An editor shares her story on growth and self-love.
“I am enough, we are enough, let’s keep going.” These are the morning affirmations I whisper as I sip my morning coffee. Like many people, my journey of self-love started during my years in college after I grew out of my teenage angst phase and into my clueless, pathless sophomore year. I was surrounded by people who wanted to keep moving forward, and for some reason, my path toward the future was foggy and unapproachable. In that state, I began sinking in this pool of self-pity and shame just because I was clueless. Clueless about my identity, clueless about my future, clueless about me.
I hated the thought that I actually hated myself. I was shy, quiet, and never outspoken. I kept my opinions to myself, never really expressing myself at all, actually. Anyone could just assume I had no personality. Why was I like that? What was the benefit? I still don’t have that answer.
There were three loud honks on this road of growth and self-love.
The first honk happened when I was in a pool of mental quicksand, for a lack of better words. But I knew I didn’t want to be in it, so I kept telling myself “wake up, wake up.” But, I couldn’t. Nothing was working until I heard my old pre-calc teacher saying “in the back, wake up!” For context, he was my favorite teacher in high school, and I had his class for the last period. So understandably, I was sleepy and math—well, it’s math. He was that kind of teacher who was comfortable and approachable. If you needed to talk, he would be there when you wanted to talk. So, I reached out when I wanted, and instead of looking at me with pity or sending me to guidance, he empathized and we talked. And I moved on better and refreshed. The empathy he showed me then was what I felt when I heard him telling me to wake up from the pool of quicksand. And so, I did.
The second honk was quiet and subtle. I was studying abroad in Hong Kong, made a few new friends and some unforgettable memories. Not only did my Cantonese get better, but my pride as an Asian American got stronger. Stuck in the ambiguity, I was in the gray area of not being Asian enough or not being American enough. Being in Hong Kong just helped me solidify the combination of being Asian and growing up in Western society. I will never complain about this again because I have the privilege to have a New York slice in one hand and a pineapple bun in the other.
But back to the subtle honk. My friends and I were going on a day trip and I thought it would be great to bring my camera. I took so many photos of this and that. Looking back at those photos, there was one of the kids playing by the waterside. They were trying to skip rocks and the curiosity and determination they were exuding was overwhelming. But, I wanted that. I wanted to feel curious and excited about something. To have a goal, to experience the process, and to achieve that goal. Small attainable goals, long-term goals, it didn’t matter. I wanted to do something that excited me. So sitting in my tiny HK flat, I started to think and plan for a future, how I saw myself in 10 years, and any hopes and dreams were written down.
The last honk was as clear as day. I was in a mandatory three-hour seminar and some sort of motivational video was playing. I was, once again, dozing off like the good student I was. Weaving in and out of consciousness, suddenly everything was white noise except for the video playing. “The person you spend most time with is you.” Horns were blaring like rush hour traffic. I started hearing, seeing, and feeling this sentence course through my body. And it got me thinking, wouldn’t it be exhausting to hate and despise yourself? I’ve been with myself, 24/7, 365 days for the past 23 years, and have more to come. It’s exhausting to nitpick every flaw and complex I think I might have, to think about everyone else’s opinion of me, and to live up to expectations I don’t care about. Hearing this one quote changed my perspective of how I was living my life.
Loving myself and appreciating myself is key in my life now. I found my forever group of friends, my family dynamics are great, and I can give myself a pat on the shoulder from time to time. I never realized how much this group of people helped me recognize my worth. I’ve been blessed with people who encourage me as I encourage them. We keep one another going on this never-ending journey, making pit stops here and there, watching the sunset and rise.
Who would’ve thought that one phrase in the most boring lecture would’ve changed my life this much?
Photos: Courtesy of Katie Mok
Want more stories like this?