Wednesday, 8 March 2017

21 Reflections

Cheers to 21 Years of Life!
Yes, today is the big day, it's my 21st birthday! I am celebrating my 21 years in a couple ways: 1) Treating myself to some pampering & self-care 2) Reflecting 3) A possible night out with friends 4) Having a fresh start!

Ok, so it’s my 4th fresh start for the year - after New Years, then the start of Winter Quarter, then the beginning of Lent and now my 21st Birthday. But I just love love love the idea of giving yourself another chance. I know nothing inherently changes in my life on either of these days - all these ‘fresh starts’ are truly social constructs, or in my case, personal mental constructs, but I buy into them anyway. 

Lake Lag - finally filled with water! Fresh starts indeed :)
Thing is, I have super high standards for myself, but, you know, life gets in the way. I’m not always the person I want to be. But it’s not because my standards are too high and my goals unrealistic. It’s because I’m not a robot, I’m human and I’m not perfect. So these fresh starts are about learning to forgive myself for my mistakes, to know that it’s okay to not be on top of my game 24/7, and to allow myself breathing room to pause, reflect and move forward. 

And this time leading up to my 21st birthday - a milestone if you ask me! - is the perfect time to do just that: reflect and move forward. Who do I want to be? Am I happy with who I am? Have I grown? I wrote a brief reflection on turning 20, and I think the best birthday gift I can give myself every year is to continue this trend and see my growth in years to come. There is such a beauty in becoming.

1. Self-Acceptance vs External Validation
Here's a throwback: I remember going to a school bazaar at 14, and not being allowed to go into the disco because my mom thought I was too young. And sitting outside in the cafeteria, at a table, with my friends, eating corn soup like we were little old ladies out for tea. And this girl I used to run with coming out of the disco and seeing me, and then telling everyone in training the next day how “uncool” and “lame” I was because I didn’t go to the disco like everyone else. And this being something I somehow internalized and believed for a long time. Until I reached to college and a friend tells me I’m one of the coolest people she’s met, and my mind goes straight back to that day outside the disco, and I wonder how much of my self-acceptance is real, and how much comes from external validation.

2. Contentment vs External Validation
I also wonder how much of my contentment with life comes from external validation and how much is real. I’ve been feeling a happy confidence boost for the last week or so because some of the uncertain things about this quarter that I weren’t sure would work out have worked out swimmingly well, but if the tables were turned, would I feel the same way? Would I let rejection bring down my self-esteem? Would I be able to pick myself up and move forward?

3. Perfectionism & my Hot Mess Day
Birthday selfie! But if you look
closely enough you'll see the chinks
in my armor, the cracks in that
'tries to be perfect' exterior, and
the stress hidden right below
the surface (I had the MOST
packed day of my entire quarter
ahead. Not ideal)
I had a true hot mess day last quarter, a day that I just did not (could not?), would not get out of bed to go to class. Walking into class the next day, after missing that one class, I felt like the lowest of the low, like I had let myself and the professor down big time, like I did not deserve to be understood or pardoned, and now there was a crack in my carefully crafted perfect exterior, and the gooeyness of my inner hot mess self was seeping through and on display for everyone to see.

4. Realizing that no one cares (in a good way)
That hot mess day made me realize 2 things: 1) Just how hard I try to be perfect, and the shock that comes when I realize I cannot be 2) Life went on as usual, and everyone is actually so engrossed in their own lives that they are not tracking how well I'm holding up my perfect exterior (a relief, to be honest)

5. The Joy of Music
Performing at
 Cardinal Calypso's concert with Andy Narell!
Specifically the steelpan, my national instrument and one of the things I whole-heartedly love. Performing = Euphoria, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

6. Am I a Hypocrite? - Pt. 1 (Writing)
I love to write - difficult to say even now, because do I really love to write? Or do I just love the idea of being a writer? Do I love actually writing, or just the finished product? Is it possible to love one and not the other? (When) Can I call myself a writer? Anyway, whatever the implications, I love to write, yet I’ve been struggling through the research paper I have to write for my PWR class.

7. Songs that I've had on repeat this last year
At the Reunion Dinner!
The true definition of a family away from home <3
8. Highlights of my Quarter
Performing at Arillaga Late Night with Cardinal Calypso, CSA’s Winter Party, Calypso Reunion Dinner

9. Take Back the Stigma
An event hosted by the Stanford Mental Health Outreach. Brave souls shared their stories of mental illness - depression, suicide, anxiety to name a few. I cannot do this experience justice, but I will try: It was such a courageous show of openness and vulnerability that tears welled in my eyes. It reinforced the idea that the only way to truly reach people is to be vulnerable and real about your experiences, because that’s how we share our humanity. It reminded me of how far we have to go in de-stigmatizing mental illness, and providing necessary support for those suffering from these. It is real, as real as physical infectious illnesses, and it is difficult. And it may have inspired me to revisit the idea of becoming a psychiatrist. 

10. Revisiting the pre-med dilemma
Do I want to become a psychiatrist? Have I made a mistake in moving away from Pre-Med? The issues surrounding mental health are so moving and troubling to me that I feel pulled in the direction of being of service to this community. Am I making a mistake? Is it too late?

11. I still care what people think
It amazes me that I almost didn’t go to last week’s Zumba session because it was in White Plaza - a public open space in the middle of Stanford’s campus - as opposed to it’s usual private location at the gym. Shaking my body, moving my hips, dancing in public? Not my jam. (Spoiler: I ended up going, thank God)

12. Stepping out of my comfort zone - Pt. 1
During my gap year, I tried out for and got cast in a local high-school fashion show. What was I thinking??

13. Stepping out of my comfort zone - Pt. 2
Today, I signed up for a Spring fashion show at Stanford. What am I thinking?? (didn't end up doing it because of time conflicts and I won't lie, I was pretty relieved)

14. Am I a Hypocrite? - Pt. 2 (Dancing)
I realize that I love to dance, but I tell anyone who would listen how much I can’t dance - though I’ve changed the sentiment to “I can dance and keep rhythm, but I’m just really stiff and a bit uncoordinated”. Yet I’ve found that the moment I don’t care what others think, is the moment I free myself to dance without inhibitions. And you know when I have these moments? When I zumba. (see point 11)

Throwback to having long nails during
Christmas break when there was limited
stress in my life #RIP
15. Am I a Hypocrite? - Pt. 3 (Nail-Biting Confessions)
I have tried  - and failed - to stop biting my nails every year for the last 5 years. When I succeed for a couple weeks, I flaunt them with bright colors and talk about  how I’ve finally kicked the nail-biting habit. Then stress creeps in and it’s game over.

16. My Latin Music Awakening

How did I begin to fall in love with reggaeton/latin music? Maybe it was zumba. Or last quarter’s Latin party. Honestly. Despacito, Reggaeton Lento, La Bicicleta and Bailando have been on repeat alllllll quarter.

17. More Confessions
I fear being fake so much that I delayed publishing my service experiences for almost 6 months. Why do I still care if people judge me based on what I write & decide to share?

18. God
'Nuff said. 
Jk this needs some elaboration:
Honestly, I do not know how I would survive college (or life) without the rock of faith in my life. Some things have worked out so well that it is really, truly, nothing short of a miracle. "Do your best and God does the rest" has never rung truer.

19. Realizing a lot of things...

[4 months later...Let me be honest here: this is where I'd stopped writing the original post because I got sick of my voice and didn't have the heart to continue :( But reading it an entire 4 months later makes me want to finish what I started so let me do just that]

20. Am I a Hypocrite? - Pt. 4 (Introversion)
The fact that I'm an introvert is one of those things I discovered during my gap year, along with the Myers-Briggs personality test and my newfound INFJ classification. But I also find myself craving company and actively seeking out activities and people, which feels sort of out of my nature sometimes and makes me wonder whether I'm some sort of phony-introvert. But then I spend an entire day on my own and feel at peace and recharged (and reassured that my introversion is quite intact and not going anywhere).

21. On Journaling
I'm so glad I got back into the habit because I saw my mood and my life improve right before my eyes when I started back journaling. It's such a healthy outlet for me - though I keep my composure and keep my thoughts to myself in real life, on the pages I rant and rave and vent like it's nobody's business. Because it isn't!

Anyway ciao, your girl is 21. Time to keep livin' my life to the fullest! (Clearly this isn't working out too well because it's 1:25am on a Sunday night and I have work the next morning aka ~8 hours from now. Good night!)