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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A Wise Woman Once Said…

Aka my therapist.

One day I was rambling about my insecurities and how anxious I felt by what other people thought of me.  I was probably describing one of the many moments in which I used a handicap spot or some other form of assistance, while aware of someone’s eyes on me, observing, probably judging whether I was abusing the system or just straight up not actually ill.  My paranoia was always getting the best of me, and it’s a very vulnerable feeling, when someone’s singular subtle action or movement could destroy you in a breath.  Why do we let people control us like that? Why do we tend to care so much what other people think?

My therapist said to me at this point, that I was battling two things.  The first was the very real struggles I deal with, emotionally and physically, the things I can’t fix, factors completely out of my hands.  The second was myself, and very fixable in how I perceived, intercepted, and reacted.  It was so cliche, but the way she said it clicked for me.  Why was I creating an extra layer of struggle when I had enough to juggle on my plate?  Wasn’t it enough that fortune or people made life difficult, why was I piling on more for myself?  It was just extra, useless energy.


These were the reasons why I posted on IG and confessed publicly for the first time in my life what I was facing, the burdens that I kept buried for so long.  What was the point of keeping them secrets when this was fate and things were going to happen the way they were going to happen regardless?  In the grand scheme of things, did it really matter who knew and what they said and thought?  People will think what they want to think at the end of the day.  And when we reach this point, the end, there really is nothing much else to lose.  I’m surrendering it all by laying it all out before me.

I think more and more on what imprints I’ve left on this world.  What is it that I want to change, and how is it that I want to be remembered?

A vaguely terminal illness will bring this mentality to the forefront, especially when I’m feeling the real effects and symptoms on my body.  I broke down so hard last week that I felt like there was probably nothing left in me to go on.  I felt forgotten by the rest of the world, and wasn’t sure at this point it really mattered if anyone did reach out to me to tell me otherwise.  My mind spiraled so deep into a really dark future filled with more pain, repetitive suffering, a never-ending uphill battle, where no matter who else talked to me, I was the one who would have to go through it alone, the demise and suffocation, feeling the slow burn failings of my inner workings.  I didn’t want to go through it, I wanted to halt the brakes, but I couldn’t do anything about it.  I was tired of my mom coming in to help me with every single thing, I was tired of feeling like I was inhaling only 10% when I needed at least another 40% more oxygen through my airways.  I was so sick of my heart rate speeding up over 140 bpm if I so much as sneezed.  I guess I felt dead inside.

I called a friend, even though I felt so dead that the majority of me didn’t really want to see anyone or contact anyone.  If I passed on, people might be a tad sad for a bit, but at the end of the day, people would move on, and that would be all.  My friend miraculously cheered me up by staying optimistic and upbeat and keeping some part of me in the realistic loop of the rest of the world’s rhythm, about work, and driving home, and eating, and other mundane tasks.  We talked about stupid things, and the distraction definitely pumped a bit more energy back into me.  Things would be ok.  At least for now.  I would make it through, at least this time around.

Nov. 11, 2018 Sunday night: The Leaves are almost Gone

I’ve been joking about having a quarter life crisis since I was 20, but I guess 25 is the “official” quarter-life crisis legitimacy age, assuming 100 is the year we would live to on average.  I just Googled it, the average U.S. age lives to a lifespan of 79 years old, apparently a whole four years longer than it was about 30 years ago.

Weather and Season:

For some reason, it seems like fall condensed in the past week- the landscapes exploded into colors of orange, yellow, and red, soon swept to dead leaves in the wind, and finally left the trees in our yard 90% barren.  We went from 70 degrees two weeks ago to 40s this week, with bouts of rainfall scattered throughout the days.

Career: 

On Friday, it was not a fun day.  I was not feeling it, with the dark skies and rain, and I was tired from driving down to Princeton for a UX/UI lecture the night before (more on that later).  The new list I was working on was also more complex and annoying – there were more factors to consider and change in the system, and none of it was as efficient and straightforward as it should be.  I have a vague idea of the role I took on at this job, but I feel like more than anything, I was hired to research and figure out all the arbitrary conditions in this process without having been properly trained.  Someone from another department messaged me, asking me to look into something I had done two months ago to an account.  For comparison, I work through about 2000-3000 accounts per week on average, and when someone messages me on something, I get anxiety on having to understand and defend myself clearly and promptly.  I needed to understand more of the background and relationship of what other departments do and how the system functions, in order to be able to defend myself on what I had apparently done and what they were looking at.  My quick research led me to believe that I had made an error, and an email was immediately sent out informing others that I had made a mistake.  After help from my co-worker, I realized that I had not been wrong in the update I made, and I therefore attempted to explain to my boss why the change had been made.  It’s just a crappy feeling, not being sure if you did make the mistake stupidly, or it was some operational error you didn’t even have clarity on.  I had apologized many times so far, but out the handful times I had been messaged on my errors, I really believe most of them were due to some of the natural margin of errors that happen when you do a lot of manual work in large amounts of data, and also due to some result I was given that nobody had a concrete idea on how to handle.  There was only one time that it was 100% a huge stupid mistake I clearly made.  None of my bosses have yelled at me or anything, but it’s this pressure I feel where I want to work hard and I really dislike having anyone accuse me of mistakes.  I’m still having doubts about my value and my worth.  I’ve learned that it’s important not to apologize, and to always do your best to find out what happened before believing it when someone tells you you made an error.

  • The UX/UI event:  I had heard about this since the last meetup I attended back in the summer, and didn’t think much about it since.  But then I got an email notification and realized that the topic was one I was quite interested in, which includes user accessibility, something that involves improvement for disabled people as well.  The user experience should prioritize that demographic as well, so I definitely enjoyed the lecture, which was given by Elizabeth Churchill, the head of the UX/UI team at Google.  It was the first time I’d been in this building, which was the one right in front of the Princeton fountain.  The auditorium I was in looked similar to the one broadcasted at the UN, and I immediately sat next to a student who had a #builtbygirls sticker on her laptop.  I talked to her, and realized that there were obviously many Princeton students as well attending, and it was hard not to feel a bit intimidated since I was suddenly aware of the high amount of intellect in this room.  I enjoyed how the speaker broke down the way they researched things at Google, and I definitely agree that a smooth interface is all the difference in whether someone wants to download an app.
  • I’ve been researching more online about what courses and topics I could learn more about and be more exposed to.  I also have been reading up a lot on job requirements, particularly those in my town.  I feel more certain now on the skills I want to target acquiring at my current job, especially those that are transferable.  I need to remind myself when I feel anxious and insecure at my job, that it takes time to pick up on all the nuances of responsibilities, and that even if I lose this job, it’s not the end of the world, and I’m sure I am better off now than I was a year ago regardless.  I can only try my best.

Health:  I shuffled my Tuesday work schedule two hours later to stop by the SSI office with my dad to figure out what’s going on with the status of my benefits.  It always gives me anxiety to go, because one time we had this really mean Indian lady who treated me like a criminal who was taking advantage and lying to her.  I put aside two hours for the trip, but thankfully, we talked to one of the front desk ladies and resolved our questions in about 20ish minutes, with probably a 20 minute wait.  I left with a pamphlet of information and more clear instructions on how to report my wages, and then realized I could head into work at 11am instead of 12pm.  I also ended up going to a deli to talk more with a new guy at work, he’s an interesting character.  I also have to figure out some insurance claims I made, and sometimes when I think too hard into things it can be overwhelming. But I’m okay for now.

The good thing is I’ve done so much research, and have a list of notes on what to further look into and learn about now.  At least I have a sense of direction on what to gain more experience on.  Bloomberg Business magazine is also really informative on world news and trends, so most of my weekend was spent between watching The Americans and reading and researching.

Crisis Textline Self-care Assessment

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 4.29.44 PM

3     3

3     3

3     2

3     2.5

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 4.29.53 PM

3     4

3     3

4     3

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 4.29.58 PM

2     3

2.5   2.5

3     3

3     2.5

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 4.30.03 PM

4     2.5

2.5   2.5

2.5   4

2.5   3

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 4.30.08 PM

3     2.5

2.5  2.5

3     3

3     2.5

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 4.30.13 PM

2     2

2     2

2     2

2     2

Why am I doing this?

I’m embarking on another challenging journey, personal in a different way. The past year, I’ve stared my inner demons in the face and really tried to make active steps to overcome them.   Granted, I’m not completely over them or “fixed” now, but I can look back and say I’ve definitely grown.  In being more accepting of my circumstances, on accepting that there are things I can’t control and to focus on what I can.  In dealing with looming health issues and finding a community that I can connect with in a different way than my other friends can relate to.  To understand when a place is not contributing to my life in any positive way and to say no and allow that to be okay to remove yourself from it, having tried.

Now I want to challenge myself by confronting another part of myself that gives me a lack of confidence. This is the part of me that feels useless and like I don’t do enough with my time here.  And I want to see if I’m able enough to handle  and help with other people’s problems since I’ve been through so many unique experiences.  I want to be useful with my time and intentional in my actions.  And hopefully I’ll grow from it too and learn more about myself along the way- my capabilities, my limit for compassion, my ability to be empathetic.

 

Self-Stress Management vs. Life Worries/Burdens

I don’t pretend to be a stress management expert, but I definitely have a lot of experience in stress and anxiety.  In comparison to how constantly overwhelming it used to be, I am much better now, but it is not about generally less problems, but more about being aware of your feelings and where they’re coming from, and then processing your feelings in a more helpful and productive way.  Sometimes, understanding if the problem is yours or someone else’s is useful in deducting whether you should spend any more energy focusing on it if it’s not something you can change or fix.  There are so many factors in the world that are out of our control.

When I used to be taught to pray, I wondered what I should pray about.  I guess first for myself, then I would extend it to my family and friends.  Then I would think, what about everyone else in the world who isn’t getting prayed for?  So at the end of my prayer, I would just add “and everyone else who needs a prayer” to cover it all LOL.  But if one were really to meditate on just the incredible magnitude of people and beings in need at any given moment in time, it is reallyyy stress inducing.  I’ve felt so many times like everyone else’s life is moving on and people are living, but I am stuck in one dark place, ignored and forgotten.  Even if someone did reach out to me, it felt like a temporary relief, and then I’d go back to the same feeling of oppression and depression.  It’s such a terrible feeling of being stuck, that I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone else, yet realistically, I’m sure many of us have felt/feel that way, particularly considering how big the world is.

So just some amateur thoughts on what I do personally to relieve stress, here’s what I’ve picked up to try to help myself and my racing thoughts out.  Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of different methods.  (it sucks that I can’t say believe me without thinking of Trump -_-).

  1.  Do some light yoga, stretches, especially the neck, shoulder, and back before bedtime.
  2. Take hot baths and smell mint or lavender scents
  3. Drink chamomile or any other decaf tea
  4. Get a deep tissue massage
  5. Talk to a friend and rant or discuss feelings to get a fresh perspective
  6. Listen to music/read
  7. Treat yourself to something you like, such as your favorite drink
  8. Jot down things on your mind (like now haha)
  9. Extreme measures – Xanax or see an anxiety/sleep doctor

There are lots of things on my mind lately.  Not to the point where I feel like I completely can’t handle everything.  But close to the edge.  I worry about my future.  My parents future. That I won’t have them forever. That they might not have me forever.  That it’s one or the other. The world’s future.  If there is no God or greater being, is this all that we are?  Life would seem meaningless and humans are just another small spec in the vast spectrum of the universe.  Where am I headed? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much?  I don’t want to lose faith in people, but I find myself more cynical than I want to be with each day.  I don’t want to grow weary and bitter of men.  I don’t want to go for something and feel disappointed yet again – in relationships, in believing in a better future, in being lost, in career, in personal goals.  Dealing with setbacks and not having the strength to carry on and face it all again. That choosing to give up would mean the ultimate seal of death.  Yet that death is inevitable even if I chose the opposite.  I worry that I will die alone.  I worry that I get trapped in an unhealthy marriage.  I worry that realistic marriage really is as painful as it looks.  That this is all there is to life.  That I stand out for the wrong reasons, that I’m different. But also that I’m forgettable.  I make no difference or impact in other’s lives.  But that doing good means nothing anyway in the grand scheme of things.  That we are not to be complacent, but we are also not to stay unsatisfied by yearning for the next best thing.  Yet we keep chasing something that is unreachable forever, but that is all progress works.  I’m sad for all the human life that is dying and suffering from lack of basic needs, sustenance, that all these children are born into endless agony and their life ends briefly- what is the point of this?  I want to be kind, but I don’t want to be naive, tricked, taken advantage of, but there is so much fucked up in this world.  So much bs.  Is this bs and fucked up shit necessary to sustain an imperfection that creates a balance of the ultimate imitation of perfection?  We know communism doesn’t exist.  So many concepts don’t exist because humans are greedy.  We want, we take, we want to grow, to expand, to reach the next personal achievement. We want acknowledgment, power, status.  We want validation, we want to be more beautiful, more wealthy, more successful, we want what others have.  And yet if we didn’t want, the global economy would crumble as we know it.  Without the ones who suffer as those who receive the short end of the stick in fate, we would not have ones to compare who drew the long stick.  Comparison and perspective.  If I did something good, what is that motivated by?  Wanting to feel better about ourselves?  To feel like a savior?  Maybe I should forgive myself, cut myself some slack.  But maybe I shouldn’t, and I am just as fucked up as the others around me.  But I just don’t see it because most people are blind and righteous.

It would be comforting to truly believe in and belong in a religion.  Yet all religions could have been manmade, the bible could have been manmade, because history is so prolonged that at this point, we have no clue what the truth is.  It is rewritten by those who have won.  Does this make us close-minded, to not examine ourselves and to not constantly question what the truth is?  If we are perhaps abusing or misinterpreting what we believe to be “truth”.  You could think you have it all figured out.  But you could be wrong.

 

Changed Diet = Changed Energy: Progress Update

1. Diet

So I don’t mean to be sound like one of those health gurus or snobs because I honestly don’t know exactly what I’m doing, I just browse the internet, and the general consensus is that fruits and vegetables is a yes, and fried foods and other greasy foods are a no go.  Staying hydrated is definitely a yes.

So even though I got sick recently, it was weird.  My lungs were still being their weird selves, but I felt strangely calm and I think more energized.  I don’t think it’s a placebo effect, because it wasn’t like I was consciously waiting to feel more different or more energized.  I just came to the realization that the past week, I’ve felt pretty good.

It started with a few talks with my friends who are vegetarians / semi-vegetarians, and I am still in that odd zone where I look at meat and all I remember is that slaughterhouse article I read about, yet I simultaneously don’t mind thaat much eating the meat in front of me, especially if I didn’t order the food or it was already cooked. That is to say, if I had a choice, I would avoid meat like pork and beef, but I uncovered it in my food after the fact, I’d probably still eat it.

Add to the fact that if I craved chips or a snack, I would eat bell peppers, korean-style pickled cucumbers, and pita chips and guac instead of buying doritos or potato chips (my mom recently bought some doritos as well as cheetos… I nibbled a few one night, but wasn’t able to eat much of it because you mentally shift to realizing how artificial and processed it is… still good though in its own way once in awhile).  I’d been sustaining on mostly breakfasts of oatmeal or porridge the past two or three weeks, along with a yogurt, banana, orange, or sliced apples, and as I’m writing this, I just finished one apple and am starting on an orange.

When you are conscious of all the fresh veggies and fruit in your fridge, and you mentally make that your main supply of snacks to go to, it doesn’t become so hard to just grab one out of habit when you’re a bit hungry or thirsty.  And you begin to appreciate how good the food itself is, and thankful for it to nourish your body and thank your body for all it does for you.  I used to be angry at my  body, whether it was physical features or the fact that I had tight shoulder muscles or my boobs were too large, legs too thin, or lungs too weak.  Anyway, it was always something, but now I’m really trying to thank my body more and reward it with healthy nutrients.  I sound like a yoga guru now, but that wasn’t on purpose!  I’m just trying to take control of what I can with what I got :o)

When I see oily food from take out or anything that someone else brings home, I’ll eat a bite cause I’m hungry, but I think my body just kind of rejects the oily and processed food in general now, which I’m glad because I know it’s a good change!  I’m still not much of an oatmeal fanatic, and I would never  buy oatmeal cookies or anything if I had a choice.  But hot, steaming oatmeal with some brown sugar on top, it’s kinda yummy!  It does keep me full too after a bowl of it.  I tried to eat a bowl of toasted almonds… still not particularly my thing.  My mom also made some korean-style salmon, cabbage, and tofu soup, and I ate that over a bit of rice.

2.  Hydration

The other change regarding liquids is that I always keep a bottle of insulated hot water next to me, and if I’m in the kitchen I keep hot tea in my line of view or within arm’s reach so that I can keep sipping it throughout my work.  If I’m upstairs, I keep regular water and a giant bottle of gatorade in my room… basically, fluid options everywhere I go.  My lips are still always gross and cracked, but this is one change I’m very conscious of working on (any suggestions of good lip balms?)

3.   Skincare

Kind of related, but I’m trying to also be more diligent on skincare and getting my routine down.  I mostly grow pimples on my chin, but I haven’t perfected always washing my face twice in the morning and twice at night, esp the SPF protection and toner, moisturizing part… it still feels a bit like a lot of work piled together.  I’m on the hunt for an oil cleanser too, as well as a new mask (I still love the Elizavecca Carbonated Piggy Mask, but I want to try other brands too).

4.  Career – Data Science Coursework

I find data science really interesting, and besides taking a few days off while I was feeling ill, I’m slightly behind but almost finished with my Datacamp track in R, and I’ll get started on the Python one.  I’ve been roaming and have a bunch of sources and sites saved up to keep practicing and getting better.  I do feel proud of myself in this area and the progress I’ve made in two months so far 🙂

For example, now I know how to generate a wordcloud using text mining like the one I have on this blog to the right with my tags!  Super cool.

5.   Treatments/Medications

Of course, remembering to do all my treatments and medications daily.

6.  Gym

Was going every other day for about two weeks… then got sick.  I need to force myself back tomorrow 😦  Abs are made in the kitchen, but they need some help.  Also want to get toned and stronger. No pain no gain.

7. Random – Movies

I’ve been on a Martin Scorsese binge lately.  Signature of him to put in a lot of crime, corruption, profanity, and nudity in his films.  I watched Casino and am watching Taxi Driver today.  I realized that I actually really enjoy mob boss type of movies, which makes sense since I love The Godfather trilogy… no movie can beat that though.   Think it’s the way they talk, it’s so scruffy and pestering and it’s funny, especially Joe Pesci’s roles.

On Toxic Relationships: how long do you hold on before giving up?

So… I grew up pretty desperate to have friends.  I didn’t realize this at the time, but wow.  Any friend who would take me, I was pretty happy and excited.  Being homeschooled sucked in that regard- nobody in school really bothered to invest in you as a friendship, so I was invisible.  Even when I was there, I was always so lethargic I don’t know how I made it through looking back now.  And I realized that some people who vaguely knew I had some sort of illness didn’t want any part of me there.  That feeling stayed with me for years, and entering college, I thought freshman year that I had gained some tremendous confidence… but it was fake confidence.

At my core, my confidence was riddled with holes of insecurity, so the foundation was crumbling still, but I didn’t know.  I thought with the fresh start at a new place, I could keep my illness as hidden and buried as deep as possible for as long as I could, and in situations where I had to end up bringing it up, I felt like a torn individual holding my breath, backed up against the wall by their pending judgment.  So… it wasn’t true self acceptance.  Yet.  People thought I was cool, really nice, and even attractive (LOL).  Some people even thought I had dated a lot because I seemed so confident?!  Haaaaaha.

And the time came when I met new friends who were nice to me.  Who seemed to accept me.  I gave all of me, and more into building those relationships… it was exhausting.  I was in a new place, I needed friends to eat meals with, to just hang out with, study with.  I was content to find just one or two solid friends, but hunting was hard when most people were hyped up to party and go nuts, especially the first year.  I wanted to fit in, so I tried.

But I felt burnt out a lot, giving a listening ear even when I was stressed out about my own issues.  I had a ton of music pieces to learn, yet I had this one friend, the first solid friend I found, who often needed my help.  When I first mentioned it to my mom, she warned me not to give away too much help so freely.  Especially my efforts and time.  I didn’t understand what she really meant at the time, and got annoyed.  I felt my mom was too jaded with the world and pessimistic. My friend needed me, so I wanted to prove that I was valuable and worth it.  I didn’t know how to say no, I need to focus on myself right now.  I never said no.

By the third year, I started to get fed up more and more as I noticed this consistent trend where the friendship was a one way street.  She found a boyfriend soon, I was always the leftover one.  She only made time for me if she needed something or if her boyfriend was busy doing something else.  She would out of the blue ask me to grab coffee, and I would excitedly say yes.  But then she would somehow whip out her chinese homework and sweetly ask me what the answers were one by one.  She would ask to study together, then ask me to see my Works Cited page.  She would barge into my room 10 minutes before class started to ask me to use my printer for our senior project class, making me late because I walk slower, multiple times.  The one time my printer actually was malfunctioning and I told her, she got mad at me.

She would say she’s hungry, if I could make ramen for us, and that she would do the dishes. This was the final straw, and the moment I truly burnt out.  Throughout many other examples such as this, I kept trying to convince myself that it was just a phase where she was going through something difficult and really needed me there for her.  I woke up the next day and realized she had not done the dishes, so I grudgingly rolled up my sleeves and did them.  It was this moment where she came out her room and needed to vent about something serious- it was in the morning, and I was not in the mindset to listen, I was tired of our entire friendship to be honest.  I tried to say something helpful, but knew it was useless.  She actually stared at me, then went back into her room and slammed it.  Yes.  Slammed it.

A few nights later, we ran into each other in the art building and decided to talk it out.  I wanted to explain to her for the second time ever that I felt this was a one way friendship a lot of the time.  She got angry with me that I was upset about the dishes not being washed when her problem was more important- I agreed.  But I realized that it was not about the  dishes.  It was the entire friendship that was wearing me down.  She said she felt it was pretty equal, but that she was sorry.  It was always so easy for her to apologize.  After a while, it felt a bit like it had lost its meaning.

I wanted to care about her and be there for her, but I was finding it extremely difficult to juggle on top of everything I was going through on my own.  There were a few moments where she listened to my problems or something, but each time, she would count it.  She would bring it up the next time I tried to explain how I felt and recount how she had done this one thing for me.  I never kept track. It rendered me speechless how she always remembered anything she had done for me and wanted public credit for it (she would ask me if my professor knew she had helped me with an assignment one time… I got a B- on it anyway).

After that talk, a part of me completely burnt out.  During this friendship, it made me paranoid about my other friendships- did I perhaps treat my best friend at home this way?  I tried to look back on our serious talks- all of them had been me ranting or being upset to her, almost never the other way around.  I called her up one night, crying because I was so upset.  I asked her if it felt very one way to her, that it was always me who needed her help.  Even at this, she excelled at comforting me.  She told me, if she ever brought up feeling that way to me, how would I respond?  I said, I would feel so awful.  And she said she knows that if the time ever came when she needed me, she knew she could rely on me to be there in return.  That was probably one of the most comforting responses I’d ever heard in my life.  She told me that while it was important to be there for that friend in school, I was going through a lot of bullshit in my own life.  Was that friend ever truly there for me back?  The answer was not really.

And this was the moment where I wondered… did I hold on enough?  Did I give up on her in a time where she needed someone to hold onto?  Was it selfish of me to let go?  I knew that if I was going through a rough time, I would be so sad if a friend faded away from me.  But what I didn’t realize was that was already kind of the case.

Self care.

Looking back at times, I wondered if perhaps I was too harsh regarding her.  If she wasn’t really that bad, but I was too sensitive and had made it up in my head.

Recently, I realized I went straight the opposite of who I was.  I became the jaded person who tried to care less about relationships with people, especially new ones.  To expect disappointment as an eventual outcome.

The truth is somewhere in between.  There will be disappointment for some of the people you meet in your life.  But not all of them.

You should still keep moving forward.  Still try your best in regards to how you treat people, but also understand reasonably that it’s not likely they will all have your best interests at heart or reciprocate.

My senior year, at our small college I felt that I had met everyone I was likely to become friends and was very close to accepting the fact that I’d be a loner and graduate with no friends.  My therapist at the time encouraged me to keep trying to get to know other people outside of my prior friend group, in which all ties to each other were burnt bridges.  Despite feeling close to certain that there was nobody left and that was probably something perpetually wrong with me that drove people away eventually, I found a really good group of friends that remain strong three years later.  We don’t see each other often, but I know none of them would backstab me or treat me like I was treated.

I should still treasure the friends I have now the way I did, but not to prove my worth as a friend.  Just because I genuinely care and I know both their worth and mine.  I do not deserve to just stick on to anyone who will take me, I deserve more than that.  I can bear to choose who to invest what energy I have in.  At least on my part, I’d like to continue being remembered as the dependable friend.

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