2010 had to be the worst year I have ever had. The good news is, it’s over. The bad news is, you get to hear about it. The real news is that these lessons learned from that year have brought me a lot of success which you can apply to yourselves. So let’s review:
Part I: Summary of events
If you’ve been a loyal follower of my blog, you have seen a complete collapse and reset with all the life events that have occurred and the new direction I’m headed. For starters, the year began with my dad and I preparing to say goodbye as I returned to the U.S. from the Philippines after losing a few months in a cast because I had surgery due to tearing my left ACL. Part of it was to go back and study for the GRE exam, the other part was to be with my then-girlfriend, who probably wasn’t the best reason to prioritize my return.
Had I known what I do now, I would have just moved back to the Philippines to spend the last few months of my father’s life with him instead of going back to find out she was planning to break up and keep a capricious attitude of wanting to be together but not being happy about being together, let alone neither supportive nor understanding of the phase I was in. Complicating things further, I allowed myself to get physically involved with someone else who ultimately had no class, maturity, or intelligence, who rationalized that our involvement had to equal a relationship when I explicitly told her that was not the case several times.
My father had his six strokes but did not seek medical attention, ended up in the ICU, and I got summoned home to see him pass. I watched people, both friends and family, abandon me left and right because they didn’t care for him or me, but rather for handouts to continue living life as self-entitled parasites. I avoided being shot and run over by his psychotic ex-girlfriend, then was foolish enough to believe in the advice of my “mentor” who was another parasite to leave my father’s side in order to start a new life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
There, I found myself drained of everything he could get, lied to, abandoned, and eventually, left to wander New England and the Mid-Atlantic, homeless and sleeping on the streets, hungry, sickly, to the point I nearly died in a hospital.
Had it not been for good friends, I would never have escaped. Continuing on, I lived as a couch-surfer, eventually making my way up and finding out what I really want and what I’m truly capable of.
As I turned 27, I stared at the sea on the Santa Monica Pier and realized I am alive and have come through. The last act that sealed the deal in the last week of December was making peace with my father’s spirit, and finally getting rid of the parasitic con man who masqueraded as my “mentor”: seven years of his deception and manipulation ended not when I banished him from my life after fleeing Pittsburgh in the summer, but when I banished him from my mind by realizing I would no longer give him or memories of him power over me. I never needed a mentor, my father’s approval, or anyone telling me who I am or what I’m good at: I’ve always had it in me, just like everyone else who has the will to be everything and anything they dream of.
Part II: Highlights
So I lost my father, all my money and most of my possessions, and many people I once thought were friends and family, and nearly died, on top of nearly committing some horrible acts in order to survive, such as selling my body (which I thankfully never had to). Why is this a highlight? Firstly, because it’s all behind me now, secondly because it was a necessary catharsis that allowed me to reset and restart my life to do it my way, free of parasites, busybodies, and gutter trash. Garbage in, garbage out!
Two books I’ve read are highly recommended:
Think Like a Winner! by Walter Doyle Staples. This is by far the best self-improvement book I have read. That’s right: it’s not just self-help, it’s self-improvement. Admittedly, the beginning seems like it’s fairly obvious and boring, stuff that we all know intellectually, but read through it and it all makes sense and hits a lot of emotional points. What I try to remember is that I can understand something intellectually, but if my heart doesn’t follow it, then I don’t think I’ve completely understood and taken it in. After reading this, I’ve seriously filtered out a lot of mental and social garbage that have affected me emotionally. So, I control who is in my world, which means only cool, supportive, understanding, beautiful people are part of my life, and everyone else deserves at least one chance to prove that I can give them any thought.
Super Foods by David Wolfe. Following the whole garbage in, garbage out strategy from the previous book, we can control not just the ideas and people we allow inside, but the food that we eat. Ever since I switched away from eating out and vowed no more junk food, I have been eating less, spending less, and feeling happier and healthier with the foods listed here. Following my first week of cleansing my system out, I had a pizza and some Panda Express. I felt extremely tired, grouchy, sick, and bloated for an entire day, compared to the little I eat composed of mulberries, goji berries, golden berries, hemp seeds, raw cacao beans, yacon that offers me lots of nutrition and energy for less calories. Go figure.
This year, I’ve traveled to Guam, the Philippines, all of New England, parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Mexico, California’s Central Coast in Monterey and Big Sur, and San Francisco, as you can see on my Flickr page. It’s a great idea to go out and travel more because when I do that, I leave the environment and its reality, experiencing a different energy from the places, people, food, seasons, smells, and times away. The more I get out, the more I go inside myself and discover the worlds around and within. If you aren’t traveling, you should–even if it’s just a bus ride to a part of town you don’t usually go to.
One of the smaller accomplishments I have done is acquired my motorcycle license, something I always wanted to but never got around to doing, which became the first of many things I did once I got out of the mental and emotional prison I had been trapped in for 7 years. Though I won’t be investing in one any time soon, it’s caused me to begin the momentum I need to realize my dreams.
The last highlight is I finally have a plan and a goal in life, because it ultimately boils down to one thing that determines what you need to do in order to get what you want: defining what you want. Thus, my plan is in motion.
Part III: The plan and the goals
This year, I have already had a month of a head start by fixing and organizing everything. As it stands, these plans are divided into time frames of one year, three years, five years, and ten years, as well as plans B, C, and D.
Plan A involves me spending the first six months of this year getting my paralegal certification–if you have one useful life skill, you will never suffer because you have something to offer that people need, and will happily pay you for. It gives you a sense of self-worth, at least in monetary value. I’ll be getting CPR certification and possibly pistol instruction certification for some weekend income too.
On top of this, I will be taking classes in DJ mixing and scratching and taiko drumming to improve my musical skills, since music is very important in my life. Additionally, this may not seem “practical” or “useful” to many, but the arts are very important for personal development, which has led to my decision to pursue acting as a secondary career and for personal growth. It has always been one of my passions that I discarded because I felt I wasn’t good enough, and listened to other people telling me what I was good at and what I shouldn’t do. I decided to ignore them and do what I want (garbage in, garbage out), so now I am taking classes in voice acting, improv, and live acting.
Man is not what he is or what he has, nor is he the sum of accomplishments he has, but rather, he is the sum of all the potential that he can be. I choose to pursue things and not see them as what I “suck at” or what my “weaknesses” are because by having interest and passion, it is already strength. Thus, my “weaknesses” are not the things I “suck at” but rather the strengths that need to be fine-tuned and improved upon. To that end, I will act, sing, dance, fight, write, cook, love, and work hard to be all that I dream of being and can be.
At the end of the year, continuing on with plan A, I hope to be in grad school at UCSD, then to work in my paralegal field and act on the side, then by 2013 earn my Master’s in international relations. Alternatively, I may defer for a year to work and earn money to pay off debt, then finish by 2014, then work and use my connections for three years, go to law school for human rights and international law, then work with refugees, particularly those in Southeast Asia and with the Chinese communities. Eventually, perhaps own and run my own organization dedicated to helping third culture kids and refugees.
Plan B, however, is based on if I just plain don’t get into any grad school, I will just remain in Los Angeles, act, work as a paralegal, pay off all debts, then try to get into law school and do the same thing as plan A, but with one less degree and a lot less money invested, as well as out of the debt trap.
Amongst other skills I intend to pick up are magic tricks, because it’s an art I respect and admire, as well as understand it’s highly under-appreciated. Great icebreaker skill too. Beyond that, guitar skills, swing dancing, and more martial arts–I intend to master Wing Chun and boxing.
With all this in mind, I realize that in trying to do it all at once, my mistake was I had no patience because I wanted to be everything and have it all while young. In truth, these are life-long pursuits, which is exactly how one remains forever young.
Part IV: The secrets that aren’t so secret: obvious things that will change your life
These have all been extremely helpful to me and require a lot of discipline in order to create the routine that you need to keep working on yourself instead of beating yourself up–something that I and many people have all been guilty of throughout history.
Budgeting and accounting: You wouldn’t believe how much more money you save by setting a budget and sticking to it. My current budget is $1300 a month plus a $200 buffer zone in case anything goes to hell, like my phone bill which shot up to $450 for the month of December due to being put on hold dealing with grad schools, job searching, and other crap.
Every day, I write down every transaction I make, then enter it into the appropriate category in my excel file at home to wrap up in the evening, monitoring where every penny goes. Pick up every coin you see on the ground and put it into the accounting as well, and watch how much money you earn. By being aware of how much I’m spending, I stay within budget and find ways to save more, because I’m basically earning a dollar more for every one I save as it carries over to the next month. Furthermore, I use coupons as much as possible, and wow, I’ve already saved $50 the first week of January.
Lastly, if someone ever tells you that you should take any job like pumping gas at the petrol station, working retail or waiting on tables, tell them to go to hell. Time is money, and taxes are evil, especially here in the United States. In this link here, you can see how much you are taxed based on your income, and an alternative explanation here. So based on those taxes, if you were earning $15 an hour before taxes, you are really earning only $10 once you get taxed by Uncle Sam at the end of the year. So while people tell me to get a part-time job waiting on tables or folding clothes, I’m wasting time I could be using to study or find better, gainful employment. Time is money, and my current worth is $30 an hour based on the best job I’ve worked for my talent: writing and editing. Conveniently, it’s roughly what I’d be earning if the annual salary of a paralegal in my starting year was converted to an hourly wage. So if you ever think you have to work retail and food service in order to make ends meet, guess what? Even with two minimum wage jobs, it just isn’t enough to survive and make ends meet.
Scheduling and time management: take your time, don’t waste mine is a favorite saying of mine. I’ve stopped going on Facebook and arguing with people because as mentioned above, time is money, and 15 minutes wasting my breath convincing someone who is a moron that she’s doing something idiotic is already $7.50 I’ve given her since she’s not paying me. My day is scheduled right down to the minute in an excel spreadsheet, and I try to follow it as strictly as I can, but give myself some leeway if something doesn’t work out like the bus arriving late.
So if someone calls me at 8:00pm, I ask them what they want if they aren’t friends I’m willing to catch up with, and to get to the point (in a polite way), and point out that on my schedule, it’s my dinner time; and similarly, if they call me at 5:00pm, I’m taking time out of tea time for their babbling. The best part about this is that I know the more I’m doing one activity, the more another part of my schedule gets sacrificed for it, which doesn’t cut it because everything I do, I consider it work and an investment, and I’m screwing myself over by wasting time on Facebook instead of studying Chinese.
Setting goals: I know what I want, and with this, it helps me spend the time researching ways to going about achieving these goals. There is no feeling more satisfying than watching your list of goals get checked off and giving you room to let it expand with more goals. Although some goals are not what you can accomplish over night, I like to have several big goals and then a sub-list of smaller goals which are the baby steps to lead up to the entire marathon I need to run in order to reach the end and cross off one of those big goals I have in life. Time management, self-worth, knowing my useful skills, and personal finances are already bringing me closer to complete independence.
Writing things down: so that you have proof that you thought about it and a reminder that you did intend to do it. This is how I feel better about myself because I know what I have to do at the start of the day and it helps me get into the work mind set to accomplish things as opposed to “it gets done when I get to it” approach which clogs up mental space and forces me to try and remember it instead of having a clear, peaceful mind. So I write down mental notes I have for stories I want to write, book titles I want to remember, and phone numbers; I have my little planner and schedule for the year on hand; and a little notepad for every time money exchanges hands, whether I’m paid, I’m buying something, or if I find money on the ground.
Doing more rather than having more: pictures and memories are better than excess baggage. That’s right: when people say someone has too much baggage, I take it a step further and don’t mean emotional, but physical. I strive for mobility, to come and go wherever I want and whenever I please, and having too much junk makes moving hard. Being a Third Culture Kid, it’s all too true when the room and house have to be packed up. Fortunately for me, every time I’ve had a major move, a crisis occurred, like my house burning, people repossessing it all, or things getting stolen. So I got myself a camera and a Flickr account and decided I want to do more, because it makes me feel young and invincible instead of accumulating things I’ll never use or easily forget about. On that note, get a library card instead of buying books, seriously. Trees will thank you, not just because of how many are cut down for making books, but because they won’t be turned into money, too.
Defining and re-defining yourself instead of finding yourself: I spent too much time listening to the wrong people, asking for advice, and thinking the first time I screwed up, I’m not good enough. Like I said earlier, if you have an interest or a passion, you already have a strength, even if you don’t feel competent enough at it. You can always improve yourself, because if you think you are great at something, sometimes you feel you don’t need to work on it. The problem with that logic is that you end up like a muscle man who stops working out because he thinks he is good enough. Real bodybuilders know they can be better, and the goals become higher and higher. So no weakness exists, it should be merely a strength to be refined and improved. Man is the sum of his potential and what he can be, not his current state and past accomplishments. I always thought I couldn’t play music or fight, but after I told the voices in my head that echoed some “friends” I knew to shut up, I found that I’m pretty good and a lot better than I thought because I kept working on it. Nobody is born good, since you have to make yourself. I choose to make myself a winner.
Garbage in, garbage out: people, ideas, food, and environment are toxic to you if you choose the wrong ones. However, if you live with the wrong people, they feed you ideas that hurt your self-esteem, especially if they are your parents. Whenever I visit my mother or sister, I keep a certain distance because I love them to death–emphasis on the latter part. Honestly, when you love someone too much, you can potentially suffocate them, especially if your intentions and expression don’t match up to how they interpret it. What they believe is good for me is usually not with my own personal best interests in mind. They can tell me it’s good for me to do this or that, but honestly, they don’t know me, they project what they think is good for me and end up arguing with me when I don’t see it as they do.
How do I deal with this? Being busy. I’m not making excuses, I actually am busy, hence having my personal schedule that I happily forward to anyone who has to ask. I also keep a distance with what I listen to and consider who they are and what they have to filter out garbage they unknowingly throw my way. At the same time, I also am cautious about what I say because they don’t necessarily understand what I mean.
In doing this, I create my own environment, intake, and output, so that I have my own little personal world. Third Culture Kids don’t need to be bonded by nationalities, ethnicity, possessions, wealth, or list of countries they have lived in, but by common experiences and values. This isn’t even unique to TCKs, but it’s how I relate to all of them. So my family is my family and people around me are simply other people (as hell is other people too), but I create a sacred space around me that allows select people, ideas, and food inside so that I can live in my own bubble. Not a bubble to blind myself to reality, but a bubble that allows me to filter and reshape reality to help me move up and eventually help others.
The biggest caution is to only help those who want and ask for my help specifically. Otherwise, I’m like those meddlesome and officious people who offer advice without having any life experience and actually know nothing about what they are talking about. An example is some idiot girl I know who told me how to deal with my father’s passing without ever having lost her own parents, let alone been homeless or nearly killed and having everything taken from her the way I had. It’s the blind, deaf, and dumb people telling us what we don’t see, aren’t listening to, and should know. Garbage in, garbage out.
Fitness is fabulous: Body image seriously affects your thinking. So I make it a point to work out every day at the gym, and every hour, do at least 15 pushups and 25 squats. In doing this, I don’t get upset about being fat or out of shape, and I know I’m making little strides to improve when I can.
Keep your standards high and your expectations low: If your standards are high, you filter out a lot of crap. Why waste your time on anything less than perfect if you believe you are capable of doing great and having the best? Be entitled to it, but don’t forget to work hard in order to earn it. Consequently, don’t have high expectations because you will be disappointed. By keeping your expectations low, you will constantly surprise yourself and be pleased when you exceed your expectations. The only expectation I have is to do my best. John Wooden once said “The worst we can do is our best.”
Google is your friend: because most people can’t be trusted for their word. If something is too good to be true, I google it and put in “scam” to see if it’s legitimate. If people talk about how great one restaurant is, I google it and type in “sucks” because it will show me how many people share the sentiment that it’s not great as it seems to be. A lot of people believe they are expert critics because of how often they post on yelp, but taken with a grain of salt, it’s a good way to not only find out about a place, but alternatives. This is how I found five acting schools and determined where I really want to go in the future, and how I researched law firms I intend to intern in after my paralegal program.
Part V: Final thoughts
The goal for this year is to make this the best year of my life, because 2010 was easily the worst year of my life. So far, I’ve been successful because I’m not expecting to have all of these dreams, plans, goals, and ambitions to eventually fit into my year–I’m acting on them as if I have to do all of it today. As a Third Culture Kid, it’s not about where I’m from, but where I’m going, but if I really have to answer? I’m from the here and now.
Closing thoughts and videos that define how I feel about myself, my dreams, and ambitions?
YES I CAN!
And how I feel about being with quality people, such as, oh let’s say Ellen Wong? Well, I’m being facetious when I say this, but in the immortal words of Wayne from Wayne’s World:
Lastly, the song that is my theme song, which I play every time I leave my apartment and defines my attitude and life ahead of me:
Even if there are a lot of people who have wronged me, I’m still out to get revenge on them. And guess what? The best revenge is living a good life. So I’m having the best revenge I can right now. The world is mine, and it’s my life.