How to Take Control: The Parallels in Piano and Chronic Illness

As an INFJ, I am often more prone to thinking with my heart than my brain.  Oftentimes, my emotions overran calm logic, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve aimed to create an equal balance between the two in order to lessen anxiety.

Even though I had a difficult piano professor in college, I did learn some really important lessons that I applied to other aspects of my life.

One of the major things she taught me was that I was in control.  The piano doesn’t play you, you play the piano.  Often times, I would attempt to let my fingers fly across the keys, in my younger years depending heavily on muscle memory.  I learned as I grew older that developing a method of 100% precision is not possible with just muscle memory- while useful, the mind is prone to blanking out, especially when overwhelmed onstage with a thousand eyes on you. The only way to ensure no memory fumbles is not to rely on the memory.  Instead, you must perfect control over the keys, and that means studying each note, individually, as each finger plays one and expectantly lands on the next, not just through muscle, but through mind.  In conclusion, sometimes “winging it” is not the right plan – sometimes, you just gotta prepare as much as possible in as many concrete ways as possible.

When you focus your practicing, you are also wasting precious time and efforts if you are playing a piece from beginning to end over and over again aimlessly, with no conscious intention on what particular segment needs to be fixed, or breaking it down by specificities:  what is the greatest technical pattern to practice in this section?  What is the tricky fingering in the left hand here, and do the dynamics between the first and second contrast each other well?  You practice intention as much as the physical action itself, which means you can greatly improve performing your piece by listening to 10 different artists’ recordings and interpretations, studying the pages away from the keyboard.  Basically, exercising intent and logic is just as important as processing your emotions and feelings.  

So that’s what I’ve been applying to in terms of the management of my chronic illness.  Both onstage and offstage, I am susceptible to bouts of anxiety and panic attacks.  There are factors both in your control and out of your control, and the most you can do is prepare to the best of your ability what is in your control, the rest is out of your hands.  What have I taken control over?  I guess I feel the culmination of all my work leading up to this point right now.  I’ve felt overrun to a pulp by all the insurance crap because there are so many complicated pieces to it and it’s confusing af.  I’ve felt completely overwhelmed by the whole decision making on my quality of life, the goals I want to achieve and the health problems that are obstructing my way to those goals being achieved.

As a feeler, I don’t really have much problem talking about my problems and connecting to others emotionally and empathetically.  I actually may have too many feelings for my reservoir for feelings, so the first step in this journey was to control that to the best I could, which led me to a concrete plan of:

  1. Therapy – I have anti-anxiety medication which has helped tremendously despite my hesitation to take it. It has maximized my productivity to tackle shitty feelings when shitty things occur along with boring, complex adult things like insurance, and more emotional control so that I can put more energy into more motivation and focus on completing tasks that are rarely fun or exciting, but necessary.
  2. Education – I have spent a lot of time to inform myself as much as possible on whatever the problem is.  When you have a greater understanding of things, you have a better grasp on things, and therefore will lead to less anxiety.  I have poured hours into reading up on lung transplants, statistics, and asking questions on the internet and to my transplant team, who I trust very much, with my life (literally).  Just like organizing and breaking down a piece of music to conquer it, I have taken time to reflect on mini goals and research.  What are the risks, what is the medical process, recovery time, what can I expect in the beginning, middle, and end?  What are the finances in terms of insurance coverage, who is my support team, and what are medical opinions on how I’m doing?
  3. Non-Medical Goals – social life, family and friends, other goals like work/career, travels, relationships, personal habits and new skills to learn, what are my priorities and how do I break down the steps to achieving them, one day at a time?  What are my passions, what is my mission in life, how do I want to impact the world?

While playing with heart and passion is always an important factor to your success as a musician, conveying emotion also requires technique and technical methods to break it down efficiently.  So here I am, trying to meditate a bit and bring in some calm, and today I completed some insurance tasks.  To give an idea, here are some of the things I did today:

I liaison between my dad’s company adviser, my dad, and my therapist, the insurance company, and my physicians to produce a letter and other documents proving that I should stay on my dad’s insurance plan after the age of 26;

I called my insurance company’s behavioral health department to confirm the steps to receiving teletherapy care with my therapist;

I sent in a request to the insurance company to update my PCP for a new card;

I reorganized my list of medications and verified their approved pick-up dates with the pharmacy, also re-ordering one of them.

I proceeded to watch Hasan Minhaj’s correspondence dinner on Youtube, began reading a new book (“The Bonesetter’s Daughter” by Amy Tan), did my daily 15 minutes of Korean, spent some time chatting with my best friend, and am now going to clean out my bag and organize everything.

The greater process requires equal parts to yield optimal results.

Be your own fucking boss.  Get in control.  Even if often times, it doesn’t feel like it.

 

 

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Ending 2018 with Hospitalization

I believe the last time I was hospitalized for an RSV infection was nearly two years ago, in January of 2017.

I’d been going relatively strong for 2018, but alas, one of my expected fears became reality, and Christmas weekend I increasingly felt off until I was able to see my primary doctor on Wednesday, where unsurprisingly, she took a listen and sent me off to the ER.  It was more apparent to me that my body was failing me this time, as by Tuesday night, I felt like I was suffocating from standing up.  I actually felt like my lungs almost disappeared, and deeply aware that there wasn’t much oxygen exchange happening.  My shoulders were working double time to breathe for my lungs, and I kept bending over. I felt like I was perhaps dying, and prepared a few things before most likely heading to the ER.   My doctor said she couldn’t hear movement at all in my right side and that there was a faint wheezing on my left, which probably meant I had pneumonia, and that I looked like I was going through respiratory failure.

We arrived at Morristown Hospital around 4pm, and it was less hectic than the last time, but still a shit ton of people waiting around.  The process was so slow it felt agonizing, and I felt if I were going to die, I would have in that waiting room.  My oxygen tank ran out, and I felt so terrible that any movement felt like I was making myself run 5 miles, except I couldn’t even gasp for air because there was no air to move in my tightened airways.   My dad thankfully bugged them to move me up and give me another oxygen tank in the meantime, and finally we were moved to another waiting room area, and then wheeled to one of those stretcher curtain “rooms” where they drew blood, stuck an IV in, and I repeated answers to the same questions to about 7-8 different people.  One doctor felt that I may or may not need to stay overnight, and a few hours later, I was wheeled into a proper room.  We were there just over 24 hours when a respiratory room opened up, and there they put me on steroids and antibiotics for the first 2 days, then some doctor came and reversed that decision.  For the most part, I really liked all the nurses and doctors except for one douchey tall and young doctor.  They much improved from 2 years ago imo.

There was nothing to do but wait it out to slowly improve (hopefully).  The amount of shittiness and exhaustion I felt made me thankful that while I’d been complaining about being out of breath going up the stairs, I was now aware of what it felt like to be short of breath at rest too, which was beyond terrifying and all I could focus on.

Anyway, I was hospitalized from December 26, to January 31, 2018.  A couple people visited me, but it was very low key.  Very glad I was able to be discharged before the New Year, even if I somewhat begged for it.  My best friend came over, and we passed a very chill new year’s in my family room.  My brain has been foggy all week, so I didn’t really have time to process that it’s 2019 now.

I spent the past few days in bed on oxygen almost 24/7, and still feel winded from getting up to pee.  My oxygen drops dangerously to 88% when I do so, which is really bad and I start to feel a hint of that suffocation.  I need my normal baseline back off oxygen saturation at 96% rest, and 90% in motion.

Overall, I’m pleased with 2018, it’s been a relatively good year for me and my family and friends, so I hope 2019 is just as good or better.  The particular reason why is probably that I have zero regrets.  I usually stayed home during the winter months because  was so careful not to risk catching anything, but that’s not really living.  The whole cliche of alive, but not living.  My particular anxiety was that I’d miss my friend Lauren’s surprise proposal since it was outdoors and the weather was raining.  I considered skipping it, but couldn’t bear the idea of missing something so important.  I don’t think I got ill from that event though, but it was such a great day that I think it’s worth getting sick for. One of the worst feelings is fomo, especially caused by something you have absolutely no control over, and is a repetitive cause.  There are still so many things I’m scared about in my future, like dying, and experiencing what I felt this week on a permanent basis.  But I also grew a lot in self-love and general life experience.

I don’t pray for luck or success, I pray for the motivation and inspiration to stay positive and gain success.  If I could have a fraction of Claire Wineland’s spirit, I would consider myself blessed.

 

Reminder to be Thankful: Healthcare, Career, and Other Basic Things Most ppl take for Granted

I’ve started my second week of work, and I remember thinking of my last job and how excited I was just to have a job and be healthy enough to go to work everyday.  After a couple months though, the excitement wore off and the work became mundane- I felt restless and uninspired, not to mention the weather got colder and more difficult for me.

I had this thought at the end of last week that it seemed I was nearing the end of my training and picking up most of what I could pick up at this job and place, but I really hoped that wasn’t the case.  Thankfully, I think I still have a lot to learn, and if I do well and still last here 3-6 months later, maybe I’ll get a raise or they’ll consider moving me to another higher position in data.  Ideally, my image of “making it” career-wise would be to climb up the ladder in terms of data analyst, then data scientist, of which the avg annual income is ~$100,000.  Even though money isn’t everything, it would definitely be one less thing to worry about and would make life a little easier.  My hospital stay for just 8 days last year ended up costing ~$50,000… I don’t know how people are supposed to survive and pay that without insurance in America.  Definitely a huge problem.  It’s inhumane not to provide people with the basic ability of maintaining their health and welfare.

I’m glad that compared to certain peak times of my life, these past months I haven’t had to visit doctors an incredible amount- I have to take off once a month so far, and I try really hard to book my appointments for other things after my work ends, which is possible because it’s part-time.  As I grow older, I become more and more aware of spending money practically, and investing in things I need. Really need.  Like work clothes.  What I WANT are a nice new pair of bose headphones and for my mac computer to have sound again, but so far, I am living life fine without either.  Shout out to you Sean if you’re reading this lmao because I use bluetooth on the sleep machine to get sound when I connect it to the laptop 😀

So what I want to be thankful for now, and what I have to keep reminding myself when I start to feel bored or annoyed that I have to go to work, is that it is a blessing to have the ability to have a job and to make it there everyday.  I remember those cold winter months where I had really bad winter blues and was alone and so frustrated that I was just full-time sick, watching everyone else simply have opportunities to hit their goals.  I don’t need anyone to hand anything to me, I just want the opportunity to earn it.  Because now that I am not down with the flu/cold or my lungs are fucking with me and I can manage my current job so far, I feel confident that I have the drive and the ability to learn and make it to where I want to be.  As long as life doesn’t throw more shit at me (which I know it will), I can do it.  And that is one of the biggest leg ups I have over my competition.  I know what it’s like to simply not be able to try.  When you’ve never known what it’s like to have a chance feel like it’s completely robbed from you, you don’t know anything else except to take it for granted.

I know I’m not earning that much right now.  But it’s a step above not having the ability to earn anything at all.  And even if I get fired now, I already picked up so much on the corporate world in one week, and other random technical jumbo I never thought twice about that impact our lives very much, that it’s okay:  I know it wasn’t a waste of time.  Absorbing knowledge is great 😀  I’m starting to migrate towards analyzing real work this week in their many Excel sheets… my biggest wish is that the learning doesn’t stop here and I’m not stuck doing this for weeks on end, or for the rest of my position there.  Give me a chance to prove what I can bring when illness doesn’t prevent me, and I will kick ass.

Making Lemonade out of Lemon

Hella cliche I know.  But I was thinking about how the past UPenn hospital visits have only become increasingly difficult, with more doctors from different departments added on each time.  It definitely took off in the “worse” direction around the time I decided to do the lung transplant evaluation.  I was rambling to my friend about making lemonade out of lemon, even if it’s kinda shitty, just to make it edible enough is good enough for me.

I used to be someone who just kind of enjoyed bubble tea.  But now bubble tea has taken on a whole new level of meaning for me.  It’s the reward I looked forward to after my rough appointments and tests.  It’s forever going to be ingrained as a positive memory I will cherish, grabbing Mr. Wish with my dad or my parents, a ritual you could even say.

So with all the rough memories that are occurring in my life, I am still trying my best to balance it out with each visit ending in lemonade, even if sometimes it’s only barely edible.

Create your own silver lining?  It’s damn hard but I’m trying anyway.


On a slightly separate note, I think I’ve finally reached that point where needles don’t completely send me into a near anxiety attack.  It’s my 20th or something blood test/needle in the last year, and now I kinda just stare at the needle in disdain.  Still a bit nervous, but not nervewracking.  You just don’t know how strong you are until you’re forced to challenge yourself consistently.

Random Late Night Thoughts- On Lung Transplants and Perspective

On Goals and Motivation:  The beautiful thing about goals is that you can always achieve them and make new ones, the possibilities are endless, and you have a lifetime to keep going.  When I was a kid, I read this book about this really old man who decided to go to school and teach himself how to read.  It was really inspiring.  He could’ve decided to stay home and been embarrassed or made himself sick with worry on what others would think of him.  I think a lot on our battle with these inner demons and realize that at the end of the day, our biggest challenge in any goal is overcoming our own mentality and insecurities.  They could be something as apparent as being in a wheelchair or having a stutter, they could also be secrets of our past that we’ve buried deep but still influence our daily thought process, and seep into our choices and actions in life like poison.

Goals can be big or small.

My smaller goals lately have been mostly to aim at realism.  I want to make goals I can achieve more immediately- cooking new kinds of food, learning a new language, focusing on building my mentality and body.  All of these are goals as long as you chip at it each day and work towards it, they aren’t less valuable or successful than typical dreams like becoming rich or becoming a movie star.  The hugest part of reshaping my mentality the past recent years was to becomes strong enough to go through the lung transplant evaluations that I knew were leading down to a path of not a maybe, but an eventually.  I had many meltdowns at night and at the hospitals because the fear was always hanging over me, my anxiety became so bad I freaked out at the very idea of sitting in someone else’s car or trying to fall asleep.  It felt like the world was weighing down on me when anyone even tried to make me talk about it:  because I could get away with it sometimes, I wanted to shove the parts of me that was ill away and try to carry on looking fine and dandy and blend in with the “norm”.  I was determined to live the life of a regular kid, to worry about friends, boys, and all the petty drama that came with it, handing my paper in on time, getting a job.

I need to take a moment now and appreciate myself and the fact that I went through that and got through it in 2017.  I don’t often reflect on how far I come, I usually focus on what didn’t work out.

Recently, one of my goals was to go through Harry Potter World in a wheelchair for the first time, and not break down.  Check.  Huge win for me, even though it’s not the same as everyone clapping and cheering for you on stage or something like that.

When I think of this and all that I went through, I almost want to laugh at how petty everything else compares in life:  when I get frustrated or disappointed with people, stressed over things I don’t have, and most of all, finding out how entitled and weird people are out there that you come across at your job.  I remember being annoyed and complaining about it, but the truth was I felt happy.  Happy that today, I got to be “normal” and complain about petty things like other people who don’t really matter in your life anyway.  It’s just noise.  Letting things get to you and affect you negatively is draining- you gotta choose what is important and worth being stressed over. This is something my dad has constantly reminded me growing up about not being too sensitive or upset over everything.

There are always going to be situations and people who suck.  You can’t go through life only meeting nice and good people, never getting hurt – and I don’t mean just by strangers or acquaintances, but the people closest to you sometimes – yes, your friends, your family.  But that’s how you learn and grow each time.  Who other people are, what you can reasonably expect, how you can deal with the situation better, how you yourself can be better.

I had an epiphany recently, and that was the realization of just how low my self confidence has been.  I always knew I was shy and reluctant to open up to others, but I was thinking about how I subconsciously approached my friendships I’ve had in a way as if they were not only valuable to me, but that I owed them the world for taking the pity and time to be my friend at all.  As if I brought nothing to the friendship, and had to spend the rest of my life trying to prove that I am worthy of being a friend.  I tried to be more extroverted, bubbly, happy, to smile and be more fun.  To go out of my way when I could for them so they wouldn’t see my flaws.  And when it didn’t work out with the friendship, it cut me deep. To the core.  I would be resentful with them, disappointed that they must’ve seen that I didn’t measure up and was too much of a burden.

  1. There is a difference between understanding who is precious in your life, but also understanding your self-worth and all that you contribute with your presence and actions.  As from the movie “Wonder”, it’s okay if you were born to be different and to stand out.  Embrace it.  You are worthy of friendships, and as long as you try your best and care for them, they are lucky to have you.
  2. True confidence comes from within. Today I came to the revelation about how regular people can walk 5-10 times more than I can at 2-5 times the speed and still don’t get tired…. how do you not feel fucking invincible??  I would.  My second revelation… if you can feel at peace and accepting about yourself even as you sit in a wheelchair with no make up on as a bunch of people you know stare at you and question you, then you’re still fucking invincible. (I haven’t reached this point of invincibility yet ._.;)
  3.   I used to think of a strong mind as a fortress, one that can protect itself from negativity, and barricade positive vibes within.  But now I think of a strong mind more as a temple- why? Let the negativity enter, sit there even.  And STILL be able to have your positive vibes rise up higher than all the noise- this is what constitutes a strong mind.

“All that shit will feel petty when you feel pretty” -Dumbfoundead

Storytime: That Time I Got Robbed and Other Musings on Gratitude and Empathy

~StoryTime~

There was this one time when my parents and I were on vacation in Canada and my mom and I had gotten into a fight the previous night; I was about maybe twelve years old.   The next morning, we ate at the hotel complimentary breakfast with the expected aftermath of awkwardness in the air- I kept my eyes lowered to shield my puffy red eyes under my hat.  There weren’t many other people around, but I remember seeing two tanned men sitting near us at the next table.  I was in a foul mood, angry with the world and still upset at something my mom had said earlier; my feeling ashamed reflected clearly in my flushed face.

I was so lost in my own world of sulky thoughts that I only barely took notice that my mom had left the table to get more food.  Soon after, my dad also got up to head to an aisle leading to the men’s room, leaving me alone.  The next minute, I was whipped out of my thoughts by a man who approached me, pointing furiously towards the direction my dad had left in and jabbering in a foreign language.  His panic was infectious.  The first thing that came to my mind was that something had happened to my dad: he had a heart attack, he had passed out, there was a fire.  I hesitated and stood up as the man bolted off – confused, I wondered if I should follow him or call the police.

Next thing was my mom’s alarmed voice; she had come back and immediately exclaimed, “Where’s my bag?!”

I glanced around to the chairs around me, and only saw mine.  That was the moment  I realized that I had been hoodwinked.  The men who were sitting near us were gone.  The police arrived and questioned us, and after watching the security footage, confirmed that the two men had dashed out the backdoor.  The police told us that it was one of a few cases that had happened recently in the neighborhood hotels in the same exact fashion.  The next hour was filled with my mom calling various places to cancel her credit card accounts, phone accounts, and anything else the police advised her to do.  My mom’s camera, phone, and unfortunately, more than half a thousand dollars cash had been in her favorite bag.  She said she had forgotten to remove all the cash since her recent trip to Taiwan where she wanted to exchange some of it for Taiwanese money.

The shock that had hit all of us that early afternoon had us immediately forget, or rather, let go of any ill feelings harbored towards each other.  I remember feeling a mixture of emotions.  I felt guilty that I had not watched our things more carefully, that I had so naively been fooled by that guy, who must’ve distracted me to one side so that his accomplice could grab my mom’s bag to the other side of me.  I felt a bit regretful that so much money had been lost, especially since my younger parents worked hard to save up money.

I also felt tremendous relief that nothing in fact, had happened to my dad; he was okay.  My mom was okay, I was okay, we were all okay.  Nobody had held me at gunpoint or knifepoint threatening to kill us if we hadn’t handed over our possessions.

I also felt the weight of grudges just a couple hours ago melt into incredible gratitude, realizing by comparison the full pettiness of my sulky world.  One argument was a bad grain of sand in the spectrum of our lives.  Even though I don’t count myself as particularly religious, I remembered thinking that this incident must have been God’s reminder to me to wake up and understand that much worse things could happen at any given time.

We really tend to see what we don’t have, and what others do have.  Even on days where I’m in tremendous pain physically or emotionally, or my car broke down,  I would just think, if only I didn’t have to deal with this shit.  How much better the day would be if I just wasn’t in pain, if the car just worked and I could get to my friend or my groceries.  That’s how we see that the ordinary, “boring” events are actually extraordinary.

Today, some tragedy could’ve happened that left my family homeless.  Today, I could be so destitute that I don’t have enough money to buy dinner.  Today, I could’ve lost a loved one.  Today, I could’ve found out someone I loved didn’t love me back anymore.  Today, I could be feeling so depressed that I want to kill myself.  Today, I could be lying in the hospital again, just wishing that I could sleep in my own bed and get a hot shower.

Today, none of those things happened, and I did get to feed myself, sleep in my own bed, and take a hot shower.

I was in the car the other day and musing over the whole “glass half full, glass half empty” cliche.  Maybe we’re missing the point when we look at it that way.  Maybe the truth to finding Zen and acceptance of everything around us, including the shitty parts, is to see the glass itself.  That the glass exists at all.  That we have a glass.  That we have water at all.  It could all so easily be nothing, just empty space floating into more nothingness.


-Just a passing thought about how to find happiness and peace since that is something I’ve struggled with my whole life.

Reminder though, that even though we should strive to be more appreciative and notice all that we do have, it’s still okay to let yourself feel the sad parts too.  We’re wrapped up in a society that expects us to feel fine all the time or try to get us there (“Feel better!” “You’ll be okay” “I’m sorry” other crap etc.).  Is that true healing?  No.  You have to walk through the tunnel to get to the other side, there is no shortcut.  You can’t magically Apparate or sprout wings over the tunnel.  What we can do for each other?  For true empathy, be there for one another.  Rather than a “Feel better”, I want to live in a society where we hold each other’s hand.  We offer an embrace, we tell them yes, what they’re going through sucks, but I’m here for you.  I will walk with you through the tunnel.  You’re not alone.

There’s a difference between finding pleasure in sulking in misery, and brushing off any pain like it’s nothing.  Validation, entitlement, to your feelings… I guess it’s a bit of a fine line sometimes depending on perspective.  There’s a balance.

I’ll admit that this is one of my faults too.  I’m a hypocrite, because I have told people to “feel better” before.  Because when I feel their burden, I just can’t.  I can’t even handle my own burdens sometimes.  “Put the oxygen mask over yourself before helping others put their masks on” <— wise words of a flight attendant.  But I’m working on it, and I wish more people would just give more of a shit to be honest.


Today’s Obsessions (Music):

-Heaven by Julia Michaels

-Sacrifice  by Black Atlas & Jessie Reyez

-Wait by Maroon 5

Disney + Worries

So… my family is planning a trip to Harry Potter World and Disney and I’m simultaneously excited yet super anxious.

The biggest hurdle is that my therapist suggested that I start using a wheelchair of some sort so that I can avoid becoming exhausted to the point of major discomfort and fatigue, and tense muscles.  I had never considered using a wheelchair before, and the hypocrisy that is me, is that when I see other people in wheelchairs, I don’t think much of it, yet when I think of ME in it, I am riddled with a million feelings: perhaps

Shame, that I have to submit to a wheelchair and can’t make it on my own two legs,

Guilt, that I don’t really deserve to use a wheelchair and am a “fake” illness person (doesn’t help that tons of other people have doubted my illness over the years), and that my family will have an extra task to do in pushing me around,

Embarrassment when I have another extra thing to make me feel different, and perhaps

Relief and Hope too, that this might be much better of an arrangement for me energy-wise, if I could only wrap my head around accepting it.  The truth is, my whole life I’d lived in the mindset that my lungs were going to eventually heal and become “normal” when I reached adulthood aka college, yet I was slammed with the ugly reality when I switched over to an adult doctor, who told me I should be prepared for lung transplant evaluation instead.

My whole life, I’d been competing with people functioning at full capacity, when it was literally not possible.  And even after the sad realization, I could not bear to face the reality that it was, and continued to live in doubt and silence.

After a few years of therapy now, which I started on and off 3 years ago, I think I’m becoming better at shifting my perspective to a more positive one, but it’s still a really long and bumpy road.  I have to expect that most healthy people, especially ones at my age, will simply not get it, or even have the patience to try to get it, because they have their ableist privilege, and all I can do is control my own mentality.

The list could go on forever for all the rough moments in my life when other misguided people mistreated me and misunderstood me, believing I was taking advantage, or lying, “playing a victim”, or one thing or another, just because there was no visible evidence in their eyes.  And it caused me to continue to doubt my own capabilities and limits as well for a long time.  But now I realize that you do not let other people’s ignorance hurt your own knowledge and perseverance. You are not any less just because you were given less spoons.

I have to learn to forgive people and move on, because for a long time honestly, I’ve let myself get caught up in the unfairness of it all, and the rudeness of others causing me so much hurt and pain.  No more.

The Onigiri

I don’t remember if I wrote about this before, but it’s my go-to story whenever a friend who’s having self-doubt or any other moments of apprehension talks to me.  It’s a story I tell myself once in awhile to remind myself of my worth, even if I don’t always see it.

When I was younger, my best friend got me into mangas, and my favorite was always Fruits Basket.  In one chapter, Kyo is this character who comes off angry but holds in a lot of pain and fear.  Tohru is the girl who looks at him in thought, and ponders, “Hm, maybe it’s on his back.”

The way Tohru sees the world is that every individual is an onigiri, and each contains a special ingredient.  However, the problem is that Kyo’s onigiri looks at everyone else’s, and is envious looking at the ingredients on their backs, whether it’s salmon, or tuna, or egg.  He can’t see his own.  He thinks he’s worth less because he can’t see his back.

Sometimes, pretty often actually, I find myself as Kyo, struggling to see what’s on my back.  I know some of you are thinking “please, I know what my special ingredient, I’m made of PRIME RIB, wagyu beef yo.”  And that’s great.  But a lot of us spend a lot of times staring at all the other onigiris’ backs and admiring their special ingredient.  So I’m here to tell you that you have something special on your back, and I see it.  You are made of worth, you were created unique, and everyone around you can see it even if people might not go out of their way to tell you or admit it to you.  I think we could help each other out by being the eyes for each other on what we can’t see.