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protect your peace
sit tight, stay quiet, look within :
Hello dear friends,
I hope you are staying well: mentally, physically, emotionally. As I pass my one-year anniversary of adulting life 13,000 kilometers from home, I am reminded of this essay on Collective World I wrote a year ago on embracing introversion. With a little time, I gain more perspective on the necessity of carving out the space for who I am, from the little to the big.
As an introvert, staying in and avoiding crowds are my specialty. I stay away from binge drinking, deafening parties and sweaty strangers as much as possible. I had never been ashamed of my aversion to these typical college age/young 20s activities but had more than once questioned whether I am missing out on life or high quality relationships by opting out of this scene. After a several years of experimentation, I come to the conclusion that no, I am exactly where I need to be by choosing to uphold what I believe in and minimize time for activities that I don’t care for.
If you ever wonder whether it is strange to not wanting to go clubbing and get black out drunk in your 20s, cooking and baking an unconcerning amount, having smaller friend groups, thinking too much that you make yourself cry, more trusting of dogs than people, I can assure you that it is not only okay but completely normal. Whatever you enjoy doing that might deviate from the ‘norm’, that doesn’t make you uncool. It makes you strong because you have the confidence to draw the boundary.
Changing myself to hang out with “cool people” brought me nowhere closer to who I like to become so I choose to be myself. When I first moved to Austin, I did a lot of outreach with the hope of making new friends and meeting people. I asked people to hang out. I planned the hangout. I thought of places to go and activities to do. When I stopped putting in the effort, a lot of people drifted out of my life. We never talked or hanged out afterward.
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My thought process for finding myself was something like this: to be in the loudest places, with the most people, having the most intense experiences, then and only then can I find what I like, who I want to be around, what means the most to me. Now I learn that I know myself better when I sit still. I know myself better when I am calm and unoccupied. I know myself better when I am not wrapped up in the rat race, the productivity hamster wheel, the standard expectations of what I should do as a 20 something year old, with a certain background, interests and ambition. I have harbored a number of untraditional ideas and decisions regarding my personal life as of late. When I share these thoughts with people, the negative voices try to dissuade me from them. Some tell me that I am brave and that they respect me for choosing the route I am choosing. As much as I appreciate the second camp, I see little sense in telling me that I am brave because that comment itself implies that choosing to prioritize me over outward expectations is out of the ordinary.
I was not raised to be a risky person. My Asian parents, unlike most others, are risk averse and prefer me to stay that way. When I quit my first job, I was on top of the world while they fretted that I had committed myself to a lifetime of disappointment. I went through a lot of uncertainty and rejection after that big decision. I got on my feet again. Two years later, I am confident and happy with that decision still, having zero regrets.
I strongly believe in the power of listening to your intuition and following your curiosity. When I follow what intrigues, I find my way back to the things I love time after time no matter the disruption. When I choose to do the opposite: chasing the money, chasing the prestige, chasing the external approval and nudges, I end up being miserable. There is no way that one can be happy if she is not innately comfortable with her decisions. I remember a post by Simu Liu on Subtle Asian Traits on Facebook in 2022 where he celebrated his 10-year anniversary of being laid off from his accounting job. This job was something that culminated from his business degree, years of studying and money that his parents pooled into his education.
Ten years ago I thought my life was over. I had wasted countless time and money that my family had invested in me. Years of schooling, gifted programs, trying to live up to my parents’ expectations. It all came crashing down in an instant.
After being let go, he took ten years to see the fruits of his acting career and "the pursuit of success on his own terms” and not his parents’.
I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but no amount of money is worth compromising your vision for yourself. The pursuit of a dream- YOUR dream- against all odds… that’s what life is all about.
In everything you do, the answer does not lie in the chaos out there, from a wise advisor or the advice column on the Internet, the answer lies within you. Removing all the layers, what is it that give you peace of mind? What is it that make your eyes light up and your voice filled with excitement? What is it that make you feel most yourself? I know it can be so hard to prioritize that sense of urgency to listen to your heart but remember to never drown that voice because following it can save your life.
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