The Latin root of the word “emotion” is movere ('to move'). An old definition of the word is "a (social) moving, stirring, agitation." Indeed, what are emotions but a vehicle of moving us of some sort?
Here's a snippet of DFW's hauntingly beautiful Kenyon Commencement Address in 2005. Click here for full transcript. I strongly recommend it. Life changing stuff.
Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.
Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race"-the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
We live in a time when most things we interact with on a daily basis seem... transient. We wait for articles around us “to be updated”—another new iPhone, a superfood of the year, social app, VR game, diet fad, etc… when destroying status quo is seen as the norm, maybe my anxiety and overtaxed mind isn't my fault after all.
Progress and Development seem to have become the holy grails of our society. Not only are we taught to revere Change but we almost no choice but to embrace it, and to live it, day in and day out, if we want feel accepted by those around us. To question Why is to challenge our own very existence in these modern times (ie. insert major existential crisis).
I’ve struggled with questions of identity my entire life; an inevitable consequence of being raised a Third Culture Kid... never quite feeling at Home anywhere—a stranger between cultures and countries. But today, my transcultural identity crisis isn’t the focus. This is about the other aspect of identity—one marked by Capitalism and captured in the lives of us who live in the so-called 'First World' countries.
To an extent, our identities are increasingly characterized by the gadgets we own, the social statuses we hold, and the professional titles printed on our business cards. A question that I’ve often asked being asked, upon meeting strangers for the first time, is what we do for a living. As if THIS, above any other attribute, paints a clearer picture of who we are. I am an avid traveler, semi-nomadic, book hoarder and food enthusiast. I binge watch Game of Thrones and should stop obsessively eating ice cream for breakfast. I’ve also always been a straight A student (haha, how stereotypically Asian) and better-than-average test taker. I love dogs, prefer weight-lifting over cardio, and can speak three languages fluently but sometimes four when I’ve had a drink or two. How's that for a little snapshot of me? Of course, I am nowhere close to being the first person to bring this up (eg. , ) though I don’t think it’s discussed nearly enough. I am on a mission to contemplate these forces to I-don’t-know… unload some angst, unease and frustration, I guess? Haha.
The jobs and occupations we choose, inevitably, become a significant part of who we are. For better or worse, they occupy much of our time and give us distinctive experiences, mannerisms, responsibilities and routines. BUT—society demands us to commit ourselves exclusively to one or two things. Changing career paths or jumping from job to job is reprimanded by Recruiters. You were supposed to pick a career path and stick to it! If you're one of the lucky few who've discovered a cause you tirelessly wish to devote your life to, CONGRATULATIONS.
Yet, any given day or week, a number of us are likely to dream about what might have happened if we had chosen differently. Sure, there is no right or wrong answer, only choices, but how do we even begin to make such life-defining decisions "if the first rehearsal for life is life itself?” (Gotta love Kundera). I guess this is what Kierkegaard referred to as the dizziness of freedom.
My issue isn’t that I don’t know what my passion is or what sort of life I want to lead. "Finding" myself was never a conflict. In fact, the problem is exactly that—I have developed many interests and I hope to accomplish a variety of these distinctive milestones. I want to create meaning and stamp my steal in the realms of art, business, literature, photography, health and psychology. There’s always more I want to learn, more of which I want to experience… but as a girl living in the shadows of high familial expectations, I’m told that I’m too ambitious, too dreamy-eyed, too… idealistic.
Mom says I cannot "waste” any more time dabbling in too many things, that I am too old to deviate to alternative career plans. Maybe she’s right, maybe she’s not, but either way I can’t help but feel selfish, guilty and confused for wanting too much.
Grasped by conflicting desires, I feel like I have a mortal duty to pick and choose only the most important to be included in my life anthology, especially since bills are waiting to be paid and social expectations to be filled. No wonder I am forever gripped by a consistent feeling of restlessness and inadequacy. My hyper self-awareness has become an issue. How do I make peace with myself and find fulfillment in my life knowing that one way or another I am going to neglect parts of my too-curious-and-too-fervent soul? One of my favorite TED talks “How to Make Hard Choices” by Ruth Chang (I spoke about it here) addresses this issue but it doesn’t absolve the the fact that I am confronting—everyday—the truth that I am doing a fraction of what I want to do. In this very moment, I am living merely a singular version of Me. What if I want to be all the things?
But I can't be all the things.
Muddling back and forth between acceptance and resistance, I am still learning how to live with myself for not being enough.
That being said, don't get me wrong—I am extremely thankful for the things I do have. For the roof over my head and the food on my table, I am lucky. More than anything though, I am incredibly grateful for my family. Despite our differences and squabbles, I know they love me and have my back when I need more support. That fact alone is more than anything I could ever ask for. As for everything else, if it's any consolation... at least the freedom of acceptance is mine:
I can never conquer the mountain. But I can conquer myself.
I remind myself that there are books yet to be read, places yet to visit, and people yet I can help. The least that I can do right now is to stay aware of my struggles but continue to sail the seas of my creative and troubled soul. I assume that finding peace within myself is a practice of a lifetime.
Okay. Peace for now.
"When I am able simply to be with things as they are, able to accept the day’s challenges without judging, reaching, or wishing for something else, I feel as if I am receiving the privilege, coming a step closer to being myself." -- Katrina Kenison
"We have not overcome our condition, and yet we know it better. We know that we live in contradiction, but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it. Our task as [humans] is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks [we] take a long time to accomplish, that’s all."
"Of whom and of what indeed can I say: “I know that!” This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction. For if I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers.
I can sketch one by one all the aspects it is able to assume, all those likewise that have been attributed to it, this upbringing, this origin, this ardor or these silences, this nobility or this vileness. But aspects cannot be added up. This very heart which is mine will forever remain indefinable to me. Between the certainty I have of my existence and the content I try to give to that assurance, the gap will never be filled. Forever I shall be a stranger to myself. In psychology as in logic, there are truths but no truth."
You know, the whole thing about perfectionism. The perfectionism is very dangerous, because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. Because doing anything results in– It’s actually kind of tragic because it means you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is.
If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.
now what were motionless move(exists no
miracle mightier than this:to feel)
poor worlds must merely do,which then are done;
and whose last doing shall not quite undo
such first amazement as a leaf-here's one
more than each creature new(except your fear
to whom i give this little parasol,
so she may above people walk in the air
with almost breathing me)-look up:and we'll
(for what were less than dead)dance,i and you;
high(are become more than alive)above
anybody and fate and even Our
whisper it Selves but don't look down and to
-morrow and yesterday and everything except love
One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves. What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.
Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man; yet there is nothing which is harder to learn… Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.
- On the Shortness of Life, Seneca
If travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.
I’ve never been much of an honest blogger. Sure, there was the occasional critical restaurant review but that’s about as far away as possible from anything I really wanted to write about. Indifference, I learned, is a comfortable mask.
Why? Maybe because I’m a little terrified—that my thoughts, expressed into words and spilled into the public, are going to sound distorted, a little foolish and probably laughable. Or, rather, (possibly the main reason), is that I’m scared about admitting certain truths I chose to hide.
It almost seems like an open invitation for criticism and I'd never been very good at handling them without feeling being personally attacked.
“Courage and truth aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weaknesses.” - Brené Brown
Sure, I know. I know. I know.
Nobody ever said growing up is painless. Remember that Arcade Fire song? “…Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.” For what it’s worth, today will be a new beginning. I want to blog more. I will blog more. About identity, cultural barriers, existential loneliness, and all the other things that run through a mind that never switches off.
"Writing is…. being able to take something whole and fiercely alive that exists inside you in some unknowable combination of thought, feeling, physicality, and spirit, and to then store it like a genie in tense, tiny black symbols on a calm white page. If the wrong reader comes across the words, they will remain just words. But for the right readers, your vision blooms off the page and is absorbed into their minds like smoke, where it will re-form, whole and alive, fully adapted to its new environment."
- Mary Gaitskill
So please, if you have anything to say, please feel free to message me. Thank you and good night!