Well into my twenties, I've found that the idea that we can go through life just doing what makes us happy is not the whole story. How anyone thought that happiness was the appropriate litmus test to determine a fulfilling career is beyond me. While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I'd been involved in a student organization that gave me satisfaction––I'd toiled blood sweat and tears for it, all the while happy, then had come out the other side wondering what it was all for. Happiness? On the flip side, going into medical school was one of the most ridiculously masochistic things I'd ever done in my life. I'd never worked for something so hard, never felt so hopeless, never felt like wanting to quit every single day of my life until going through medical school. Only to find myself nearing the end of my formal schooling quite relieved that I hadn't thrown in the towel. I was very rarely happy, but I'm glad I did it.
Even in medicine, my days are filled with routine. Yes, the work I do is dynamic, but all people fall into routines regardless of their career paths. We get up, go to work, come home, go to bed. Then, we go at it again. It's not wrong to do this. I grew up being fed a myth that growing up meant being able to live life with selfish hedonism. I now find that it's a ridiculous model. Still, with routine, there's a tendency to fall into a pattern of doing things for the sake of getting them done. Where do we end up? What do we achieve? Are we fated to become what Japanese call a salaryman?–a peon in the workforce, uninspired, unmotivated, unthinking, unfeeling. Maybe I'm thinking about this because the coronavirus threatens to end life abruptly. I'm thinking about what I have to show for living out nearly three decades of life.
I thought that the existentialist dread of having to make a life altering decision had been dealt with after I decided on what I wanted to do with my life. What personality did I have? What are my values? What career suited me best? What did I want to accomplish? Who did I want to become? What I didn't understand is that the answers to these questions may change at different points in life. (Living through a pandemic, for example, being a very definitive point in a person's existence.) The reason is quite clear: people change. I am no exception. I have lunch with friends who I haven't seen in nearly a decade, and am taken aback at how different they look. I'm surprised at people with whom the only common ground we now share is the fact that we had common ground in the past. So these life altering questions– What personality did I have? What are my values? What career suited me best? What did I want to accomplish? Who did I want to become? –are part of an ongoing process of my own change. These days, I find myself stepping back and wondering how I got here. Am I the problem or is my environment the problem? Is the work I do stimulating? Does my work allow me to grow professionally? What do I want?
Allowing ourselves the leeway to step back and ask difficult question–especially the ones that may derail us from our well laid out tracks is necessary if we want to continue living a fulfilling life. It's got nothing to do with routine, but the inability to confront the idea that the answers to your questions may well take you away from your current life and into an entirely new one. And maybe that's what's so dangerous about this idea of a salaryman–they are the type of people to accept that they must stay the course, and in no circumstance stray.
I suppose, we are all given the option to stray. But how much courage it takes to do so! Ah, but what is so terribly wrong with straying from the path especially when death may be knocking on my door tomorrow (thanks coronavirus)? Whoever said life was meant to be linear anyway?
P.S. I realize how privileged I am to be afforded the option of thinking this way–of having existentialist dilemmas in the middle of a pandemic. And maybe that's exactly the point–I'm so privileged. I find myself wondering more than ever: am I using my privilege properly?
Today, a friend shaved his head off. He's getting chemotherapy a month after his cancer diagnosis. It's like a very bad joke seeing his message flash across my screen after I sent a reply to his instagram story: "?????!!!" Suddenly, my worries feel frivolous and trivial. And everyday feels more precious.
A few years ago, an acquaintance passed away after spending years suffering from a heart condition. I hardly remember him–I wish I did. His mother probably thinks of him everyday, and still mourns.
I used to have a fear of being forgotten–I didn't care about being famous, but I wanted to be remembered for... something... So, I had thought up these grand schemes of what I'd do with my life. I'd be the best in my field. I'd be a prodigy. None of which happened, and I don't think I care about doing something grand anymore. What I do care about is having done everything there was to be done.
Having said everything that needs to be said. Maybe it's the product of a very short period of professional exposure I've had so far in medicine: death isn't something that is glamorous in any way. No matter what you've done in life or who you were, you will expire in a bed with (if you're lucky) people crying over you, and with barely any capacity to hold your head up. It's not pretty. No poetry can make it so.
At my deathbed, I'll likely be vegetative and unable to say anything cohesive. At the deathbeds of those I love, they will probably be the same–unable to comprehend what I mean when I tell them that I love them. So, while I am alive: have I said it enough? Have I meant it enough? Will I say as Henry Marsh's mother said as she went: "It's been a wonderful life. We have said everything there is to say."? Probably not. I should work on it.
CS Lewis wrote about how we ask Christ for our day to day instead of for some grandiose future–I understand more and more what he meant. "The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received."
In half a year, I'll be done with medical school. Thinking back on the last five years overwhelms me. On one hand, so much good has happened: I've met wonderful, brilliant people; I've learned so much about the human body and how to approach a person with medical problems; I've been fortunate enough to watch a couple of friends get married, and have kids, and deal with everything in between.
On the other hand, I've forgotten how it feels like to get up in the morning without having a million things to do. I've envied friends who have been able to make plans on the fly. I've lost touch with all my old hobbies and all my old friends. I see my parents on free weekends, but fall asleep on the couch. I think about studying instead of church on Sundays.
When I mention that I've decided to take a break after medical school, the news is often met with shock and disbelief. Doing nothing and taking care of yourself is something we talk about as physicians, but it's difficult to do especially when you feel like you're at the tail end of the pack. My mentality was always: how do I fit everything I want to do within 24 hours? Maybe I'm not supposed to.
Arriving to this point has been a long journey of overwork and strained relationships. The best thing is being able to step back and confidently say that it's good for me to take a couple of months to rest.
The main point of this entire entry: podcasts are the bomb and you cannot convince me otherwise. A couple of months ago, I forfeited my Spotify premium subscription for multiple reasons (mostly financial). I loathe listening to badly made advertisements, so my Spotify streaming has probably been reduced to 25% of its full capacity. In its place is a gaping void of background noise.
I love silence. the quiet lets me think. I wish I could live in a quiet world, but because of multiple circumstances I live in a city filled with white noise. The cars irk me when I take my morning commute. There's construction. People talk very loud. Elevators are the worst. So, I got back into podcasts.
Over the summer, I found out that Spotify lets you download podcasts without cajoling you to get premium subscription–great! The better part is how surprisingly extensive their podcast list is. I should note that this is not a Spotify advertisement. I'm just genuinely impressed by their podcast section.
There is something to say about listening to people talk in a society that's very keen on broadcasting yourself into the world (like what I'm doing right now with this blog entry). The art of listening to people and finding middle ground is something that needs some boosting. It's so easy to be angry in 120 characters, but to substantiate that anger takes a little more effort and a lot more eloquence. I think podcasts (even ones that are geared towards controversy like The Angry Asian Man) do that very well. These stories back up the front of anger with real conversation and context. I think it's so important to understand where a lot of anger in society is coming from.
Tangentially, podcasts are also a gateway of re-framing world views. Three podcasts that really help me grow as a person this past month are the following (get ready for rambling):
(1) Lea Thau's Strangers is a journalistic podcast. It's heavy on interviews, and getting people to talk about what they've done and not done in the name of some bigger idea. The podcast touches on a lot of themes bordering "existentialism." One episode can be about love, and the other about race, or faith. Ultimately, it's about how we connect with strangers and how those strangers become part of our journey as human beings. The real question is: how can I not enjoy this? and why did it take me so long to find it?
(2) The Gathering Place Valley's Practical Theology deals with modern questions I have had about Christianity, and deals with it quite well. I've had questions on divorce and feminism (just to name a few things) and think this is a great resource for people who do think about these things and want answers that make sense. (A side note: I think the most interesting thing in some pockets of any religious community is this unwillingness to talk about concerns and doubts.) The podcast assumes an intelligent audience, and is in the moderate side of the spectrum. I enjoy how it convicts me of my prejudices, and how it challenges me to become a more compassionate and reasonable Christian.
(3) Welcome to Night Vale is a cult favorite: anyone into podcasts must have heard of this at one point. It's set in this fantastic community with weather reports, and local announcements, and news. I don't use fantastic as a grand adjective. It's fantasy. That's it's genre. But it melds fantasy with a very real structure we have which is radio. I think this mix is why its take on socio-political commentary seems so casual, as if we were just talking about what we had for breakfast. The format is used so well that it comes across as effortless. It very much meets every hype I've encountered about it–it's dry, witty, fantastic humor really cuts through a dull day.
All this to say: podcasts are bomb. As much as I crave silence, I can't get that with my current set up. So, this is the next best thing.
There's a thing that happened back when I was a young girl that I never really talk about. It was traumatic; it was dark; it was covered up for so long. And honestly, I don't remember it very well. I'm not going to dwell on it.
I was with dear friends today, and I touched on how this thing happened to me–and now, laying in bed, I'm realizing that I still have no idea how to talk about these very uncomfortable shadows. They exist. They're in the past. I'm over it, but they haunt me. Are they supposed to? Or am I just weak?
For the past two weeks, we've been working at a grade school clinic. I forget how small it is to be in grade school. They are so precious and so innocent. And maybe, the older I get, the more I understand how repulsive what happened to me was.
But I don't know how to talk about that. Maybe I never will.
"It's close to midnight," I say, before Kitty and I burst into insatiable laughter. This goes on for another 30 minutes. We spent the last two hours comparing summer adventures and exchanging half-mad glances over all the things we have to get done within our last school year (hopefully ever).
You need these moments, and you need these people. Most importantly, you need someone who can understand why you have the urge to ugly cry when you're at the near summit of your potential career–and you need someone who will understand why you summit anyway. We say this often in medicine–to the average outsider, what we do makes absolutely no sense. To the insider, it makes even less sense. Still, we grit our teeth and trudge through. We bank on light at the end of the tunnel.
In the midst of all the work, however, I've learned that the moments I treasure are 2 AM emergency phone calls coming from and going out to friends who really should've been sleeping peacefully. I remember heading back from a cafe at 4 AM, having played card games through an exam night, as if to say: it is enough that we are whole. It is enough that we haven't broken.
I tell Kitty I have to finish my report, but we catch up on everything and nothing instead. It's past midnight, and past both our bedtimes. Everything and nothing has changed, and we don't say how much we'll miss tonight after the year is over.
I'm tired, and I feel bad about feeling tired–it's insanely messed up to think this statement through. Still, it's how the past few months have been going for me. The idea that I have no right to complain has popped into my head too often–it's what you hear people say: you don't have it as bad as we do. When did life become a competition of whose lot is worse?
Ah, well. A poem:
Name Me Ghost
Not quite alive, and
not quite dead—gone
through both, but the afterlife
is bullheaded, and
won’t accept it.
photo reel of all the Saturdays, the
laughter stored in our throat. Replay
loop all the stupid things I’ve said.
Migratory patterns leave
shadows for those left behind--
sometimes, it’s the fragrance
of missing me. Maybe they do.
Still, this is goodbye: it’s
the natural swing of things
to move along when the
cold begins to bite.
I get back to work tomorrow after a long week off (during which I went through minor surgery and major introspection). Do I dread it? A little. Do I look forward to it? Not as much as I should, but I like the work.
At the beginning of medical school, I had a thought that has stayed with me: I am learning to suffer. Not something you really want to hear coming from an age that feeds on hedonism, but I had the thought and I've been carrying it with me, trying to figure out what it means.
What does it mean to endure life, for example? CS Lewis proposed in The Screwtape Letters that a long, peaceful, otherwise mundane life poses a greater threat to faith than a sudden instance of crisis. The more time I have to live, the more I understand this: at times the sheer weight of living makes me question whether God is real when I cannot see him, cannot feel him. It seems easier to believe in Him when I have a problem and need saving from it, and so difficult to see how equally I need him when life rolls ever on without obvious need for divine intervention. Thus, the necessary virtue of faith. And the necessary virtue of introspection.
In the same breath, the end of my medical training seems so far away. The current reality of my situation is bleak. There is little sleeping and little contact with the outside world. The suffering wears you down because you wonder: is this all there is? And everyone tells you it gets worse. Does it? Will I make it out in one piece?
There is no guarantee that anything gets better, but to endure is to take the daily burden of suffering and allow it to chip away at your character until you come out the sort of person you'd like to be. Will suffering properly mould me into the kind of person I wish I was? I certainly hope so.
I think of you
Here's a thought: there's an old riddle (arguably by George Berkeley) about a tree in the forest. If no one hears it fall, does it still make a sound? The short explanation: sound is, by definition, a perceived effect. If no one is around to perceive, then it doesn't matter if the tree objectively made noise. There is no sound. The argument seems ridiculous and too legalistic to take seriously, but I use it as a jumping point for my own tangential thought: we exist separately from how others see us, but we also exist to other people as certain versions of ourselves. Does that matter? Or is it, like the tree argument, something that sounds good legalistically, but doesn't do anyone any good in what we call "real life"?
I've been stuck on this poem by Jack Mueller for weeks–so, maybe it will stay with me for the rest of the year.
I resolve to update this blog a little more often. However often that may be!
It is the dawn of a new year and the end of my holiday. On my headboard, there are three poetry books lined up that I read in no particular order. Mueller, Doty and Ashbery are currently on rotation–my favorites, and my mentor's.
Two nights ago, I went out with some friends–it's an odd thing to catch up with people you've known for so long but whose current lives you know nothing about. It's meeting a stranger with a familiar face. Someone said that the older you are, the more people become shadows of other people you remember–sounds like someone else's voice, looks like someone else's ears, smells like someone else's cologne. Meeting someone after a long period of absence is something like that. You remember them as themselves, but have to piece together who you remember them as vis a vis who they presently are. It is a constant process.
A tangential thought to this: it's so easy to give up investing time into meeting up with people. Medical school is like a little circle in the Venn diagram that is convinced it doesn't need to intersect with anyone else's circle. It's so easy to be absorbed into this medical training bubble, and I think for the most part of my clerkship year, I've willingly participated in locking myself in the system. Then, I think of people I love and whether we'll have anything to talk about after years of me excusing myself from gatherings and parties. I think of how much compassion is necessary from those who love me in spite of my schedule.
at 74, Mueller bites it
no thanks to cancer.
at 65, Doty.
Some others, without
notice, no Wikipedia entry.
No consensus on
what became of them—some,
heaven, others, still here
watching over the stars as much
as we still do, just less communicating
(under the presumption that we
are still communicating.)
On that note:
I sit down, and
finally tune in-
to your favorite television series,
this pretense of connection
based on a common
I don’t enjoy it,
and fake interest because of
your interest. Would you call it
hypocritical, or would it
move you? would it
come to mind when I
bite it at the age of 62?
Back in high school, and throughout the first year of university, I had a brief (let's call it an intense) interest in Asian dramas and pop artists. It’s a bit out of character. I generally shy away from TV shows, celebrities, and the whole tinsel town experience. I’m usually the last to know when a personality gets into a scandal. I’m not even entirely sure I can get through an entire r&b song without changing the station. The scene is not something I’m attracted to. So, to have a brief history of watching rather predictable love stories, listening to Asian rap, and googling Asian names just to see what they were up to is something unexpected. In fact, it’s become a bit of an embarrassing joke for me.
Looking back, my attraction to the Asian scene had little to do with compelling Korean lyrics (I can’t understand Korean),or interesting plot lines (Taiwanese dramas are notorious for being predictable). Subconsciously, I think I was looking for someone to identify with, and I found that in Asian pop culture.
When I was younger, my favorite characters in TV shows, or comics, or movies would be the Asian girl. There weren’t many of them. Many articles suggest that children have a hard time delineating TV with reality, but I never felt like TV was real. No one looked like me, my family or my classmates. Everyone on screen had sharp noses and yellow hair. Everyone wore casual clothes to school. They went out to the mall after class hours. Everyone I knew had dark hair. And we all wore uniforms to school. We had to ask permission from our parents before going out even on a weekend. The culture was very different. But I think my longing for relatable figures extended beyond seeing non-Asians on screen. Even in the Philippines, my friends and I are considered exotic. Most of us have Chinese parents, and look extremely East Asian. I barely speak my mother’s Filipino tongue. In college, the most common question I got when meeting someone new was “so, where are you from?” or something along the lines of “you must speak fluent Chinese.” In many, many ways, I felt very other. I was unable to identify with local celebrities, and foreign celebrities. I was unable to identify with people outside the culture I grew up with.
Late into high school, suddenly, just as I was becoming an angsty teenager, my class got a young Chinese teacher who introduced us to modern songs, my dad took the family to Taiwan for the first time, and the k-pop scene boomed. All at once, I had so many things I could identify to. In a way, it felt like there was a subgroup I had an affinity to—a part of global society where people didn’t ask me if I was attracted to people outside my race, or a part of society where people also found it culturally uncomfortable to talk about sex or deep seeded feelings in general but completely comfortable to talk about diarrhea or some other “embarrassing” medical condition. I’m sure this isn’t the case across the board, but the point is the feeling of belonging to a sub group. Being exposed to different cultures is great, but when you’re always seen as the one from the exotic culture, it is nice to find a space where you don’t have to explain yourself.
And my experience with Asian pop culture has been overall enjoyable. In high school, we used to sing along to 光良’s 童話 after Chinese class. My cousin, a few years above me in school, first introduced me to Jay Chou. My Korean classmate and I bonded over K-pop back in the beginning of college. I’ve been back to Taiwan every year (sometimes more frequently) since I first went. If I remember correctly, Japanese anime heavily influenced the way I dressed throughout high school.
I think, in some ways, I fell out of the pop culture habit because, obviously, the experience of being Asian is not homogenous. As I grew older, I realized that I didn't identify with the Korean or the Japanese culture--mostly because I am neither Korean nor Japanese. But my stint with their pop cultures have, in some ways, given me a greater appreciation of the culture they hold. And, in some ways, I can see the overlap of my culture and their culture. If only for this purpose, I'm grateful for my short obsession with K-pop and Japanese anime. It's broadened my horizons, and helped me appreciate my own heritage so much more.
I also think there's value to obsessing over something closer to home. However odd that sounds. It makes you lean into your culture instead of away from it. I never felt ashamed of looking Chinese, or felt like I would be prettier if I had western features. I think part of that is because I was more enamored with Asian personalities than Western ones. If that makes any sense.
Earlier this year, an old friend sent me a link to Big Bang’s new song. The title was shamelessly suggestive—something unheard of in K-pop when we were in our late teens. It’s interesting, we both thought, how things have changed. Still, watching a pink haired young man sing about sex seems more identifiable than watching a blonde sing about an ex-lover. My friend and I have not talked since, but this is the way things go. You remember each other fondly, then allow the memory to stay in the past.
As a closing statement to my long ramble, I’d say I’m pretty much done with my K-pop and Japanese anime phase. My connection with it was, to be honest, on a rather superficial level rather than a deep, cultural one. I am still inclined to put on Jay Chou once in a while—and I mostly understand the lyrics now so I don’t have to feel so embarrassed. Now that I'm older, especially, I get touched by his song about filial piety. I think it’s important for anyone and everyone to feel like they can identify with what goes on in the media. I suppose it’s partly the point of entertainment—we’re supposed to feel a degree of fondness with personalities. The goal is to make us (the audience) feel something, and that draws heavily on how we were raised, what we value, what we aspire towards, etc. But at the same time, I think it’s important that minorities are represented. I think it’s important that our stories are told. It’s bad enough that we feel as though some people fetishize our culture. What’s worse is seeing its value diminished and its essence misrepresented just because there are people who aren’t better exposed.
At five, I learned the lesson of love through bedtime stories and hot chocolate. In curled up blankets, in the space between ‘awake’ and ‘asleep,’ Mom kisses my forehead and whispers goodnight. Her kiss lights the night light so my sister no longer fears the dark. Her kiss protects against the monsters lurking in the shadows for the times she was.
Dad boards planes and circles the world, but when he lands, he brings back postcards of where he’s been, and our house seems to stir in anticipation as he unlocks the gate.
At five, I learned to love this way—blankets and postcards, stories and used plane tickets.
At seven, I learned the lesson of love through illegal notes passed backwards—always backwards—containing secrets that mean nothing but the thrill of the act. Amidst the lessons learned at first glance, and the thick paperbacks read underneath the classroom armchair, and the incomprehensible noise of hallways and cafeterias, I learned friendship through my seatmate’s words. Both of us mischievous second graders—I was just not as good in math.
I learned the lesson through the people of the pages—ones I believed were real.
Jo March, Harry Potter, Oliver Twist, Peter Pevensie…
Ones who I’ve come to realise were real but not really real.
At seven, fondness expanded, and I believed there was no capacity limit. Black was black and white was white and I was one or the other, more times one than the other, and there was no grey in my little world.
At twelve , I learned the lesson of a mistake: that ‘love’ can be thrown around, that ‘love’ and infatuation should be delineated, that words cannot be taken back once said, that sometimes what looks like love isn’t love, that loving love and being in love were two different things, that love is not an idea with a face.
At fifteen, I learned to love through Fridays huddled up with radicals in the church basement—people who would carry me through the fire and hold my head up when I’d rather keep it down. I met a Seattle girl with a heart like the ocean, who taught me that ‘love’ transcends all barriers—mistakes, sexual orientation, race, belief systems. We were not meant to judge.
At seventeen, I learned the lesson like a firecracker. I saw the world vividly, like a rocket launched into the sky. The night had stars that winked as I whirled by. Exploding was only part of the experience. I should have known rockets combust.
At seventeen, I learned the lesson of restraint, because ours was the ambiguous grey of hollow blocks, foundations without follow through, the requirement of cement to fill our holes. In hindsight, we were nothing, and yet in that moment, we were more than enough. We were the grey I’d refused to acknowledge existed.
We were nothing.
We were more than I was willing to take.
And for this reason, we were nothing.
I learned the lesson of words unspoken, fugitive glances, and straying thoughts.
There are days I wish we could have played it out—the story of open endings—but you played the game with another muse, and I was content with our nothing.
At seventeen, I learned that ‘almost’ is what we had, and more than I ever wanted in the first place. And that hot chocolate with mom and plane tickets with Dad stir up more warmth in my soul than I’d ever experienced.
And at an older age, the lesson is not over. Perhaps I shall overthink the year tonight and decide that I learned the lesson of an unseen fire—steady and unwavering, and yet unnoticed. I, perhaps, have learned the lesson of appreciation: for the dinners Mom made, for the comments Dad gave, for the laughs my siblings shared, for the friendship never thanked, for the nights spent in prayer, for the nights prayers were answered, for the God who never seems to rest, for the King who still listens.
This week, I’ve learned the crippling side effect of fear.
It begins with some certain hope.
When my friend Frankie introduced me to the ASEAN Young Writer’s Competition, exhilaration coursed through my veins. I’d been searching and praying for a regional competition I could enter, but so far, my stories had never quite fit the designated theme. But this was a competition that encouraged short stories of all forms: fantasy, reality, tragedy, borderline crazy, basically anything. I became drunk with the possibility of winning from the very start.
(Note: possibility does not mean high probability. I'm still working on believing in myself...)
Then, once my hope was established, fear crept in like a Serpent.
“How could you possibly win this,” it whispered in the dark recesses of my mind, “you haven’t published anything so far. All you are is an amateur storyteller. Ha! You’re not even an amateur. You’re just a tiny speck holed up in front of your laptop!”
I could not contest. It was true. I haven’t been given the opportunity to publish my work. When I’d submitted my novel to literary agents, I received their spear tipped rejection letters with a target marked heart. Before 2013, I refused to ‘put myself out there’ precisely because I considered my work as filthy as rags.
Fear had struck its chord, and I had turned my ear to listen.
By bed time, I felt defeated. I was not planning to enter at all.
Then, Mich sent me a text I did not expect at all.
“There is no fear in love,” the text read from 1 John 4:18. “But perfect love drives out fear, because fear…”
I’d practically begged my mom not to take me back home after school yesterday, because I would have been sitting in front of my laptop, writing but not really writing.
That’s the tricky thing about fear. I did not even know what I was afraid of until that very moment.
I feared that if I allowed myself to dream, I would be disappointed. I feared that I was yelling into the void and that no one would find me worthy enough to yell back.
So when the text continued to say “we can dream a bigger dream than the dream we live today,” I felt like shrinking back into my shell.
What if my dreams are rendered invalid? I thought. What if I am simply setting myself up for a huge let down?
Mich went on to say “don’t be afraid to aim for the big [dreams] because [God’s] perfect love drives out fear…Love is and has always been the greatest motivation ever!”
For those who do not know, I believe in Christ. I believe in God.
This does not mean I do not doubt His plans or even Himself sometimes, it just means that when all else has happened, I will always come to the conclusion that, yes, God is my Lord and Christ is my Saviour.
I’ve been afraid that my dream to be an author—a storyteller—will never happen. I’ve been afraid that God will say “no” to my dream.
My dream makes me feel alive, like the way a thousand winds make you want to dance in the rain. My dream makes me want to live, but my fear kills the hope I have in my dream.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned about fear: it will always look real if there is no other truth to counteract it.
When I first began posting stories online, I used a pseudonym for fear of being called a horrible writer by my peers. This year, though fear was present, I began to operate Blot Press (what others call my blog) under my own name.
It took much courage. I prayed for months before beginning Blot Press, and I’d wrestled with God when He’d clearly said “stop arguing with me and start writing.” In fact, it felt like I was gambling away the privacy I had fostered for myself.
The result was overwhelming. I had never expected my stories to impact people in the way they have.
Here’s the other thing I’ve learned about fear: we are not meant to wait for it to disappear before conquering it.
There’s an internal battle within me at this moment. Shall I fear the absence of a response from the void or shall I, despite that fear, step out in faith and yell as loud as I can anyway? Shall I fight God when I’d prayed for this opportunity in the first place? Shall I not seize this chance by the neck and take a step towards my dream?
I’ve made my decision.
Though the buildings seem tall, I will attempt to touch the sky.
I will attempt to yell into the void.
And you, dear reader?
Are you prepared to conquer your fears?
Love for chocolate is a complicated sort of love.
It’s a constant struggle between belief and desire—and whatever comes in between that.
Chocolate, after all, in excess makes a person fat—as does any food in excess, really, but for some reason, though I can stop myself from eating rice or pancakes or (arguably) sushi, it’s much harder for me to stop myself from eating chocolate.
Don’t get me wrong. This has nothing to do with vanity. I’m all for healthy people who do not have gaps between their thighs, but I am against fat lined arteries, and cholesterol circles around the iris. I’d like to keep myself off the IV drip, thank you very much.
And yet, this rational becomes less of a priority when confronted with that delectable block of rich, dark chocolate.
How could I resist?
Does that mean that I have ignored the significant fact that chocolate will make me fat? Or does it mean I just don’t believe it will? Or am I just a glutton for chocolate?
Which brings me to a completely different, but obscurely related topic: why is there a cognitive dissonance (cognitive dissonance is just a fancy way of saying that my mind and my body do not want to cooperate) between what I do and what I believe?
I don’t have a definitive answer for this just yet, but I do have multiple theories.
The one that’s winning out at the moment is a pretty strange theory. Here it is: believing is a process and, as a human, so am I.
As a human, I admit that I’m currently undergoing this constant process of metamorphosis. Some days, I feel completely myself. I feel like I’ve arrived at that point where my beliefs drive my thoughts and my thoughts somehow translate themselves into actions and everything goes according to planned. Other days, and I suppose these days are more common, I feel like I am lost within my own life—as if the day has robbed me of my consciousness and my body and my thoughts are acting on their own accord, conspiring against all I hold dear. I would fall asleep and dream of myself, but wake and find that I was still trapped in a being devoid of me. And when I would finally feel my thoughts and actions cease their rebellion, I would be so repulsed by all they have done.
If belief is supposed to drive my thoughts and actions, but I am not always entirely myself—if I find myself falling back into old beliefs and old habits—it does not mean I believe any less. I suppose it just means that I’m just not very good at believing just yet. Faith is a difficult concept precisely because we’re all undergoing our own sort of metamorphic process, and a person’s faith, though present, isn’t always perfect.
It’s not even toying with the idea of ‘long term’ versus ‘short term’ gratification or what’s good or bad. It’s about what drives me to even consider those types of situations because believing in something—really believing in something—is more than just what I fill out on an application form. Believing that the earth is round, for example, drives the fear of falling off the non-existent edge away.
And maybe that’s the trouble of believing: it’s different from knowing. There’s a sort of knowing that comes from being in that moment and just knowing in that moment. Gravity is not this kind of knowing. I know gravity exists because it’s right here, every second of every day. In contrast, believing in God is not knowing per se because I’ve never physically seen God. I can argue that I’ve encountered Him, and in that moment, I knew but I can’t say that I’ve actually seen him in the flesh.
Which is why I adore this elvish word Tolkien came up with (which I cannot type in English). The elves do not have an elvish word for the word ‘believe’ which we often use interchangeably with the word ‘faith.’ Tolkien never meant for the elves to even require the word. In elvish tradition, the elves need not have faith because they were faithful to what they always knew to be true—that they were Children of the One (basically, this phrase means they’re elves). I’ll keep from explaining the intricacies of Tolkien’s world, because it would take far too many words and would be besides the point.
The elves have a word for that—for remaining faithful to what they always knew to be true, even if that truth was not before their eyes at that very moment.
In some ways, I wish I was more like Tolkien’s elves who did not waiver in what they knew to be true: so much so that they did not require the word faith in their vocabulary.
I suppose this is the reason it’s more difficult to connect beliefs to thoughts to actions. Doubt exists—and that doesn’t make belief disappear. It doesn’t negate the presence of belief altogether either. It just means that sometimes, it’s not so easy to believe in things.