June 23, 2015

What I'd Tell My 15-year-old Self

You're right: they will be your lifelong best friends.

Someday, you'll have more skinny jeans than flared.

Eat more vegetables.

Embrace your natural hair.

Just because he's older, doesn't mean he's cooler.

Don't worry, you'll travel, a few times, and you'll love it even more than you expect.

Wear sunglasses and sunscreen.

It's okay to be "the best friend." It's the better role, because you'll know him forever.

High-five for being a good girl. You'll be glad you were.

When someone offers to help, let them.

You don't need to have it all figured out. Cut yourself some slack.

Eventually, the Internet will take over the world.

Take more pictures. These memories will be some of your best.

Your crush will take you on a date in two years, but you'll be over it.

Those pathetic journal entries will be hilarious in 10 years.

Stand up for yourself and speak your mind. It's not rude, it's self-respect.

Learn to sew. Mom can't always be there.

Your insecurities are absurd. So are 99% of your fears. Let them go.

Go all-out with the melodramatics. This is their time to shine.

Never stop writing. The dream plays out.

Let your heart fill and then shatter. It can handle it. It will rebuild.

Treat everybody as if it's their last day on earth, because regret is stronger than gratitude.

Change your ambition. Be a teacher instead.

Yes, you do end up with a city boy. A charming one. He's everything.

June 21, 2015

Moving On Without Letting Go

My contract as a substitute teacher has come to an end. It was a bittersweet farewell.

Letting go of people and places I love has never been easy for me. In fact, it's always been one of my biggest challenges. I've just never understood how you're supposed to be able to say goodbye to someplace or someone you love or have loved with every piece of yourself. I know, of course, that it isn't possible to hold on to everything you've ever cared about, but that's never quite stopped me from trying. 

It's just that I tend to think of my life in chapters and it isn't as if you keep reading and just forget what happened on the previous page. No. You hold on to every important character and setting from the beginning of the story because you just know that in some later chapter there'll be some epiphany and you'll better understand their significance. You never forget about those first people or moments because they're the undercurrent of everything to come. 

So maybe it's not really about "letting go" at all. Maybe it's about acknowledging who, what and where you've loved and appreciating that they've led you to the page you're on now. Maybe it's not about forgetting, but about letting those people and places nestle themselves in some corner of your heart so that down the line, when you encounter that climactic scene that gives meaning to the entire story, you can smile to yourself as you realize that it's them who brought you here, to this place, to this person you've become. 

The school..it's the same school I went in 2003 until 2007. As someone who gets, well, more than a little nostalgic for the places I love, I've kept my distance from it since college. That school's at the center of so many of my most special memories, and I thought it'd be best to rip off the band-aid and never look back. A quick, clean goodbye. Turns out, that wasn't the case. I returned as a teacher and I got attached again. 

How refreshing, and what a relief, not to ache for what you used to have and where you used to be. It's taken me a long, long time to learn that you don't have to miss something to make it mean something. A place or a person can be important to you without pining for it, and moving on, it doesn't have to be dismissive. There are different shades of letting go. 

I miss my students and fellow teachers. Thanks for the memories. See you again next time!

June 13, 2015

A Tribute

I'm the type of person who cries when sad. I tear up at scenes in books that break my heart. I tear up at plays, or movies, or real life situations. 

Death strikes me as a random occurrence. It picks us arbitrarily, and when it does, it has a million different faces. It's something to accept, because it's a fact of life, but difficult to swallow, because of the side effect of it: Loss. We do not lose easily. Losing makes us go crazy. We're not meant to lose. We're geared for success, all of us. It's in our DNA, our survival mechanism and the resultant pride in it. But loss is also there for us, at any stage in life. And we must learn to cope with it.

Do you know Dean Potter, the BASE jumper who spent his lifetime trying to fly? He feared death, but continued leaping, tight-roping, living his dream of safe flight, until May 16, 2015, the day he smashed to his death against a notch in a route he knew well. His friend Graham Hunt was with him; both were known to be safe, experienced flyers. Both died in the quest for flight. There's risk, and they accepted it.

How about the climbers and guides that died at Mount Kinabalu after the earthquake? Especially those children..I'm sure they're aware of the risks. Or maybe they're too young to know the risks. But they climbed anyway and I salute that. Because I think that's the gift of youth; not knowing to be afraid. Not knowing that you're stronger than you know you are. And I defend this right to discover the horizons beyond.

They were student leaders. They were developing talents, also developing characters. What's a leader who doesn't know his/her strengths and limits? What's a leader not forced out of his/her comfort zone? What's a leader not brought to the edge and taught to jump? That's why as students, they strive for the challenging and prestigious journeys. From the reports, not a single one of the students didn't look forward to the trip. This speaks highly of their eagerness to serve, of their courage and willingness to test their boundaries, displaying the same spirit that Dean Potter and Graham Hunt did throughout life. This makes their deaths more tragic. And yet, in their quest for betterment, I find myself respecting them more.

And of the teachers..their enthusiasm and willingness to defend the children, to sacrifice themselves is incredibly touching and heartbreaking in its heroism. More will be said about them as adults, but less will be known, at the same time. What will remain is the impact they've made on their friends, family, and by extension, those of us reading their stories.

Rest in peace. The climbers and the guides. I don't know any of you, probably would never have met any of you in this life, and will never cross paths with you now. But I feel the loss. The world weeps for, honors, and loves you.

I find the words of Dean Potter's ex-wife Stephanie Davis comforting today. On a wingsuit jump together, Stephanie jumped ahead of her husband. He didn't land, Stephanie did.

"I want to tell you what it feels like to fly. If you could, you would stay forever. I was in front, and he jumped right behind me. When I landed, he wasn't there. When someone disappears in a wingsuit, it means one thing. Through the excruciating hours of searching, I already knew I wouldn't see him again. I've been a full-time climber for 20 years, and I know how to endure. No one's going to get you off the mountain but you. Crying is just a waste of water. And by extension, I used this way to deal with adversity in real life. Lost your job, lost your husband, dog died? Slam in the ice tools and keep going! But enduring is really about being numb. It's about choking off all possible emotion, it's about getting the job done instead of falling apart and giving up. I thought about walking to the top of a cliff without my parachute and stepping off. It's not like I don't know how to jump off a cliff, and in Moab we have plenty of them. Leaving is final, but understanding that staying is not final really took the pressure off and made it possible for me to just keep going one minute at a time. So at first, I did what I know how to do; I endured. After a couple of months, I started to see the difference between endurance and resilience. Endurance is about holding on, resilience is about letting go. Most things in life, you don't get to choose. Most things in life, you'll never see coming. Most things in life, you don't get to keep. There's no way to avoid risk in real life, imagining you can is just wishful thinking. Nothing stays the same. Endurance works, but you can do better. What you can do is choose resilience, no matter what. I stood at the edge of a vast canyon in Arizona, I thought about the last time I flew in another life. I opened my arms and pushed off. The air filled my wings and it was all there. Freedom, wonder, pain, mystery, magic, joy. I want it all, I choose it all, I choose to fly."

Once again, Rest in peace. You will live on in our memories and in our actions, as we strive to lead our lives in the same spirit that you all have demonstrated. To those alive, may you also be at peace, and may you be resilient, for there is still this world out there for you to explore.

June 8, 2015

One Step Closer

Hey everyone! Guess what..

I just got engaged! ^^

Oh wow.. 

I have to start with a big, sincere thank you for all the heartfelt congratulations! We're completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of well wishes, and million thanks to those who came to the engagement ceremony. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!

When he proposed, I undoubtedly said yes. Now I'm staring at this ring..I can say that, yes, this most definitely is it. He's the one, Mr. Right, the whole package. Everything I always, always knew I wanted..only better.

When people hear that we're engaged, there's an inevitable follow-up question: "Wait...how old are you again?" And when we say that we're 25, the reaction is almost always the same: "Wow," they say, eyebrows raised, surprised. "You're so young."

It's true. We are. And for a long time, as in, my entire life, I imagined that I'd be single right now. I imagined that at 25 I'd be single, living in some place, and nowhere near marriage. I imagined that I'd be living with my girlfriends and pretending that I was Carrie Bradshaw, minus the wardrobe. Instead, though, I met the most incredible person I've ever known. And my girlfriends, we're not living together though. They're spread out across the country. Some are married, engaged and others are single, and hardly any of us are where we expected to be..in Sabah or in life.

I understand that marrying young isn't for some people, I really do. Truth is, I thought it wasn't for me, either. There's something to be said for waiting, for focusing on your friends and your career and dating throughout your life so that by the time you run into that one person, you never have to question it. I believe in that theory, and if I hadn't met Ifo, I'd probably be living it.

I did meet him, though, so any kind of life plan I'd ever created for myself bent and unfolded to allow room for him, for us. And still, I'm always sort of shocked to see how much of my life has gone the way I'd thought it might. I followed the path I set out for myself, and that never really ceases to amaze me.

There are certainly upsides and downsides to marrying young. The most common "downside" is true: in every decision you make, you have another person to consider. In that sense, yes, there's less individual freedom. But to me, I feel sort of blessed to consider Ifo. I feel blessed that there's someone in this world who means so much to me that I want to match my life to his.

A stranger, actually, is the person who said it best, I think. A woman shared her experience on marrying young. "I'd have given anything to share all that extra time with the love of my life," she said. "To share all those extra years, all those experiences in your twenties that shape you forever. You're lucky."

Extra time together, that's how she put it. Lovely, don't you think? Well, 25 is not really young though. Lol.

Well, even if it's cliche, even if it sounds cheesy and ridiculous and totally scripted, I've honestly never felt freer in my life. Because real love, the best kind of love, makes you feel free to be yourself. Free to let go, hold on, take risks, and move forward. Free to be wildly, absurdly happy. And I am. I really, really am. :)


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