Finding myself again
It has been almost 2 years since I last published my own writing again. It took me a long time, and a lot of courage to be make myself “visible” again. There are so many things to say, so many feelings and stories I have experienced that I wanted to share. But also ironically there’s also this fear within me that I would be sharing too much of my life. Recently, I felt the need to isolate myself and not explain anything to anyone, because it would take up too much mental energy to do so, and I could use that energy to instead focus on building myself. However, recently I came across some written notes that I exchanged with someone 4 years ago, and it brought back so much richness in memories and feelings, and I recognized how important writing has been to me personally - it has given me a platform to understand myself better, to remind me of parts of myself that I may have forgotten but want to find again, to find peace of mind and joy, and to also draw connections to others around me and enable them to see parts of themselves.
I remember when I was around 13 or 14, when I first moved to the US, I couldn’t make friends because I didn’t feel comfortable speaking English and didn’t have enough confidence to even try. I would walk around buildings in a much longer route, alone, to avoid meeting people and feeling the pressure of having to talk to them. I was silent for 2 years, and through this period writing was one of the main ways in which I expressed myself and made sense of the world around me.
I was extremely introverted. I went to school to study and then returned home to do homework, in my own room. I found a lot of joy and peace in my own room at the end of the day, just me and a notebook, journalling how I felt that day and what I observed - how awkward it was when someone told me they liked my shirt because I didn’t know how to respond, or wasn’t sure if it was genuine or sarcastic, how hard it was to tell how old someone was because he or she was of different ethnicity I didn’t get exposed to growing up, etc. A blank page felt so welcoming and safe to me, as I could write anything and be anyone. Writing gave me a way of escaping judgment and fear of judgment. I couldn’t open myself up to others around me, but writing gave me a chance for myself to be my own companion. Even up to today, in the time when I fell to the absolute rock bottom, felt like the world around me was falling apart, and lost in every possible way, writing and reading are my immediate go-tos to find wisdom, peace, and growth. I find inspiration in beautiful, precise vocabulary, and raw, unorganized thoughts. I’ve found love through written letters. Writing enables me to collect bits and pieces of myself, who I have been, what is truly important to me, in separation from everything happening around me, when no one is looking.
Writing taught me to believe in the magical power of language - soothing words, spoken English with accents, broken Vietnamese, euphemistic expressions, or even sarcastic humor, how beautiful they are because they represent realness and rawness of someone’s identity and character. The richness and colorfulness of language deepens my appreciation for how beautiful the world around us is - beauty in differences, and in the vastness of ways of living and values, and freedom in finding that there’s nothing right or wrong in anything, in any way of living, in any beliefs, in any thoughts. Because in the end, we are who we are, beautiful and worthy because we add something unique to the world around us. We don’t take away anything that already exists in this world, we can only add to this world by being who we already are - unique and chaotic in some ways, because our own life stories alone are messy, intricate, and rich.
I have always believed that I have complete agency to design my own life and live the way I want. But in the past several years, I realized that I haven’t lived life fully in the way I imagined it to be. I lost myself conforming to the crowd. I thought I was designing and living my own life, but I truly wasn’t. I rushed against time, saying yes to a lot of things may not be entirely fitting for me. I burnt myself out pulling myself in a multitude of directions in an impossible effort to minimize conflict and displeasing others. I didn’t take care of myself enough - getting enough sleep, spending time resting and just being, nourishing my body, making myself more confident. I still untagged myself in most photos because I didn’t feel comfortable looking at myself in pictures. I felt like I was lacking integrity to myself, for letting my own emotions dictated by how others view me. I felt internal anxiety, lots and lots of it, and felt submissive to these emotions. I felt lots of negativity inside my own head, and oftentimes only reveal them to those closest to me, people I loved and respected the most in my life. I hurt them in very unintentional ways, but I couldn’t resist. I hurt myself knowing that I was hurting those who matter most to me. I lost myself in a cycle of self-inflicted anxiety. The positivity I showed up with everyday was absolutely not exactly how I felt inside at times.
Recently I hit a very low point in my life, as lots of unexpected obstacles hit my life all at once, but this low point was the start of me going up. Now I feel lots of peace, growth, and maturity. I accept reality a lot better - I could let sadness come and go peacefully, I could experience flight delay with joy through coffee and pastry at the airport, I don’t feel as bothered by broken things around me, I became much better when I could find stability and strength in my own mind, and I take care of myself a lot better. For once I truly enjoy being alone all day doing what I want and not feeling anxiety for being “unproductive.” I regain curiosity for lots of things around me, and feel massive freedom in perceiving everything around me as is, with less judgment and purity in observation. I can dream again and I can write again. I find joy in simplicity - in taking a leisure walk, eating good pastry, drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, or talking to old and new friends whom I feel safe around. I sense more realness in how I live, when I spend less time on social media, and more energy in just being and living simply in silence, and in observing everything at a longer pace. I find a bit more of myself when I feel less pressure in chasing after recognition and approval, and live in discretion and in shadow. I feel more intimate with those around me and myself, when I stopped trying to find my own identity through others. I find myself in a retreat to sit with friends without phones, to indulge in good scenery without the need to take photos, and to just absorb everything through memories and with my heart.
Someone has taught me that I could find blessing in disguise when I face challenges in life. Recently I have learned to accept that it’s okay to be in pain, to feel broken, to let myself in the dark for a while if need be. Because in the dark I will find the light. And being human means it’s okay to not always be so damn happy, because it allows us to be a bit more real with who we are, and grow. In the dark there’s the light and in the light there’s the dark.
May all of us find wisdom, growth, and love through every obstacle and crisis we encounter.
With cheers and love,