Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow On White And Red)
Mark Rothko, 1949.
If I told you how much I love you, I think you’d believe it.
I’m terrible with words, especially when there’s urgency involved.
I created a timeline and promised (more like expected, let’s be real here) myself that I need to write and publish this post on the 30th of June, 2018, but look at the date today – it’s the 18th of July already. I can apply a saying in Chinese in this situation, which translates into how “plans can never keep up to their respective changes”. This is indeed the case.
Ironic, I know, considering that I have a blog and I ramble about experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Even more ironic if as evidenced in my lengthy messages (voice recordings, postcards and texts and from time to time – emails) with people I’m comfortable with.
To be frank, this whole obscure intimate moments and color project started off accidentally. I was looking at my polished red toenails one day and realized that not many people have seen me in my natural form. It is a small, intimate detail that not many can tell. I love shoes, perhaps a little bit too much, but despite this affinity, I do like having my feet out and bare the most. It all comes back full circle to comfort.
I was struck with the sudden awareness that a lot of the experiences we have truly boils down to whether or not we are comfortable. It’s also closely tied to intuition, or our “gut feeling”, so to say. At first glance, it can seem so silly to trust something that springs out of nowhere, perhaps causing a stomach drop or a throat choking sensation most of the times. Well, or as I’ve learned recently, a sense of everlasting calmness despite my occasional overthinking and analysis. It’s quite a nice, refreshing feeling, actually. Then (okay, to be fair, I don’t know how accurate your intuition is, but mine is a little too spot on) with the test of time, and the additional honest hindsight, my mind repeats the mantra “I told you so” to myself one too many times.
It’s not to categorize comfort and discomfort into black and white, or good and bad. We need both of them, just like yin requires yang to become complete. There is a reason why the descriptor “comfort zone” exists. Too much of that leads to stagnancy, loss of direction (in a general sense), and the demise of growth of all sorts. Too little of that leads to constantly feeling on the edge and the absence of safety. A balance is required, as a plethora of anything can impose harm.
For those of you who more or less know me personally (you know, rather than another faceless, nameless, anonymous blogger out there), one of the greatest leaps I’ve made this year would probably be to let myself be heard a bit more. I have always been terrified to rock the boat, whether that person may be a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, a family member, or even someone I love. This fear, manifested by mainly yours truly, derived from many sources. Just to name a few, they come from the people I’ve been exposed to, my experiences, interactions, upbringing, and perceptions / misconceptions. The point is, and as stated before, I have been so comfortably uncomfortable and so accustomed to walking on eggshells, I’ve somehow normalized abnormal and unhealthy / toxic behaviors and relationships. That took me a long time to recognize and I’m still on my path to change.
quick note and personal lesson I’ve learned regarding “rock the boat”:
I most likely do not know you. I don’t know your experiences, upbringing, and the people you dealt and are currently dealing with, and I bear no judgment as we are all going through different issues. They induce the same type of universal feelings and emotions though. There may be times when you feel scared to speak up and express your thoughts, feelings, opinions, or even facts due to the uncertainty of that other person’s actions and reactions. This is completely valid, and I can personally relate and vouch to the countless times I’ve reacted the same way. I still feel the same way a lot.
However – staying silent because you are scared of the other person’s reaction is an inaction itself. Personally, it’s okay (and even more than okay to stay still at times, because I am human and it’s normal to feel lazy) to do nothing, but in this situation?
It doesn’t matter. Okay, maybe not completely, but it barely matters.
How do I know this?
Well, with the test of time and experience, it has become quite evident to me (even though I do need to remind myself) that people already have their own perceptions and opinions about you. We know this. This is rudimentary knowledge that we possess, but we somehow forget this fact when it comes to people we care about. Perhaps it’s out of love, perhaps it’s out of fear, or a combination of multiple feelings.
The point here is: it doesn’t matter whether or not you “rock the boat”, because as much as you walk, stomp, or even jump – you are not in control of the waves. You will never have that sort of control. The waves will come and go. The sea can and will be calm and violent at different intervals. You will feel at ultimate peace, and you will feel like your world that you are familiar with and / or aware of is redefining and shattering during different stages of your life. It is normal. The only thing you have reign over are your actions and words, and for your fears to cloud or hinder what you actually want to do or express will do you nothing but harm and regret as time goes by.
The boat will be rocked by the waves you cannot control, so you might as well control and seize what you can, which are your words and actions. Do it with respect, honesty, and grace, and I promise that you will look back with (minimal) regret despite the waves of emotions and hurt you may be feeling at that certain point then. Not “rocking the boat” will only lead to one heartbreaking outcome that we are all too familiar with, so you might as well do it. Sometimes we expect the worst, but a lot of the times, that worst case scenario only and simply plays and exists in our head.
I went through, and I still am going through, multiple rounds of trials and errors.
Even though we’re only a bit more than halfway through 2018, I can say with utmost confidence that this is the year of my breakthrough. There were so many smiles, laughs, tears, occasional anger, and magnitudes of pain already, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I’ve been exposed to new people, perspectives, and experiences. Some good, some bad, and some in between, but I’d like to say that I’m grateful for all of them despite what I might have felt during that moment. Here’s my appreciation and gratitude to being able to see the light even within the darkest moments in my life.
Lakewood, WA, United States.
One of my friends I’ve known since middle school got married on the 30th of June, 2018. He’s had his fair share of struggles prior to that, and when he broke the news to me late last year, my primal gut instinct told me that it was an event that I could and would not miss.
This was the second time I traveled by air for him.
The first time happened all of a sudden. I was at the east coast in New York, and he was at the west coast in Seattle. During our freshmen year of college (2010), he texted me one day and came out to me as being bisexual. (To be fair, I couldn’t find my messages, but if I were wrong on this, he’ll correct me, but I remember clearly he said that to me.)
I told him I supported him and loved him no matter what.
A couple of months before graduation – perhaps it was March or April 2014, we managed to reconnect and he revealed to me that he has a boyfriend. I was the first person to know after his twin brother, and I knew it took him a lot of courage to even muster his confession to me. He was frightened for sure, but definitely didn’t display any signs of terror. I could sense his relief when I embraced him and the secret he held on for so long in fear of being judged or hated for a part of who he is. He doesn’t care about the randoms, the nobodies, the strangers. He cares about the opinions of his loved ones, and I happen to be fortunate enough to be one of them.
He wanted to introduce him to his parents during graduation, and he was a wreck about it. It was apparent to me that he knew how much of a shock and impact the revelation would be to his parents, but it was something he needed to do. It is still extremely admirable and brave of him to do this during that time, and he was not doing it just for his partner, relationship, or love, but for himself, too.
My lizard brain at the time told me to fly over to the west coast for the first time. For him. I didn’t need to, I simply just wanted to. For him. I wanted him to know that I love him no matter what happens and that I will be there for him despite being terrible with communication at times. I also wanted to distract him, so we coordinated with each other and decided to fly to Las Vegas for that weekend. It was the first time for the both of us. We were not expecting anything (but definitely had so much fun – sometimes the best experiences happen when they are unexpected and with an open heart, well, that and my plans executed pretty well, too). We were simply content with hanging out for an extended period of time with each other after a deprivation of that for so many years.
I ended up ditching my plans with another close friend of mine in New York – we were supposed to attend NYU Senior Week events together, and I just resigned abruptly, telling her that I needed to go to the west coast without much explanation. That was my problem that I’ve admitted. I’ve apologized multiple times and it’s water under the bridge for us for a while already, but a part of me will always feel bad about missing out this week in particular with her. Perhaps I was too whimsical back then.
And that was why I ventured out to the wild, wild west for the first time in 2014.
I’ve always tried my best to please my parents, elders, and friends so they would like me. It’s crucial for me to be liked, because I determined my value as a person by how likable I was. A personal litmus test for how pleasant I was as a person would be determined by how I agreeable I was.
I mean, it’s psychology. We tend to be attracted to people who has similar views and interests as we do. This was innate knowledge for me, though, but with a lot of compromise and altercations added into the equation. If I were to complete certain tasks and actions or say specific keywords, people would…be drawn to me. I bended and twisted my thoughts and beliefs and agreed with others instead of voicing out my feelings.
That was a harsh lesson to learn, and it was one that hit me really hard in high school for the first time. I tried my best to befriend the popular kids in high school by being helpful and kind. Perhaps it was to “raise” my own value at school, to feel better about myself, or a failed attempt to mask up my insecurities. I still don’t quite know the precise reason, so I’d say probably all of the above. There were personal intentions involved, so my motivation behind my actions were not sincere. However, not to defend myself, but at the time, I was pretty much being used for homework assistance, too.
It doesn’t matter now. None of that does, but in hindsight, it was a bit endearing how I thought that not being liked by everyone was as significant as the world ending. I suppose our priorities change and solidify after all these years. This signifies growth.
My friend is one of those few rare anchors I have in life. I am extremely lucky to have met him since seventh grade. He keeps me grounded, and somehow makes me feel safe and comfortable. Even though we are in sporadic contact nowadays (and by that, I mean we can go on without talking to each other for months and then resume as if nothing has happened), we know we have each other to rely on.
I had to go, so I broke the news to my parents starting from last year.
At first, they were quite dismissive and said that we would discuss about the trip as the date approached, and so I did – I let it go until April and May. I was more than partially scared of their reaction, but after going through many obstacles and hoops that were given to me in just this year (told you it was the year of breakthrough), I think my fear of missing out on events that can be categorized as “once in a lifetime” is exponentially greater than the personal feeling of inadequacy when it comes to facing my parents.
So I mentioned this trip over and over again. My parents managed to dodge – over and over again.
I ended up snapping like a rubber band on its edge (not in an impolite way though) and asked my father calmly why they didn’t want me to go.
He started telling me that I wasn’t hardworking enough. I wasn’t good enough compared to my brother. I wasn’t counting my lucky stars enough. The economy has seen its new low and all I wanted to do was to fly internationally out for a wedding. I was selfish.
I don’t disagree with the last one. I am selfish. I think it is necessary to be a bit egocentric at times. For a significant chunk of my life, I have lived under others’ rules, desires, and expectations. I seldom stopped and wondered what was it that I wanted until I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I’m fully aware of the importance of compromise, but there are certain boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. We all build up those rules as we grow up, so don’t worry if you’re still unsure about everything. It’s a continuous learning process.
There were a lot of backlash and remarks that were potential fuses for arguments, but I refused to go down that road.
Eventually, my parents noticed that my will to go was not wavering. They always knew the type of person I am – after all, they know me. I’m the kind of person who tries to not sweat the small, but holds his / her stance on the major issues.
I told them that this was a significant event for me, and that I understood their point of view and concern. Sexual orientation was not something that could be chosen, nor should someone be judged for it. I could relate why there was stigma from their side to it, as they were not exposed to other sexualities during their times. I also pointed out to them that they were always aware that I could just go, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted their blessing, and I was discussing this with them today out of respect.
They finally relented and I went.
(PS: I’m not the only one who has a bouquet, and since I couldn’t bring the flowers away, I gave it to the hotel receptionist the day after. It brightened up her day and that was pleasant.)
To my dear friend who may or may not see this:
I saw a rainbow the day before my departure to San Francisco. I snapped a picture and sent it to you. It reminded me of you. I couldn’t really think of much during those days, anyway. I had tunnel vision for you and your big day.
I love you – I hope this is the start of your journey to your happily ever after.
Love is love, and it is such a beautiful yet inexplicable and irreplaceable element in our lives that makes each and every one of us just a bit more complete.
You convince me that I am capable of loving based on my feelings, words, and actions towards you.
And perhaps – one day I could also encounter my happily ever after, too. Thank you for making me believe, even just for now, that this could happen someday.
This is something that I don’t want to forget.
And you, dear reader, whoever you are: I hope you are in love in some form or another now, too.
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
– Dr. Seuss