"Where am I now?"
I wake up to that question often these past few days. Not even physically speaking, but mentally. And no, this question isn’t coming out of tired weariness from a night out partying and drinking. (Actually, last night I listened to my body and despite being tempted to party hard on the last day of PRIDE, I opted for a night in of rest to make headspace for today's reflection). No, this is just what happens when my body awakens to a new environment, a new mattress and sheets, and slowly I wait for the internal noise to play catch up.
The question “Where am I now” in conjunction with “Who am I?” is a momentary reflective state of suddenly catching myself up to speed; pressing fast forward through the memory rolodex of the last couple of weeks of reeling with feeling/living with loving/writing and embracing adventures that brought me to where I am today. #verbalvombomb
My morning started with a “OOOH right... today I am (still) in America. Today, I’ll wear shorts, a hoodie, long socks and carry an extra pair of my slouchy drop crotch pants with me for later during the evening because SF weather is just like that; its as spontaneous as my last minute change of plans…Today, I feel good about writing.”
Today, I woke up in a cute loft in the outskirts of the Mission District in San Francisco. (Thanks to my friends who let me crash their Airbnb). Within walking distance, I have an incredible choice of options on the menu of ordering burritos to paninis, almond soy chai lattes to organic smoothies, all within the same coffee shop. And if I just walk around the corner, I can roam the streets of the Mission, ice coffee in hand, and appreciate the blue sky marveling at the street art before me. #Gratitude
Fact: Who and where I was 5 weeks ago is different from who I am today. I can see it through the change in my voice, my energy, my core feelings, my values in flux, my priorities, and my weekly reflection writing.
5 weeks ago, I was a nervous wreck in Yiwu China. Chewing down my nails, hand balancing a cigarette while walking my dog as his nose shuffles through garbage on the streets, pulling him back before he pierces himself from wolfing down a half-eaten sausage on a stick. He gets to it despite my efforts. To be honest, I let him. Poor pup…living near a garbage dump must be temptation galore of “novelty” from the monotony of our imported dog food. I totally get it.
After finally resigning from my position of operating under the eastern values of moral obligation (working within my family business in China), I flew back to Taiwan and took slow baby steps to salvage who I am as an independent individual. I knew I had to deal with the repercussions of finally breaking away from my family and eventually show something for my self worth. I am responsible now for finally making the first decisive move I’ve had made (for myself) in years. It feels empowering, liberating, yet frightening all the same. WHO AM I (now) is the question that's always the hardest to answer in the morning...
Within these 5 weeks, I’ve had found myself pursuing BALANCE (Taipei), LEARN (HK), COLLABORATE (HK/Taipei), FOCUS (Kaohsiung). Now, I’m coming to an end on my 5 step BANDCHALLENGE for this series. Concluding with a CREATE, I’m leaving this post for pure reflection of what the past 5 weeks meant for me. I purposely left it open-ended, without any initial pre-thought out questions almost as a way for saying “shit, anything could happen. Let me just go with the flow with this one.”
CREATE had always been the eventual goal for me. And it’s such a loaded value, mission, intention. It’s such a beautiful word. I am excited now to share it with you.
This past week of CREATE was full of all-embracing responsive moments as I spent my time in California. It feels good, almost too good, to be back. To be back to my “home country,” which I identify as the country where I had spent the majority of my life and developed my core personality. My “motherland” may be in Taiwan, and while half of my heart and the identity spending the past 3 years in Asia is still embedded within my personality and customized value system, I cannot deny the familiarity and ease of being back in American soil. I believe my “crushin it smile” came as soon as I hit a gay club last Thursday night dance battling with a stranger in perfect rhythm to Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”.
Within the past week, I spent my days hiking and biking along nature and the coast in response to embracing my new surroundings for a fresh perspective. What a change to climate! And so began my responsive process: Reeling, feeling, writing, poeming, sharing: CREATING.
The clarity of being lost in thought in the woods in Mount Montalvo created a bounce to my step as I transitioned from running away from the past to living my present reality and chasing in excitement future possibilities.
The mindful and not so mindful trek to find the labyrinth in Land’s End was the kick starter of many more fun adventures with close friends from home. I was able to CREATE work with play, take more mindful pictures of reMINDmebands, and invite my friends to support the movement towards mindful living.
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Biking along the Golden Gate Bridge gave me such a wonderful ecstatic feeling of empowerment. The muscle memory and nostalgic years of my love for urban biking with scenic backdrops came back to me in waves. As I pushed on and powered through the steep hill on the ride to Sausalito, I told myself that these endorphins were natural and free. That I don’t need to chase drugs and alcohol to relive this rush. For me, to bike means to be independently high all the time. And I vow to CREATE this endorphin-rush energy more often for my soul. To seek out beauty from fine heights wherever I am and to rebuild my foundation for fitness within community and activity.
The long and slow hike up to Twin Peaks navigating SF streets to finally come up to a point where the hours of walking uphill was well worth the view of seeing SF from above ended in a celebratory high-five. At the heart was my love for wander and exploration. Going with the flow without the pressure of getting to a destination, being okay with getting lost and sidetracked, and just smelling the proverbial roses . I vow to create more childlike wander and awe moments in my travels and open up to find my creative flow through time spent with nature.
And of course there was the visit to the Castro and Sunday celebration at SF Pride at the Civic Center. The mass shooting in Orlando hit a chord with me and I had left my feelings unprocessed in Taipei, lost in teetering hopelessness for the future of the LGBT community in a trigger-happy country. This changed when I came back and saw for myself the fight and relentless support for happiness and equality. Signs from businesses that say #lovewins and witnessing an all-embracing community at the Castro, Dolores Park, at SF Pride had me glowing with pride.
Here are people who carried on in their skins as individuals worth loving, representing, and fighting for. It wasn’t just a beautiful celebration of equality. It was humanity at its finest hour. I created my mind-breaking understanding through wandering solo what PRIDE means to me. There is no point in labeling, no point in choosing sides and feeling distraught at how constantly my identity wavers in between straight, bisexual, demisexual, pansexual, sapiosexual, gay; this is THE time to embrace me as I am. Being proud to admit that I am queer means that I am fluid and while the blood in my veins flows, I vow to pour more life in my actions, and show more love in my heart to share to the greater world. I am PROUD to be human and to LOVE all humans.
Within this past week, I should admit in honesty, I felt pangs of guilt for being frustratingly....happy. For being closer to my comfort zone than I was before when I was living in struggle and hardship in China "trying to make it."
My internal noise began to rationalize that I needed this. That this, while it looks like “vacation” is me pouring back life into my soul. Meanwhile, in the back of my head, I was still thinking of my coworkers and family back in China caught up in the “work/no life” balance of routine in the fast fashion production world...how it churns..how it has to churn to feed families...
"I am happy. I deserve to be happy on my terms. Take a shot to your escape to happiness. Take 16 shots from this overly excessive beer taste tester flights from Lagunitas Brewery. And please just feel good to be back already…This feeling is bittersweet. This is America in glorified indulgent excess. Or is it just what it is. Is it too soon for me to feel happy and free? Ah! But I love it all the same..."
Of course while novelty feels great right now, I’m eerily uncomfortable with it all initially at first. I tried to explain my feelings to my friends about how this lingering feeling of anxious doubt and guilt is preventing me from enjoying my red wine and the clear breeze in Sonoma county. And I drew a blank. Without wanting to offend anyone, (can you imagine? You just don’t understand because you’ve been in the same place all of your lives.), I left it for this reflection piece to sort out my feels.
How does it feel for my identity to be constantly pulled in multiple directions and transforming day by day to the present environment around me...How does it feel to connect the old me with the new me and figure who I am in between?
My eye-opening/heart-opening trip back home to Taiwan came to a sudden halt as the timing of my life led me to fly back to San Francisco for a friend’s wedding. The groom was an old friend of mine from high school in New Jersey and we also went to the same college at NYU Stern. This is THE nerve-wracking moment where I will reconnect with old friends from high school and college- people I haven’t seen for years and do the whole “what have you been up to?” small talk. I'm a different person than I once was. It occurred to me now that I was anxious because I could not be the same all consuming high-energy/confident "Tiff Lin" as I was 4 years ago. The whole "Who Am I (now)?" question lingered on as I assessed my new feelings coming in. Anxious.
My friends who are warm and loving people—my prescription for a feeling of safety and stability—have lived the past few years post graduation building their careers to a number of promotions within the same vocation, many have furthered their relationships to engagement and recently wed status. These are people I know I can count on yet so hard for me to feel I can 100% relate to. This shouldn't be taken offensively. I know ultimately I have their support and their love and I am forever grateful for that in itself.
The unfamiliar feeling of "Anxious" happens when I tie my past with my present with talks of future. For me to feel self-conscious and even panicked at a party with old and new friends—at this recent development of escaping my negative complex—was understandable I’ll have to say.
I wanted something to show for myself. To say that I too, am about to go to business school. And that I too, will move in with my partner soon. But this is not my present reality. No, it’s definitely different from my norm and current influences and as I started to come to terms of my own reality, I caught myself up to speed to who I am as a person.
And I can decidedly choose to say and start to believe in my act of fearlessness “bold stupidity” of starting over in the process of reinventing myself. One of my NYU friends had mentioned that he’s coming to a point in his career where he has to make a decision “to stay or to go” but is pressured by the money and stability. “It takes so much courage just to start over”
Yes, it does. There’s only one life. The way I see it now is that there are multiple exits, u-turn’s, and gateways towards your own journey to get to the destination of happiness and success...and even that is a long windy open road of endless expansion.
And I believe that’s the point I’m trying and inevitably relentlessly trying to discover. Within this 5 Step BANDCHALLENGE, I had known that I’ve always wanted to figure it out for myself.
How to live a fulfilling life while creating value for others on my own terms.
Before I even started, before I even left the plane from China back to America, I wanted to believe that I had what it takes to create my own path. Create my own definition of work life-balance in my pursuit of happiness, compassion, and authenticity Create amazing relationships through self-worth and respect. Create my time schedule according to my feelings and values. Create my voice and nurture it and own up to it.
Do I have anything besides these past 5 weeks of enriching experiences to show for how I tackled the intention of CREATE? Yes, within me internally, I feel I am blossoming. I do feel nurtured. I do feel empowered. In small waves that come and go. There is anxiety behind it all as all of these feelings are so new, but there is also resilience as I’m beginning to see myself grow the more I emphatically say yes as well as resoundingly say no.
And that is something to be valued.
Seeing my friend, the groom, cry, as the bride walked down the aisle was nothing short but heart-wrenching vulnerable and poetic. Hearing their vows of mutual reciprocity, channeled by their core values of integrity, humility, and generosity, inspired me to find that sort of feeling that builds and transpires through years of commitment, hard work, and trust.
I am so blessed to bear witness for what it means for others to create a life of happiness in mutual harmony and respect. It truly was such a beautiful reception full of tears, laughter, adoration, and genuine congratulations to such a power couple embracing in love.
Seeing the power of LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE through the eyes of so many of those that I respect and cherish, I felt revitalized and this fueled my soul to thrive. Oh, the genuineness of human emotion and spirit give me feels.
I believe my aha moment as I warmed up to the idea that my situation in life “figuring it out” right now is, if not as valuable, as my peers, came when I realized how blessed I am to have the freedom to modify my agency through my growing awareness about myself.
We are all different yet we can be united for those differences and similarities.
The transformation of identity is a powerful one full of subtleties and the more I sit upon and reflect on who I am as a person, the more I feel happy to share my journey along the way.
Our human nature to remain consistent with how we define ourselves shapes our decisions and our behavior on a day to day basis.
- more on the IMPORTANCE OF VALUES my MISSION page
So the last question for myself as the FIRST of the 5 BANDCHALLENGE (CREATE) SERIES for me is coming to a close...
“Where am I? Who am I?”
From walking from my Airbnb, without a real destination in plan, I’ve stumbled into this bougie coffee shop in SoMa, Paramo Coffee. For the past 5 hours straight I’ve been focused on lock-down, slowly sipping on my $3 coffee, breathing in and out, a huge sigh of relief, feeling my heart lifted as my fingers operate with a mind of their own…listening, feeling, writing to come to this conclusion...
I have made my decision to slowly travel on my own east bound. 1 suitcase and backpack in hand. I will be writing more about my adventures, blogging, and living a life of intent. Please follow me on @remindmevalues via Instagram and LIKE my Facebook Page for bits of my journey, reflection from our growing community, and inspiring mantras.
I invite you to be bold. Be daring. Create your own philosophy. Breate your own path.
Create you're own 5 step program and share it!
I'll most definitely start again...the next one for me will be LISTEN
Thank you for listening,