The Sign

On Sunday, we drove my little Prius to Anzo-Borrego Desert to seek wildflowers and adventure. It was a beautiful day and even more beautiful drive. We stopped by a taco shop off the road for breakfast burritos. We got invited to a nearby casino as we ate. After respectfully declining we hopped back in the Prius and then, suddenly, out of the blue I recognized a sign from five years ago. It was the sign that we went to the inauguration of as part of Alternative Spring Break at UC Irvine. Alternative Spring Break is an option for college students to do something “alternative” and do service work at a site for a week. You have options of sites to choose from, and I chose La Jolla Indian Reservation. This Alternative Spring Break was such a unique experience for me – I had just graduated and was about to go out into the real world. As I drove past the sign thoughts like tumbleweed started to accumulate in my mind.

1. Our life is a set of choices
I told the girls I was with about the experience I had at La Jolla Indian Reservation as we passed by that sign. Later I looked back on my Facebook and saw that it took place EXACTLY 5 years ago from this weekend. How funny that God and life works like that! Exactly 5 years ago I was a freshly graduated, young girl at an Indian Reservation. 5 years later from that day I’m 26 years old. I am a little stronger, a little less insecure, a little braver. It’s moments like this where you get a glimpse of your past self and the distance that separates you from then to who you are today.

After Alternative Spring Break, there was no more college. I had a blank space before me. I was scared. I was expected to have an internship in Taiwan. I was accepted, but needed to electronically “accept” my acceptance. We didn’t have any cell service or access to computers at the La Jolla Indian Reservation. The deadline passed for me to accept it and I lost my internship. And to be honest, I am so happy I did! Looking back at my 5 years of life, I forged my own path by going to Prague. I had the time of my life living in Europe for a year. When I came back I got to work at an amazing nonprofit, Illumination Foundation to help the homeless in OC thanks to my mentors Maribel and Jack! I am now still on a crazy adventure and I love it. I guess what I mean is rejection and lost opportunities do not necessarily have to be a bad thing. What will my life have been if I went to Taiwan, I don’t know and don’t need to know. That life doesn’t exist.

We are all faced with a set of choices. I chose UCI. I chose La Jolla Indian Reservation. I chose Prague. I chose Anzo Borrego Desert. Just choose. Choose the choices that you in 5 years will be proud of. And then look back.

2. Challenge yourself
Emi Oshima, our fearless leader for Alternative Spring Break, is a force to be reckoned with. The leading started even before we got to the Luiseno Band of Indians Reservation. I remember sitting in a circle with strangers: each of us extremely different and all not knowing what to expect but at the core we were all ready to serve and learn. What I got from that first meeting was that Emi really wanted to challenge us. She asked us to identify what that meant for each of us. I knew what mine was, it was almost too easy. No coffee and make-up. I remember making some kind of light-hearted comment about it and getting shot down in a loving but stern way. I wanted to make a joke of it but Emi was so intentional and direct in her leadership I had no choice. While I didn’t forgo make up completely and I had one or two cups of coffee during the week, the challenge was amazing. It wasn’t limited to just lattes and eyeliner. We challenged ourselves as we jumped in garbage trucks, as we got up from our seats and participated in a “bird song”. (A bird song is a traditional dance meant to show the joy of who you are, what you are and what you will become – is that not just beautiful?). Even before my road trip and seeing that sign, I had been hearing Emi’s voice these past weeks encouraging me to challenge myself. Five years later and her impact is still strong.

3. Learn about cultures
My major at UCI was Global Cultures. This major at UCI is fairly new and is only 10 years old. I got a lot of questions about it when I had to tell people. I still don’t know exactly what to tell people – you learn about different cultures, and how we are all connected, yet how each culture is unique and valuable. But what I am now learning through observation and experience is that to be able to connect to different cultures is extremely, extremely crucial to being successful.

This opportunity to sleep in cots at an elementary school on an Indian Reservation for a week may have been a rare and unique experience, however there are so many other ones! I want to go to Papa New Guinea to experience their culture. There are so many overseas volunteer experiences to choose from. While some people might say don’t do that, it’s not a long-term impact – I say DO IT! Get out of your comfort zone. One thing you say to a child or person might make a lasting impact like Emi’s words on me. Don’t hold yourself back. Or, go to the library! Research cultures on the internet. Learn about someone who is not like you. See what connects you to them. Own the world.

4. Do good
Acts of service require no extra talent or skills. Just a good and willing heart. I personally am the most alive when I am serving. I feel at use, I feel purposeful, I feel good. I accidentally wrote I feel god instead of good but that’s true too! I feel God when serving. There’s also something about serving, not just alone but when you are with other people. I feel the same way now as I’m training for the half marathon with Team World Vision for clean water in Africa. There’s something beautiful and life giving when you are with a team of people for a cause greater than yourself. PS donate to Team World Vision’s mission to save lives in Africa to be a part of doing good today! I’m so close to the goal!!(http://www.teamworldvision.org/participant/andilong )

5. YOLO and non-YOLO
On the way up we were asking one of my friends what colors the flowers were going to be. She said there’s a lot of yellow, and…non-yellow. We laughed about that the whole trip. How cute! And then on the way back my other friend said in life there’s YOLO and non-YOLO. That made me laugh even more because I remember 5 years ago at La Jolla Indian Reservation our group would just scream YOLO on top of mountain tops, as college students will do. That was our motto then. My motto now, is YOLO and non YOLO! It’s a balance. It’s doing what you love and taking risks while being safe and realizing your one life is valuable and precious. So make sure you live as much as you can so you can do as much good as you can. Like the sign says, “Keep Your Dreams Alive Don’t Drink and Drive”.

6. Go at your own pace
When I told my dad I was going to the desert, he and my mom just went a couple weeks before so he told me that it gets really windy and to go slow even if cars behind me are pressuring me or really close behind. Glad he told me that because I really had to let so many people pass me, I was THAT Prius. But I appreciated my dad’s advice – go at your own pace. Don’t let external pressures you convince you that you need to go faster, be something you’re not. That’s when it gets dangerous. And when all else fails, pull over and enjoy the moment while letting them pass. You don’t know what you might find!

Video I made from the Alternative Spring Break experience five years ago!!!
https://youtu.be/TugMEkiClmI

 

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Anything is Possible

Fight Song by Rachel Platten is my favorite song. But this is my second favorite song.

I heard this song for the first time while on mile 2 of the mile 6 run led by Captain Hanju Lee on Saturday morning. Right as I started this run I had a conversation with another runner about how healing is a journey…She said something along the lines of “the truth is the truth, we just need to stop running from it”. Yes! And as this song came on and I was running/jogging/struggling I was like yes, stop running from truth and start running towards it. It’s already there.. The truth has already been spoken over you! Go and live it

#anythingspossible #liveyourtruth #runningfromtruth #judgingyourself#battlehasbegun #musicmonday

Home

Home
I’ve had parts of my life where looking back I was so not at home, so unsure of everything, so focused on anxiety and fear that I was never even present. But the more I focus on the things that matter, things that really matter – love, true belonging, freedom..the more I feel a sense of either being at home or coming home.
Interesting too that the word dwell means both to live in and to think about… where do you dwell. physically & in your thoughts. in the past or the present?
if it’s not good, or if it’s in the past – don’t dwell on it
if it’s good, and it’s right now – dwell on it
#musicmonday #love #dwell #home #cominghome
(shazammed this song in Anthropolgie, a place which I lowkey wish was my home)

Be You

“Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself–and if I accept myself fully in the right way I will already have surpassed myself.

–Thomas Merton

Risk for Connection

I heard this song before I watched the music video. After I watched the music video something stirred within. What I thought about was how brave people are. Even people just going on dates. People who dared to do this experiment. Was I too scared? And why? Here’s what I wrote:

The greatest risk we’ll take is the risk for connection. “To love is to be vulnerable.” Being vulnerable is scary. Overcoming that fear and just loving might be the hardest thing we’ll ever do in our lives. The danger is we could live our lives so focused on our flaws and so wanting to guard them that we don’t make that risk for connection. But what happens is we miss out on the beauty of love. We settle for a cheaper, easier version of it. What happens is we become too focused on projecting our best self that we lose out on true connection. What happens is what we believe is protecting us actually harms us.

“The courage to truly, selflessly, irrationally love is the greatest accomplishment of the human heart.” – Asha Noel Iyer (read your article today on Thrive Global, it inspired me!)

 

Keep Moving Forward

I have a spot I go to down in Laguna Beach to be alone, to be with God and to rest and be filled.

I needed/wanted to go the day after the rainstorm. The entrance to the beach that I usually always go to was blocked. I went to another one and saw that the water had come up pretty far up. For some reason though I was committed to go to that rock that I always sit at.

A little foolishly, I climbed up a wet and slippery rock and hoisted myself over so that I got to sit on that rock. And that’s when I realized that it was okay going UP that but would NEVER be okay to go down that. It was so slippery and steep and the chances of me falling and getting hurt was almost inevitable.

At that point I was pretty scared. So I looked forward, the water was coming up a lot (there’s a technical term for that, high tide?) anyways, there were little patches of sand between rocks that I would have to cross in between waves and then I’d have to climb back on rocks and dodge waves again to get to an area of the beach where it wasn’t rocky.

I had a choice – either to go back and possibly break my neck or to move forward and to get wet and to calculate and strategize how to not get swept away by waves. Both had risks but I knew, and I heard so clearly at that moment: don’t go back, it’s dangerous to go back the way you came. You have to move forward, I’ll be with you.

“Oh, you can’t get out backwards. You’ve got to go forwards to go back, better press on.” – Willy Wonka

Over You

I had a long drive ahead of me to Beverly Hills. I hate listening to the radio on long drives but I also had to delete all of my applications so I could have enough space for Pokemon Go. That meant without Pandora I had to default to good old Youtube. I searched a few songs I was liking at the moment when suddenly in the “Suggested For You” sidebar a song I hadn’t listened to or thought of in years popped up.

Not a big deal, right? NO. It was a big deal because it was a BUS (Break Up Song). BUS definition: A song or set of lyrics that help you cope during the end of a relationship.

I clicked it, knowingly, and suddenly my car became a time machine filled with clouds and memories that I had long forgotten. ALL the feels came back. I felt the heavy sadness that outlined my life from “that time”. And it was kind of neat. It was neat in the sense that I knew I was listening to this song and feeling these things but not from being in it but apart from it and simply observing it.

In the fog of sad memories and feelings of self-pity there was a mightier and small but fierce cry within that was triumphant. Almost like that voice was saying “I knew you could do it. You’ve come so far. This no longer affects you. You can be grateful for every experience.” So with a renewed sense of empowerment, I started thinking of all the other BUS Songs and I couldn’t stop. I had a BUS party by myself for the whole rest of the ride.

And as I enjoyed the BUS songs from my past, I realized a few things…

I wrote about each period of life having its own magic. I believe break ups are no exception. In fact, I think the magic is even stronger during a break up. Here’s why.

When you’re broken up you’re suddenly faced with the reality of who you are. You get to make up the rules. You’re presented with an opportunity to recreate your life without someone to guide/shape/influence your decisions. You’re suddenly back at the wheel and you decide which course you take. If that’s not empowering AF I don’t know what else to say.

Once the significant other is gone you quickly realize the importance of friendship, mentorship, family. It’s true, with break ups you lose a significant support system and best friend. But when that’s taken away, your eyes become open to the people around you who have always and will always love you and support you. You can and will start to begin investing in meaningful relationships that aren’t romantic but will help you in different areas of your life. You also realize how awesome your BFFs are… I remember my first break up. My friends brought me Coldstone’s and we sat in the backyard and mourned. At that time the big BUS song was “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie. And “A Little Too Late” by JoJo. And also “Tattoo” by Jordin Sparks. I’m telling you, once I start I can’t stop =]

And if you need a little extra encouragement (other than from your BFFS) ask people who have gone through it before! You might gain an amazing mentor or friend by just asking for their story. Break ups, although sucky, can ironically help you connect with others.

If all else fails, turn to the songs. Artists have a way of pulling at your feelings in the most perfect way. Throw yourselves in the songs and get lost. It’s okay because you know you’ll be okay in a little bit of time and someday you’ll be able to hear these songs and just remember but not be pulled back in emotionally.

The thing is, there’s no cure for break ups. No magical thing you can drink to forget or not feel the pain. But what I want to leave you with is that you will get to that point. For me, hearing the BUS – “Over You” by Ingrid Michaelson – a few years later and on my way to Beverly Hills, I was finally at that point. And it was glorious. You’ll get there too. Just keep becoming more you, keep creating meaningful relationships and stories for your life and you will be just fine. Allow yourself to be sad. Enjoy the sadness because it will pass. William Shakespeare said so. “This too shall pass.”

Always rooting for you!

Andi

 

 

Solo Trips

I just got back from Seattle late last night.  My dad picked me up from the Airport and so kindly asked me if I wanted In N Out as my first meal back from Seattle. So cute!! But the truth was, I didn’t need a burger because I had just eaten a Zippy’s Giant Burger right before zipping to the Seattle Tacoma Airport in my giant pick up truck.  I was able to do that because I was traveling solo and at that moment I wanted a big, giant, juicy burger.  And when you travel solo, you do what you want.  Also, burgers are my passion and first love.

So that brings me to the topic of solo travel.  It’s a highly discussed, sometimes even commonly debated subject.  When really all it is is preference.  I’ll just share my experience of being sleepless, single, and solo in Seattle.

To be honest, I wasn’t alone for the first half.  I went with my mom. We spent some great mother daughter time shopping and catching up with friends and family we had in that area. But then, she up and left me to go to New York and meet her college friends. That started my solo-dolo time.  If you look at my Facebook pictures I look like the happiest camper but in actuality moments before I was about to be “alone” I was guilt tripping my mom the entire way to drop her off at the “LINK” or subway that went directly to the airport.  I claimed that she was abandoning me all alone in a big city and that I didn’t know where to eat dinner that night and that bad things could happen to me.

The next day I woke up early, went downstairs to work out and while I was on the treadmill I was watching The Morning Show and Anna Kendrick was on there.  They were reading her tweets aloud and one of them said “Oh God. I just realized I’m stuck with me my whole life.” It was like a lightbulb went off in my head.  That was exactly what I had decided to allocate this alone time to doing…recognizing the fact that I was stuck with ME my whole life and to get used to and start to like being with me.

 

Excited and with a new gusto of eagerness to implement self-love, I set out into the world of Seattle with my headphones on.  I took a bus up to Capitol Hill which is the cutest little part of town filled with thrift stores and coffee shops.  It also smells faintly of marijuana and sunscreen. After browsing for a while I decided to rent a bicycle for an hour.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that I rented a bicycle at a place called Capitol HILL.  It was very hilly. I was extremely out of shape.  They also make you wear these bright green helmets and I just looked like such an alone, sad, out of breath tourist who was sweaty and lost.  After about 15 minutes I was desperately searching for the closest station to drop off the bike.

From there I took the LINK to Georgetown to meet a mentor and friend who had just moved out there to take on a new corporate job.  We had lunch and laughed over ginger beers.  From there I went to the Pike Place Fish Market and bought smoked salmon for my dad.  I then proceeded to run towards the pier to catch a 5:30pm ferry to Bainbridge Island.  I made it on at 5:25pm and sat with commuters who were coming home from work in Seattle.  One of them was so kind enough to drop me off at the main street where I walked and popped into a few stores just as they were closing.  It started to get more and more chilly.  Bainbridge Island is a small, quaint little island with a population of less than $25,0o0.  Also, fun fact Snoop Dogg will be performing there April 18th if you wanted to go.  I walked along a small pathway along the harbor and passed a few places that were all flipping the Open sign to Closed.  Just as I contemplated heading back to the ferry I stumbled upon a very alive, happening spot.  I opened the door and headed to the bar and squeezed between an older couple and two ladies.  After ordering a Springtini and a few raw oysters, a girl asked me if the seat next to me was taken.  We hit it off! She was traveling alone as well from North Carolina.  We talked about Southeast Asia as she’ll be taking a solo trip there in the summer and I had done the same thing about two years ago.  It was so nice and couldn’t have been planned that we met there and talked and talked about travel.

I politely excused myself and left after a while because I wanted to make the 8:55pm ferry and she wasn’t sure how long she was going to stay.  I walked fast back to the ferry because it was FREEZING.  The ride back was gorgeous and Seattle’s skyline all lit up was a sight to see.  I met up again with the girl I had met at Harbour Public House, lovingly referred to as the Harbour Pub, and we split an Uber back to each of our prospective hotels.

The next day was my last day in Washington and I wanted to make it count.  I booked a car at Enterprise.  Unfortunately, if I wanted to drop off the car at the airport it would be an additional $100.  But when I went in I asked again if there was any way.  The manager overheard and said, well if you take one of these pick up trucks you can do it and we’ll waive the fee.  I was floored! It has always been my dream to drive a pick up truck so I shook my head eagerly.  They asked me if I wanted black or gray, I said black duh.  When they handed me the keys and “Riptide” by Vance Joy was playing on the stereo I was SO excited.  I packed in my luggage, got behind the wheel and went on the road for about 60-70 miles North on the 5.  It was super easy to get to Skagit Valley from where I was and it was the best feeling.  The tulip fields were crowded with humans and selfie sticks.  I was quite honestly disappointed with the whole thing but the sights themselves redeemed my annoyance.  Although it wasn’t the calm, peaceful, and serene experience I had imagined it was still the most breathtaking and stunningly beautiful sight.  After meandering around rows and rows of tulips I jumped back in the pick up truck and headed to the airport.  Something about having 50+ miles to go really helps to clear your mind.

Which brings me to being picked up by my dad and offered In N Out.  I know that was a really long winded story but the thing is traveling alone is what you make it.  Some people love it, swear by it, and will do it for the rest of their lives.  I’m actually not one of those people.  I love to do it and I love that I put myself out there to try it, but I’ll be the first to admit that it can be challenging, awkward, and lonely at the same time.  Traveling alone CAN mean riding a bicycle up hill in a green helmet, tripping in your brand new Birkenstocks every 30 seconds, and asking Chinese couples to take your picture in front of flowers.  However, traveling alone is something I will cherish for a long, long time as well.  The goal of learning and loving to be with myself, for the rest of my life, was also accomplished.  Rihanna once said “The minute you learn to love yourself, you will not want to be anyone else.”  That was another lightbulb, I learned to love myself and I stopped wanting to be anyone else.

 

 

 

 

Your Voice is Powerful

Today was another one of those amazing Sundays.

I went to Boomers with some of my favorite kids, we got soaked in the boat ride, we dried off by going go kart racing several times, we spun around and around on dizzying rides. I laughed and screamed, ate overpriced pizza and drank a lemonade sprite.

On my way to the bathroom with the group, something caught my eye and I saw a group of three young boys, probably around the age of 11 or 12 on the driving games at the arcade.  They were horsing around and two of the kids were pushing one kid in particular.  I didn’t think much about it.  Moments later we were about to get in line for laser tag and I saw the same trio sitting on the couches and that one kid in particular was definitely being pushed around and the two boys on each side of him started to mess with his face, squeezing and poking as he sat solemn and silent.  I was infuriated with a rage I didn’t even know I had.  I backed up into the air hockey table observing with unspeakable anger boiling up.  Someone behind me shoved me off, they obviously were playing the game but I was too bothered to notice or look behind.  Their shove positioned me right in front of the boys.

“Does he want you to be touching him like that.” My tone was stone cold.  I surprised even myself.

The two boys quickly dropped their hands, turned a little red and kept repeating “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t think it’s right to treat people like that.”

At that point, one of the youngest girls we were with came up to me and asked me to go with her to the bathroom.  I went with her and as I walked away I never felt so empowered!

That was not easy for me.  Even if I notice something that’s wrong, I usually don’t say anything.  I’m one of the most self conscious people I know.  And usually so many things stop me from using my voice.  “Someone else more brave will deal with this.” “Maybe they are brothers and this is how they always act.” “What if they laugh at me.” This was one of the first moments in my life where I used my voice, despite the voices in my head, and it was the most empowering moment OF MY LIFE.  I wanted to live my life like this.  Not afraid to step into the awkward moments and say what’s on my mind.

Later, I saw them in the same line for laser tag no longer pushing each other but standing there and talking.  I saw the boy who had been pushed earlier several times this day. What struck me was I saw his eyes for the first time.  Earlier, his head was always down and eyes always glued to the floor.  This time, he made eye contact with me and had a hint of a smile on his face.

“There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Scarcity Mentality

I’m realizing more and more I write about the MOST vulnerable topics.

Today, I want to write about something I’ve been working through recently.  And by recently I definitely mean since I was 5 years old until last week.

When I was small, I met a girl who became my closest person.  She was everything that I wasn’t.  Which from a healthy standpoint, would be great.  Two friends who complement each other.  But from the scarcity mentality, it was not so great.  She was Type A, I was Type B.  She was an A student, I was a B student.  She was on the dance team, I was in band.  I know this sounds reminiscent of a Taylor Swift song but the point is I always, always compared myself with her.  Being an only child, she was basically my sister.  And I felt I always fell short.

The most vivid example I can give is our closets.  Her closet was COLOR coordinated at age 13! I remember enviously eyeing her gorgeous clothing and feeling super inadequate.  My closet didn’t even have clothes.  Not because I was poor, well that’s another story truthfully, but because I moved all my clothes out of it and put a sleeping bag, a lamp, and pillows in it.  Think Lane in Gilmore Girls meets Harry Potter pre-Hogwarts.  I transformed my closet into a mini room where I felt I could reflect and journal.  Which is kind of cool, actually.  I now believe that those are the things that make me different and who I am.  But back in the day, man, her closet was all I wanted in life!

Comparison has been the one crippling weakness that has worn me down over and over again.  In a conversation with a friend, I realized what we do when we compare. We compare, we glorify what the other person has, and then you end up condemning ourselves because we feel like we’ll never be that, never have that.

A lot of us, perhaps, live our lives feeling the lack of what we are not.  This is what I want to call The Scarcity Mentality.  The scarcity mentality, is a mindset in which you focus on your lack & inflate other people’s strengths to the point where you feel like you can’t measure up.  The scarcity mentality holds you back from living fully and applying your own personal strengths and gifts.

The scarcity mentality can also include feeling like there’s not enough to go around, like someone else’s success means your failure.  Or when someone else is highlighted you feel diminished.  I’m not proud to have felt this way, but I’ve felt this way for a long, long time.  I’m learning to break out of it and hoping that if this resonates for you it can help you too.

The truth is that we have ABUNDANCE if we would only realize it.  Abundance in so many ways and things and truths but we’ve become blind to the abundance because of our stubborn fixation on our lack.

Let’s talk for a moment about Christmas.  That is where my scarcity mentality kicks into full gear.  If I hear the word “potluck” one more time… I just can’t cook well! Potlucks are my worst nightmare.  Once, I contemplated on bringing just beer and candy to a Christmas party because I can’t even.  And then when other people cook well I’m just like well that will never be me because I can’t even cook toast properly at this point in my life.  Do you get what I’m saying? I’m exaggerating, by the way, I can cook toast.

Wrapping gifts? Same deal. And with the people who CAN wrap gifts, I’m just thinking like… “Them.  Those are the ones that are going to make it in life.”

Christmas Comparison, is a thing. And something to be mindful of…especially for those who are prone to the scarcity mentality.  Switch to the abundance mentality.  I’ve learned that the more you can feel confident in your strengths, the more you can appreciate and celebrate others freely without condemning yourself!

~Comparison is the thief of joy~