continue to choose each other.

            Black Mirror’s “Hang the DJ” actually inspired me to write this entry. The episode revolves around a digital world of dating, in which a device ("The System") matches you up with someone and assigns an expiration date – much like online dating minus the limited time feature. Needless to say, I was furious throughout most of the episode because the fundamental foundation of these matchmade relationships is the idea of fate, which is illustrated by The System playing God and determining your "ultimate match" based on your interactions with previous partners. In a sense, you rely on some other force to find the perfect person for you. It entirely rules out individual choice, which is what frames my personal philosophy of dating.

            I believe that if the strongest asset in your relationship is that you're "meant to be" because of some inexplicable action of the universe, then you're in love with the idea of the person. You become content or comfortable because you're done searching and trying after the universe did it all for you, but from personal preference, I don't think that will ever be enough because that ultimately leads you to settle. I may not have much dating experience, but one thing I've always told myself whenever I do get into a serious relationship is that loving someone is a constant, deliberate choice, whether you met in a magical, romantic way or through a dating app. The way you meet is as far as "destiny" has in store for you, and the fate of the rest of your relationship lies in your conscious decision to love each other. 

            By the end of the episode (*SPOILER ALERT*), The System ends up being a test, in which the central couple is meant to override it by choosing to want each other despite the impending consequences. Every encounter turns out to be a repeating simulation that they have undergone a thousand times. The cycle repeats as their memory gets wiped out, and every single time, they would choose to run away together instead of complying with the system. Essentially, all along, the promising 99.8% match is determined by the couple's perpetual choice to love each other, and that's where the episode truly resonates with my personal philosophy.

            There's nothing wrong with being a hopeless romantic – perceiving the world through rose-colored lenses fuels hope in finding the right one. It only becomes problematic when you idealize that person and try to mold them into your vision of the perfect partner because that's when you know you're looped in a fabricated reality. The underlying message of this episode is that when some force tells you that you're not meant to be with someone who you think is right for you, find the courage to rebel against it because the only decision that should matter is yours and your significant other's. Love is raw and deeply irrational and only a human mind is stupid enough to consciously choose it despite the antithetical choice of everything else in the universe. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Spiritual But Not Religious

Disclaimer: This post contains a controversial topic and therefore may offend some people. This is merely my personal take on religion and I don't intend to demean anyone who holds opposite beliefs. My opinions on the matter may arguably sound ignorant when heard from a conservative perspective, but this is what I currently believe in based on personal experience and years of practicing Christianity. Also note that I'm particularly referring to Catholicism every time I mention "religion."  

     I was raised in a conservative Catholic home, so the value of religion was basically forced upon me throughout my childhood. While there are some things I do appreciate about growing up in this background, I'm perfectly comfortable with losing touch with this aspect of my life ever since transitioning to adulthood.

     Maybe I just have an incredibly vague understanding of the concept as I do admit that I've never entirely immersed myself in it, but as of now, religion to me is just another social construct that limits our thinking to only two possibilities — good or bad, right or wrong, or any other binary that encloses our minds in boxes. It exists to feed our natural compulsion to fill the empty spaces of the unknown, so we end up turning a belief, a completely subjective matter, into something that's true when it most likely isn't, or at least we'll never really know.

     On the other hand, accepting the fact that we can't be sure of anything opens up a universe of possibilities. The more unsure I am, the clearer I perceive the workings of society because uncertainty has opened up my mind to the idea that we and all forces beyond us were built to be dynamic, as in we grow and adapt to the inevitable changes of our surroundings. Seasons shift, natural disasters strike, and the earth molds itself to new and different forms of nature. Even scientific theories, findings that we call "objective," are proven to be facts in one era and then completely debunked decades later, all because the world and our minds are perpetually evolving. The more we open our consciousness to what we don't know, the more we see that anything is a possibility, and it's our task as innately inquisitive human beings to seek answers but also recognize that there shouldn't be an endgame to discovery, just a platform for sharing it. The human mind is the most powerful tool we have and I find that it's utterly wasteful to narrow our thinking to ancient ideas extracted from a questionable book written centuries ago.

    With that said, I refuse to be told what to believe in especially when it concerns human lives because there is always so much more to morality than "right or wrong." While I accept the reality that some things happen out of my control because of the mysterious workings of the universe, free will is ultimately what allows us to be sentient beings, and religion tends to hold power over the very aspect of our lives that makes us human.

     It's known to embrace tradition, which is contradictory to the fundamental nature of our species to strive for change. While it may motivate some people to become their better selves, living strictly by this "rule book" often perpetuates closed-minded attitudes toward liberal reasoning. Don't get me wrong, I still have utmost respect for those who find meaning in life through religion. Trust me, I've been there and I've once reveled in the reassurance and sense of purpose that it provides, but the older I get, the more I realize that human experiences and the willingness to learn and adapt are the things that are unquestionably real.

     I've decidedly found a sense of purpose in more tangible matters like the ambiguity of art, the grace of nature, and complex interactions within human relationships. Spirituality lies in our awareness of forces that we can't control, so contrary to popular belief, transcending the material world isn't exclusively achieved by following a religion. Hope doesn't always have to arise from believing in this socially constructed system ‒ it can easily come from believing in humanity itself and the unpredictable wonders of the universe. There's a special kind of beauty in things we don't fully understand, so if we repress this uncertainty by insisting that a certain belief is true, the world loses its shine. Find your purpose through curiosity instead because everything is a lot more complicated than it seems.

Saturday, August 31, 2017

Individuality Drives Disconnection

     I always used to pride myself for valuing individuality over collectivism because I assumed that being able to deal with everything on your own meant taking an immense leap towards self-sufficiency. As a matter of fact, my favorite novel in high school was Anthem by Ayn Rand, a dystopian fiction with an underlying message that individuality prevails over the collective masses. Whenever I'd watch a series or a movie, I often relate the most to characters with independent minds, people who don't like to be handled because they'd rather take matters into their own hands. For quite a while, that's entirely how I wanted myself to be — somebody who can fully embrace solitude as a result of developing a strong self-sustaining ability, but after observing how persistent this endeavor is in our widely individualistic Western culture, I'm beginning to feel like it's what is driving the loneliness epidemic.

     As a keen advocate of valuing self-discovery, I certainly find that putting yourself first should be of high priority, but there comes a point where we dive so far into ourselves that we forget to learn how to connect, so we're left with a generation that doesn't know how to love selflessly. We crave intimacy and human connection, yet we often don't communicate in the language of vulnerability nor exert sufficient effort to learn how to put others before ourselves because we've been so focused on doing otherwise.

     There has to be a middle ground where we can independently explore and discover ourselves without withdrawing from what we were built to do — to connect. If there's anything I've truly learned as a former Public Health major, it's that improving the well-being of an individual requires looking through a wider lens in which contexts must be considered. My individual health is not exclusively shaped by my personal choices but also the inevitable forces of my environment, the communities in which I grew up, and the people by whom I'm surrounded. Although practicing accountability through individual action is unquestionably essential in the workplace and elsewhere, collaboration is what kindles insightful ideas and deep-seated connections. Reveling in independence without being selfish means perceiving society outside your own perspective and learning how to incorporate the life that you've built for yourself into others without losing sight of who you are.

     As much as I genuinely enjoy being on my own, my path to personal growth wouldn't be as compelling without a drive for connection because it's the fundamental basis of love and empathy. We're often told that it's perfectly fine to be selfish in our 20s, but we process it in a way that disregards the significance of nurturing relationships and understanding diverse minds. Contrary to popular belief, it's not impossible to simultaneously focus on yourself and take care of the people around you. Self-love doesn't always mean undergoing extraordinary experiences all on your own — it's also about choosing the right people who can lift you up and add a deeper meaning to your already full life.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Beauty: A Dishonorable Privilege 

     Society puts so much emphasis on the concept of beauty as if it equates to happiness or a sense of worthiness. I’ve certainly been guilty of this mentality because I grew up with what is called “pretty privilege.” I place that in quotes because in no way have I always seen myself as pretty nor believed every “you’re beautiful” remark from a stranger, but I can’t deny that from personal experience, I’ve received quite a bit of special treatment because of the way I look. People are always nicer and more welcoming to me, I get things handed to me at no cost, I’ve been given opportunities that should’ve gone to someone far more deserving for their merit, and I constantly receive more attention than I ever seek.

     I’ve had “pretty privilege” since I was a little girl in the Philippines, where my light skin was glorified for meeting my culture’s ideals of beauty. In the U.S., I’ve often been deemed “exotic” for my ethnically ambiguous appearance – a kind of guessing game that people like to play when they meet me at first sight. For someone relatively timid and unapproachable, I don’t struggle as much to seek potential dates because there’s always someone who notices me walking along the street and asks for my number. It’s ridiculously unfair that being “beautiful” is an actual privilege – but surely not an honorable privilege to me. 

     Keep in mind that I have never taken for granted all the genuine remarks about my exterior. I’m always grateful for people who go out of their way to tell me that they think I’m pretty, but it has come to a point where compliments of this nature have left me utterly desensitized with nothing more than a fleeting sense of false confidence. After years of equating my self-worth to the amount of occasions I’ve been called beautiful, it has conditioned me to believe that it’s all I’ll ever be… and that is quite possibly the most disempowering thought to occupy a woman’s mind. Saying “you’re pretty,” no matter how much I want to hear it during my moments of plummeting self-esteem, no longer leaves a significant impact on my sense of value because acknowledging this incredibly overrated advantage says nothing about who I am as a person, what my mind is capable of, how I treat others, or what I do for people I love. I want to be powerful for the right reasons and exude the kind of influence that empowers others instead of taking something away from those who are clearly more worthy of the chances, opportunities, and acceptance that I’ve been showered with. 

    The next time you want to make a woman feel truly beautiful, don’t tell her she has pretty eyes but rather that you like the way her eyes smile because it radiates warmth. Don’t say you like her outfit – talk about her one-of-a-kind style that brings out her unique, creative nature. Don’t compliment her soft, delicate voice but rather the brilliant ideas that come out of her lips. Say something more than a mere observation of her exterior – tell her instead how her outward qualities make you feel. Because elevating the significance of beauty takes away the powerful impact of words that heal, actions that spark a difference, ideas that cultivate change, and feelings that bare vulnerability, all of which are far more valuable than something you never had to work for.

And now I leave you with an inspiring prose of an exceptionally strong and independent woman: 

i want to apologize to all the women 
i have called pretty 
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave 
i am sorry i made it sound as though 
something as simple as what you’re born with 
is the most you have to be proud of when 
your spirit has crushed mountains with your wit 
from now on i will say things like 
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary 
not because i don’t think you’re pretty 
but because you are so much more than that 

-rupi kaur

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

To the Late Bloomers

     It’s finally that time of the year when everyone throws a cap in the air to rejoice the end of a four-year journey and anticipate the beginning of an entirely new chapter, whether it’s going off to college or the dreaded workforce. Then, there’s me who gets to inevitably read all her friends’ lengthy Facebook posts about how crazy of a ride college has been as they bid farewell to such an unforgettable experience – a journey that I feel like I’m barely starting. If you’re on the same page, this is for you late bloomers who have a bit of extra time to learn and grow to reach your fullest potential. 

     Society likes to tell you what you’re supposed to do with your life by presenting this fixed timeline to adhere to. Otherwise, you’ve somehow failed at some point or made reckless decisions that pushed you off of this socially constructed, systematic life plan. But the problem with this is that it makes everything seem certain, and let’s face it, nothing in life is or ever will be because certainty is agonizingly limiting. Looking ahead and setting long-term goals with a timer should be nothing more than a tool to motivate yourself to get it together – not a way to firmly dictate your future. Predictability is like a safe haven because it assures you that you’re going in the right direction, but the unexpected is what will truly open your mind to both the beautiful and cruel nature of reality. 

     I certainly never planned to stay in college for two more years, but I will and I have to because I’m finally exactly where I wanted to be four years ago – it just happened to take longer than I expected. I spent my freshman year at a community college that I absolutely despised – both socially and academically; moved away from home and attended a new campus in my sophomore year which I enjoyed a lot more; transferred to UC Irvine as a Public Health major in my 3rd year but reverted back to a state of aimlessness despite being in a wonderful environment; then I spent my 4th year picking myself back up by rediscovering my penchant for learning – that is, learning about things outside my intended major – lessons that I would never have gained if I had adhered to the fixed agenda that my 18-year-old-self had established. While I will finally begin my journey as a Nursing Science student like I always intended, I declared a minor in Public Health because I’ve developed an unexpected attachment to the social aspects of health care, which I know will significantly make me a better nurse in the future contrary to if I hadn't chosen this longer path.

     This goes without saying that whatever delayed your initial plan is always a valid reason and you should never let someone undermine you for taking longer than you’re “supposed” to. Whether you switched majors, didn't get the classes you needed on time, or life simply got in the way, the silver lining is that you’ll have more opportunities to broaden your knowledge in a setting that offers the best learning environment. There’s truly no other place like college that provides you with such a strong motivation to learn alongside so many like-minded individuals of your cohort, so I’d say that staying an extra year or two is more like a blessing in disguise. Take all the time you need to figure out what you want and take advantage of that additional time to really get to know yourself and learn how to make an impact in a society that doesn’t always seem fair.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Nothing is Binary

     I’m currently taking this captivating public health course called Diversity and Ethics in the History of the Biosciences, which primarily focuses on dissecting some of the major dichotomies that define societal expectations and norms in the field of biology. In a broader sense, the material intends to diminish the binary that exists between biology and society, or in more common terms, nature vs. nurture. While I’ve been deeply invested in all the readings I’ve done in the mere two weeks that I’ve taken this course, I won’t be discussing the fascinating things I’ve learned just yet (at least not in this post) because I’m still trying to fully comprehend all the heavy social implications involved in the history of medicine. What I am going to talk about though is how this concept of binary applies to and controls the two fundamental aspects of my being. 

     Half of me is a realist who dwells in practicality, rationality, and objectivity – a side of my character that’s drawn to the clear-cut facts of medical science for the conviction that it guarantees. This voice of reason is what constantly tells me whether what I’m doing is right or wrong and nothing in between; a voice that rejects the irrational expectations and pursuits of human connection. It’s a defining fragment of who I am as an individual, and it’s what most people tend to observe because I express it quite openly. 

     Then my other half is a writer who recognizes that these “substantiated” facts are essentially shaped by complex human experiences coming from a place of subjectivity and unique contexts. Society often sees it as disorderly because it involves perpetual uncertainties and unquantifiable variables such as vulnerability, but it’s the fragment that makes me human, and it truly baffles me that it took me this long to realize that I need to express this side much more freely and unapologetically. 

     Here’s a powerful message that especially resonated with me during lecture: certainty represses all uncertainty – we were conditioned to perceive this binary system as an absolute certainty, which in turn instilled a fixed mindset that we have to belong to one category or the other and nothing else. Binaries confine us to society’s pre-constructed values, ideologies, and standards, thus suppressing the beauty of the unknown that is uncertainty. I think part of why we struggle so much to find ourselves is that we’re built into this system that compels us to fit into a “black-or-white,” “either-or” category, as if we’re not multi-dimensional beings that actually fall into a wide and convoluted spectrum of undiscovered wonders. 

     My workspace is seamlessly organized but my mind surely isn’t; there’s a tiny bit of extrovert in my intensely introverted soul; I value the technicality in science but also the fluidity in the arts and the humanities; and behind the realist in me lies an optimist who believes in the irrationality of love. I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to separate these discrepancies to determine which side to identify with, but now I realize that I won’t be whole in the absence of the other. 

     Maybe it's time to embrace being a walking contradiction because letting your differences coincide means that you accept every piece of who you are. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Learning How to Empathize

     I discovered this video over a year ago and I still bring myself to watch it every once in a while, perhaps one too many times, because it addresses an emotion that I find extremely crucial for humanity yet so difficult to convey. While this beautifully-crafted animation only scratches the surface, it does an excellent job of establishing the fundamental distinction between sympathy and empathy, the latter being an infinitely harder skill to develop. I personally believe that what makes empathy so tough to express is that human beings are innately selfish and afraid of vulnerability. 

     The former may seem like a widely pessimistic view of mankind, but we all know that there’s at least some truth to it. People love to talk about themselves as they share particular views and experiences based only on their own frame of reference. Our frequent incapacity to put ourselves in other people’s shoes keeps us from developing two of the essential qualities of empathy that Dr. Brown mentioned – perspective-taking and staying out of judgment. There’s this culprit named cognitive dissonance (the mental discomfort that arises when our own beliefs and perspectives are being contradicted by differing viewpoints) that makes it so incredibly hard for us to fully grasp each other’s struggles. It’s easy to pour our problems away in a heartfelt conversation with a friend or an acquaintance, but listening and understanding so as to ignite a real connection is a whole other challenge. Fueling a connection in times of other people’s distress is definitely something I’m struggling with and constantly trying to work on because no matter how compassionate and genuine I try to be, I’m still incapable of communicating in a way that actually makes things better. I thought that having a solid set of morals would be enough to be that person whom anyone can confide in since I’ve always been “the listener,” but passive listening can only do so much, and I faced that first-hand when my own best friend’s life was falling apart and I had no idea what to do. One thing I have noticed though when dealing with someone who's in pain is that people have very different coping mechanisms, and once you figure out what that is by gaining the person's trust and seeing through their mind's eye, developing a connection becomes miles easier. 

     The latter, on another note, focuses more on the two other qualities of empathy – recognizing emotion in other people and communicating that. This might be an even more arduous matter to tackle because we live in a society that looks down on vulnerability, and we can’t effectively implement these qualities of empathy without this fundamental aspect. As Dr. Brown said, in order to ignite a connection, you must look within yourself to find a part of you that recognizes that pain, but for many of us, we don’t want to revisit those negative feelings and repressed memories because we’re afraid of being perceived as weak the second we become vulnerable. Instead, we shift away from the problem by finding some silver lining, which in some instances might help temporarily, but what will truly convey empathy is showing the person in distress that you’re present and you're willing to experience the same pain just to let them know that they don’t have to go through it alone. 

     The bottom line is: you must wear your heart on your sleeve unapologetically, wholeheartedly, and selflessly to communicate empathy, and that's certainly something I need to improve on as I dive into a profession that heavily involves the ability to empathize. It’s a significant skill to be developed over time, and it is by no means easy especially with the way that most of us are wired. But once we learn to embrace the beauty of vulnerability, connecting with each other on an unfathomable level will be so gratifying, and maybe, just maybe, our faith in humanity will be restored. 

• • •

     I highly encourage anyone who’s reading this to look further into Dr. Brené Brown’s work which focuses on human connection. Her TEDtalk about the power of vulnerability [link] is one of my absolute favorites as it provides great insight on how vulnerability is directly tied to our sense of worthiness to be loved and to belong.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stages of Growth

     Many people lose hope in recognizing or living up to their potential because they don’t realize that 1) everyone grows at a different pace and 2) personal growth is an endless process. 

     I, myself, grow at a very slow rate and that’s something I’ve always kind of noticed but never quite addressed. I’m the kind of person who typically prefers to stay in this safe, privileged bubble that I was raised into because I’ve always only been drawn to familiarity. Now that I’m well into my 20s, or what people like to call the “selfish years” where we’re supposed to focus on finding ourselves, I figured that I should actually do something about my excruciatingly gradual rate of personal growth. So, based on my assessment of how my own mind works in relation to this matter, I came up with these three stages of growth to guide myself for whenever I feel like my life is going nowhere. 

     One: The Void. The reason 2016 was the worst year of my young-adult life so far is that I was stuck in this stage for months. It was a time when I lived very passively with barely any scope for self-reflection, which left me feeling incredibly empty, unmotivated, and detached. Most people might respond to this phase by engaging in certain behaviors to fill the void, namely drugs, alcohol, hook-ups, or anything that provides instant (albeit temporary) gratification. In my case, it was merely a time when it seemed like I had everything, yet I felt nothing, and I didn’t know what was wrong or how to fix it because I lost myself in the process. For the longest time, I just waited for my life to somehow fix itself but that’s evidently not how it works. This stage requires finding a solution that not only provides immediate euphoria but also lasting fulfillment. Honestly, the way I got out of this situation was through sheer luck – I came across a quote by Rupi Kaur that led me to rediscover my passion for writing, which brings me to the next stage. 

     Two: The Realization. This is the part where the problem’s finally been acknowledged and dissected. It might be the worst stage for many because admitting the fact that you’re damaged means that it all becomes real. It’s quite ironic that I’ve been through this stage a few years ago when I decided to stop writing. Because the more I would write, the more broken I would feel as a person, so I ceased doing the one thing that bridged my relationship with myself – and that’s how I lost who I was. This stage of realization is what makes or breaks you – you either accept the truth that you’re deeply flawed then go about finding ways to fix yourself, or you ignore the problem because you’d rather feel empty than broken. It took me nearly four years to realize that the latter was the root of my inexplicable dissatisfaction, but I assure you that I’m not making the same choice the second time around. 

     Three: The Repair. To tell you the truth, I’m not even at this point yet. I have (very) recently decided that I’m taking the high road this time as a result of undergoing the stage of realization, but I’m not entirely sure how I’ll do it yet. I know it would make a lot more sense to publish this post after having gone through all three stages of growth, but I want to let it be known that it’s normal to feel lost and not have everything figured out. Uncertainty, in many ways, is what gives life meaning. Life carries on either as a consequence of your actions or as a way for the universe to tell you that some things are simply out of your control. Although, one thing I am certain of is that I don’t have to go through the stage of repair alone. I like to think that I can rebuild myself all on my own, but it wouldn’t hurt to let others help me if I see that they truly care. 

     Personal growth is a skill – an unending process that takes time to develop, but it should never be perfected – because perfection isn’t human. Being broken is.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Little Things

     There had been many times when I’d remind my sister of a particular memory or something she had told me several years ago, but she wouldn’t remember a thing because to her, it’s all irrelevant, forgettable information. Somehow, that’s the stuff I remember the most. I still recall my friend’s favorite painting when she muttered it under her breath in AP Art History 5 years ago; I remember my high school psychology teacher’s obsession for bread when my sister told me a story about it; I remember the smallest things that guys have told me about themselves on the first date; I remember nearly every detail of the day when my aunt passed away from cancer, down to my exact outfit to the moment my mom received the phone call in a car ride; and I remember the most mundane conversations I’ve had with people closest to me and even with strangers.

     The recurring inside jokes and unforgettable “firsts” are always special and worth reminiscing, but the peculiar little things leave just as big an impact as moments that make me laugh until I lose my breath. I think those little, “insignificant” things are what make people a bit more different from one another, but more specifically, they’re the moments that only I share with each of them, and that’s how someone makes a strong enough impact to live on in my memory. I just wonder if other people have felt the same way about me.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Being a Nursing Student and a Blogger

     With my growing social media presence as a beauty and fashion content creator, people often ask me why I’m not pursuing a career where I get to be my own boss in an industry full of women who empower each other and do what they love. There’s no lie that all of that sounds amazing, maybe even surreal, but truthfully, I know it won’t grant me the fulfillment I need in the long-run. One of my utmost desires in life is to be challenged intellectually by constantly being fed with knowledge and experience in a field that I’m invested in. It’s not to say that people in the beauty, fashion, and social media industries don’t learn or go through extraordinary experiences – they most certainly do, probably even much more than the average person – but it’s more on the creative and business aspect, both of which are definitely not my strong suit.

     Nursing, on the other hand, offers everything that will unquestionably fulfill me. It’s a field where my mind will always be exercised and nurtured with all the technical scientific knowledge that I have gained and will continue to gain. I get to explore the complexities of the human mind itself, not only through studying concepts of psychology but also experiencing it first-hand by dealing with patients who are plagued with mental illness. I get to witness that hard work pays off through hours of physical labor. And most importantly, I get to learn about other people’s struggles and experiences as well as gain my own. I can already see that connecting with patients on an individual level and living vicariously through their stories will leave me with something to reflect on every single day, and that’s what will make me whole.

     So, why am I delving into the medical field instead of pursuing a luxurious career where I’m constantly being validated for my style and appearance? Because I’d rather spend the rest of my life cultivating my mind, body, and soul in a way that no other profession can.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Writing and Vulnerability

     I never sought validation from others when it came to my writing. It was the one thing that got me through my angsty teenage phase when I had no sense of self-worth, when I felt alone even in the comfort of good company, and when I was too afraid to show vulnerability. Everything I wrote was rooted from pain, anxiety, and numbness, which in turn planted the idea that it was destroying instead of healing me.

     I stopped because I felt that my mind was an unsafe space, and to explore it further was to trap myself in a loop of self-destruction. But I realize that writing was my way of getting to know myself in the most impeccable, raw, and unfiltered fashion, and I see that now because I lost sight of who I was the moment I stopped my mind from transmitting all these beautifully complex thoughts through my fingertips.

     Expressing myself through written words may have brought to light my most problematic issues and imperfections, but it also exposed me to one of the purest, most valuable assets to have – vulnerability, and that’s a beautiful thing.

• • •

     I usually leave this kind of stuff to my personal writing blog, but I want this to be a reminder of why I started this creative space as a content creator in the first place. My love for fashion and beauty was obviously my main motivation for creating Simple Stylings, but the underlying reason was to feed my unquenchable thirst to write. After years of merely writing about my favorite makeup products and the inspiration behind my outfits, I figured all of that wasn't enough. I needed to go back to really articulating my innermost thoughts about things that actually matter - like exploring my mind and getting to know myself. With that said, I'm certainly going to make an effort to start writing again because I think it's all I truly need right now. 

     Don't worry, this blog isn't about to turn into my anxiety-driven Tumblr page. I just wanted to let y'all know that the things I'm dealing with and care about lie way beyond the social media industry.

Thursday, March 16, 2017



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