Sunday, January 31, 2010

Soul searching

I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.
Eleanor Roosevelt

I saw the side of my cousin's mug one day in college and it said, "Don't discover yourself; create yourself." I thought, Hmmm, slightly intriguing and inspiring but something seems incredibly wrong about this idea. After almost ten years, I'm starting to understand what I dislike and disagree with about this statement. Although I do find it inspiring and I, to an extent, agree that you have control over who you are and how you react to the world and how you shape your own attitudes, I also disagree for almost the same reasons.
Who we are is due to our interactions with the world, to new challenges and perceptions we meet, and due to new experiences that force us to confront our true inner demons or hidden angels. Nobody can wake up one day, say This is who I am going to be! and instantly be that person... because he/she still doesn't really know who that person is. Unless that person has experienced a realm of problems, chaos, and luck, he/she can never really know who they are.
We realize who we are based on what we've done. We see a homeless man pan handling and we think, "Aww poor man" or "Hmm, get a job". We babysit a child and we either play naturally with him or her or we have trouble relating. We get into an argument with a friend and we dramatize the story or handle it diplomatically. But we can never really know how we will react in a situation until we are in that situation. (This is a lesson that took all my adult years thus far to learn.) Without these experiences that shape how we perceive the world, we can't decide who we want to be so in effect these moments are shaping our thoughts and thus, us.

Everyone I've met since college and every job and argument and failure has shaped how I see myself, how I perceive the world, and who I want to be. Without these experiences, I wouldn't have 'found' these characteristics I so admire in people that I want to see in myself. Without the people I've met and interacted with, I wouldn't have 'found' all the perceptions that have shaped my understanding of other people's suffering and joy. Without my travels and journeys, I wouldn't have 'found' this understanding of the world and the relationship and responsibilities I want to have with my global community.

I'm thankful for the room mates I had in college who helped me figure out how to cope and how I want to cope in times of stress. I'm thankful for the pilots I've met and debated with who shaped my perceptions of issues in the world. I'm thankful for the volunteers I've met in my travels who have shown me patience and how to balance a loving heart with a happy life--something I am striving to achieve everyday.

I agree that there will come moments in your life where you can choose how you want to react, what kind of attitude you want to exude, and thus who you want to be. But until you find yourself after experiencing as much as you can in this world, you won't know who you want to be nor how. After almost ten years since seeing that mug, I have been to Costa Rica and seen organic farms next to malnourished children; to New Orleans where I built homes next to a man who told me about his wife who died from stress caused by Katrina; and to the UK where my philosophies on politics, friendship, and love are constantly evolving. If you asked me when I was eighteen who I wanted to be, I might have answered, "Angelina Jolie" or "Martina McBride". Ask me now at twenty-seven and I might say, "Someone who is patient; someone who judges less and listens more; someone who knows what she doesn't know and asks the right questions."

So experience life; find yourself. For it wasn't until I started to find myself that I started to know who I wanted to be.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Soul Mates?

For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.
Judy Garland

I got an email a few days ago about a discussion a friend and I had two years ago. Pretty amazing that something I wrote could be profound to someone years later. I think the writing she is referring to is an interesting topic as well, definitely worthy of a blog post perhaps?

And even though its two years later thanks so much for sending this!!!!!! Its amazing how the friends in my life can have such positive impacts to my own..

good nite,


On Thu, Dec 13, 2007 at 9:18 AM, Margaret Tong wrote:

I've spent the last week or so trying to write a paper assigned by my friend Matt after a dinner discussion in Berkeley (mon dieu, que j'aime Berkeley). During spare moments at work or late night writing fits, I have tried to work on this assignment. I have tried to define "soul mate" and "true love" and how they differ. I've taken on this subject at multiple angles, referring to everything from Romeo and Juliet to eHarmony, but always find myself writing more with intellect than emotion and with a topic like this, intellect isn't enough because love itself is not empirical. A cold, hard look at love the summer after freshman year made me wonder if love is just a mystical idea humans have formed to differentiate us from the animals; to make sex excusable and not just an act of evolution and animal instinct. (That argument alone could branch into many different arguments in regards to religion, fate, destiny, etc. So I'll try and focus on the task at hand.)

The problem with this belief is it starves the soul (although soul itself is in question if love can be argued) and makes life pretty difficult to bear when the magic of love is absent. So assuming love is real, therefore true love is possible, what is the difference between a true love and a soul mate? In true female form, I am throwing logic out the window and writing with emotion... (face it ladies, we think more with our hearts and souls, ignoring our fantastic brains... but our emotions are the key to the evolution of the human race... but that's another writing assignment. I digress...)

I have been trying to define a true love and a soul mate with multiple drafts and I haven't found a definition I feel comfortable with... mostly because I find my definitions in conflict because I keep overanalyzing. So, I'm basing my definitions on emotions, how we feel is the divide between the two.

Meeting a soul mate is like meeting yourself. You feel like you've known them forever and you feel like you know how they tick because your souls are one in the same. The formal french term for this is "moitie" which means half or less formally, ame soeur, which means soul sister because your souls were born together like sisters. The things in life that make soul mates angry, sad, happy, etc. are similar and the ways they react are similar. That person's soul is your soul's twin... Sometimes though, a soul mate won't walk through life with you forever. But their presence in your life might solely be to show you things about yourself you weren't aware of and help nourish your soul.
True loves on the other hand? True loves don't meet each other feeling they know everything about the other. They meet each other with the same blank slate that they meet everyone else except for maybe a spark of attraction. They don't know what makes the other person tick... not at first anyways. But as they learn more about each other and gravitate towards one another, they want to learn all these things about the other. They want to learn more about what makes a person tick, why they cry, laugh, get angry, etc. and they fall in love with all those things. True love is when they don't want to live without these things, these ticks and idiosyncrasies that others might judge. True love is without judgment, pure, and everlasting and sometimes full of sacrifice, compromise and hard work.

How many soul mates and true loves can a person have? I'm not sure... I think people only allow themselves one true love though. After they've endured the beauty and hardships and sacrifices of their first true love, it is too exhausting, too heartbreaking, and too difficult for the heart to recover from the loss of a true love to allow for another one. As for soul mates, I like to think a person can have multiple. Maybe one ultimate soul sister... and a couple soul cousins?

As I was walking around work today doing my 2pm wake up laps, I thought about a man I met on my plane home from Spain and what we discussed true love was (I like having deep philosophical discussions with strangers). Anywho, in his drunken stupor he managed some very intelligent words...(shit hold on, gotta look in my journal where I quoted 26B...)
""When you're with someone," he leans in, far in, to my personal space, "and there's synergy, that's when things are good. When the two of you together are better than the sum of your parts, that's when it's good. That's when you should stay… It's when the other person is draining you, that's when it's bad. That's when it's time to pull out. It's about being strong on your own."
True love as quoted by a chianti-filled man... and I fully concur.

True love will inspire you to be a better person. A soul mate may have shared a soul from the same source but a true love is someone whose soul is going in the same direction...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hait: ways to help now.

How can we help?

Partners in Health has a good reputation that I've seen so far. Also, former President Bill Clinton is the US Special envoy to Haiti and leads the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund.I also received this email from my AMSA network. If you know doctors, medics, nurses or other medical specialists interested in helping, please pass this on!:
Hello Global,
Call for medical personnel volunteers needed for a NPH orphanage in
Haiti forwarded from my brother who worked at NPH-Mexico.
All details below. Please distribute to any at your institutions who
might be interested and able to assist.
Peace, Justin

Providing Basic Needs:
• American Red Cross
• United Nations Foundation/CERF
• World Vision
• International Relief Teams
• Save the Children
• Catholic Relief Services
• Samaritan's Purse
• American Jewish World Services
• Yéle Haiti
• World Concern
• Mercy Corps
• Operation Blessing International
• Mercy & Sharing
• Oxfam America
• United Way Worldwide
• Episcopal Relief & Development
• Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
• Love a Child
• Project Hope
• Concern Worldwide
• Adventist Development and Relief Agency
• Salesian Missions
• World Neighbors
• World Relief
• Kids Alive International
• ADRA International
• World Relief
• Lions Clubs International
Providing Shelter:
• Shelterbox
• Habitat for Humanity International
• International Organization for Migration
• Pan American Relief

Providing Medical Aid:
• Direct Relief International
• International Medical Corps
• Medical Teams International
• Doctors Without Borders
• Operation USA
• MAP International
• World Health Organization
• Americares
• Project Medishare
• Partners in Health
• Healing Hands for Haiti
• Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti
• International Child Care
• Friends of the Orphans
• American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
• Heart to Heart International
• Operation Smile
• MerlinUSA
• MedShare International

Providing Food:
• World Food Programme
• The Salvation Army
• Compassion International
• Food for the Poor
• World Water Relief
• Action Against Hunger
• Food For the Hungry

American Red Cross
Donations can be made online or $10 donations can be made by texting "HAITI" to 90999.

Donations can be made online.

Catholic Relief Services


YELE Haiti Foundation

Haitian musician Wyclef Jean's foundation is accepting online donations.



International Rescue Committee
$5 donations can also be made by texting "HAITI" to 25383

Doctors Without

Partners in Health

104 E. 40th St., # 903
New York, NY 10016
212 557 8000
800 59-CONCERN

Clinton Bush Haiti Fund

Read more:,8599,1953454,00.html#ixzz0ct4ihAT1

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cat Laine

Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.
Ryunosuke Satoro

I am thankful for women like Cat Laine.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Only after disaster can we be resurrected.
Chuck Palahniuk

I've written entries post-Myanmar, post-China earthquake, post-tsunamis and cyclones and I go through the same woeful tales of those who suffer through moments we cannot imagine. However, Taiwan, Indonesia, and now Haiti do not need pity-blogs right now. The future of those areas need people who are mindful, aware of their decisions and the implications of daily acts, and who are ready to make changes. To us, the tragedies are just headlines for the next few weeks or a month until a political scandal takes its place. Unfortunately, reading and talking about the headlines is not enough. Giving money to organizations like the Red Cross and the IRC and UNICEF and CARE but our compassion dwindles when the dust fades and those organizations are left alone until the next devastation strikes. Unfortunately, it is in these times that NGOs have an opportunity to enter center-stage and show the world how important they are; they can show the world how they can help when everyone else is too busy or too unprepared; they can show the world how much the world really depends on them. However, those impressions are not lasting for everybody. The real lessons usually aren't even broached.

What we need to do is understand our role during these tragedies, which is as much as any government’s or NGO’s. We can 'spread awareness' about problems and issues in the world. So what does that really mean? We cannot really affect much by telling people about an earthquake—that's just spreading the news. We can't simply tell people that Haitians live in poverty and need help. That's just asking for charity. The real solution perhaps lies in the idea that we are all able to affect changes in other places, close and faraway. Changes in how we perceive ourselves in the world and our relation to the global community can lead to bigger changes in rural areas. If we understand how our decisions and desires and needs affect developing nations, we can make better informed, conscientious decisions in the future that might affect the infrastructure, poverty, and economies of third-worlds.

We can’t prevent earthquakes or hurricanes (or can we?-depends on if you believe in global warming… we shall touch on this later). But before the next disaster strikes, we can influence the world’s capacity to prevent destruction of Haitian magnitude. By making consumer decisions that are more responsible, as well as creating awareness and promoting NGOs that help build infrastructure, we can support stability. Haiti is plagued by infrastructure problems (rough or lacking roads, shabby buildings, unsafe drinking water) as well as unemployment and lack of education. However, the island of Hispaniola and the Caribbean area in general is a huge tourist attraction. As tourists, we can influence the industry’s decisions on supporting the local economy, decreasing deforestation (or increasing forestation) which has led to huge problems in Haiti and how islands defend themselves in natural disasters, and support government developed infrastructure. As Americans (or Brits, or Canadians, or any country with too much time on their hands), we determine what the demand is and what direction development goes.

We can also support NGOs and organizations that work to improve sustainability—groups that help promote infrastructure rebuilding ( or, clean water access (;, access to food (, education access ( and organizations such as AIDG which helps individuals and communities get affordable and environmentally sound access to electricity, sanitation and clean water (
We can choose to support Fair Trade and voice our concerns about NAFTA. We can support local farmers, pay more for ethically grown produce and agriculture.

We can choose to be more environmentally aware and try to understand our impact on the earth. We make choices everyday that acts as a vote on how we see agriculture and environment. We make decisions to drive faster instead of economically or heat the house warmer instead of adequately. We can reduce our consumption, increase demand for ethically and morally produced goods and services and promote organizations that do the same.
Our decisions shape our world. Our sacrifices and contributions shape our world. The next country that gets hit by a cyclone or earthquake doesn’t have to suffer the same fate as Haiti, so long as we make that choice.


- (noun) vagrant, drifter, floater, vagabond
- (adj.) rootless: wandering aimlessly without ties to a place or community; "led a vagabond life"; "a rootless wanderer"
- (adj.) aimless: continually changing especially as from one abode or occupation to another; "a drifting double-dealer"; "the floating population"; "vagrant hippies of the sixties"

Princeton Online Dictionary

I have moved approximately 27 times in my life (possibly more). Given that I am now (shockingly) 27 years old, I have moved an average once a year in my life. For a few years, I actually averaged two moves a year and by the time I finished my 'gap year', I was able to put everything I lived with into 9 boxes and I moved my life around in an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Sometimes, I think of myself and my mom as the mother and daughter in Chocolat, constantly moving with the wind.
I never had one house that I grew up in where all my fond childhood memories are attached to. I don't have a wall in a house somewhere where my mom pencilled in my height on my birthdays. The stairs I walked down before my prom are definitely not the same stairs I tumbled down on when I was 6. I also never had neighborly attachments; well, I've had a few like the boy I played with when I was in 2nd and 3rd grade who I actually came to loathe; there was also Nina, the woman with the cute kittens and smoked like a chimney which led to a vow as an 8-year old that I would never smoke; there were the Jewish sisters whose family always seemed to be looking down on me for my race, my class, and my lack of etiquette even though they prided themselves for their tolerance; and there was the sweet couple that lived next door to my home in high school--she was from Brazil and he had a keen interest on making me a private employer for his small home business. (Creepy?)

I'm always amazed and a bit envious of people who have those attachments--to their childhood homes and to their lifelong neighbors. But now, looking back, I can't imagine my life any other way and I wonder how it has shaped who I am now. Perhaps my mom's constant need for change is an even bigger factor as to why I crave stability and yet runaway from it. I used to come home from school after she had a day off or come home from a weekend trip to find every room in the house completely reconfigured. I was always amazed by the fact this little Asian woman was able to move entertainment shelves, couches, and bunk beds all by herself. (I once came home to find she had bought a new toilet, brought it home, removed the old toilet, and installed the new one completely by herself all within a few hours--she is Al Borlin, East Asian version). But now I find I always need change; changes in my environment and surroundings give life to new inspirations. And I need that. I learned that something as simple as the height of a ceiling can influence a person's ability to imagine and I think that seeking simple changes like that can constantly re-inspire and give light to new ideas. The way energy moves in a room or the amount of energy that is allowed into a room can really lead to creation! And I have high hopes for our next home where I can feel the creative juices flow... (they feel aquamarine.)
But, I always imagined a different lifestyle for my kids. I want them to be able to grow up in one address and have their own idiosyncratic relationships to where they grew up. But I wonder if I'll be able to live like that or if I'll always be ready to pack up again. Will I always be living with my boxes half-packed? ...when will the wind die down?

Monday, January 4, 2010

.resolutions and revolutions: part 1.

New Year's Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.
James Agate

A new decade has arrived and people everywhere seem to be ready to usher in a new year and a new era. What people won't realize is not much changed between December 31 and January 1st. We didn't change; the earth didn't stop spinning in a different direction; the world didn't get the 'Reset' button pressed. We have the same problems we did in yesteryear and unfortunately, most likely, the same mindset with which we may continue these problems. What people don't realize is, the date is just an arbitrary number in many ways. Our traditions may make us believe otherwise but until someone proves me wrong, January 1st is not a day that is a whole lot different than say August 18th, save maybe the weather.

So, knowing this, I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions. I think it's a great idea except people are constantly evolving and growing (at least I hope they are). So why should people resolve to change only once a year? Change and growth should be continuous; we should strive to better ourselves all the time. Instead of making resolutions this January 1st, I'll review the resolutions I've made in the past few months or even years, see if I've been making any progress, and also make some new resolutions.

My Resolutions:
1) Make the most of every moment.
I've talked about this before but it's an ideal I've always had trouble really understanding and therefore implementing. What does it mean to make the most of a moment? Every moment only happens once, you only get one chance at life--so make sure every moment isn't wasted. But what does that really mean? Does it mean hashing every Monday night and going to every pub crawl and making sure when I'm 80 I have more stories to tell than a Navy sailor from the fourties? Or does it mean enjoying every moment in a way that is true to me, be that lounging in bed all day or catching up on sports news and listening to a game online.... Sometimes I wish I had tales to tell about crazy nights out on the town, but for the most part I just don't and that's just not me anyways. So what does making the most of every moment mean to me?
I think it could also mean making the most of every moment, no matter how tedious or dull.... find a way to make someone laugh in the midst of a hard day at work or to make a walk home more interesting by starting a conversation with a lonely stranger. I think it means not letting life dictate you but you dictating life in whatever fashion is true to you.

2) Be fair-Judge less.
Judging is one of my worst traits and, not to throw my mom under the bus here, but I think I learned it from her. It's a good defense mechanism if you want to keep toxic people out of your lives; profile them quickly and avoid any drama in your life by not letting anyone into it. However, this trait bleeds into other realms of our lives and we don't just judge people for being bad but we judge people for not being good enough. We judge our friends for making mistakes; we judge our families for not being able to acknowledge their mistakes; and we judge ourselves for not preventing mistakes. We judge people based on stereotypes and assumptions; we judge based on word-of-mouth and associations. But all this does is prevent us from fully accepting people; we push people away and we might keep the bad out of our lives but we also prevent the good in our lives from blossoming. So how do we be more 'fair'? I try to observe when I have a tendency to judge; then during those moments in the future (maybe after just meeting someone or after hearing so-and-so's opinion), I try to catch myself before I judge and tell myself to be fair... listen first. Then judge.

3) Accept challenges-embrace failure as an opportunity to improve.
In order to really conceptualize this resolution, I have to first ask myself how I perceive failure. The other night I told Clint about this resolution and we discussed a scenario--say someone asks you to push a rock to the top of a hill. I perceive failure in this case when I cannot push that rock up the hill by myself. I'm just not strong enough to do it--the job is impossible. Epic fail. But, the job is to get the rock to the top of the hill, not for me to push a rock. So he said, ask for help, get other muscles in there, and get that rock to the top of the hill. So how did we perceive this scenario so differently? To me, that is still failure; I didn't do the job as tasked. Currently, I am an intern in Cambridge for an NGO. My manager has just gone on sabbatical for 3 months leaving me and a newbie to pick up where she left off under the guidance of a manager who is managing from DC. When I first heard about her sabbatical I thought two things--1) Wow, I'm fucked. 2) I could learn a lot. 2b) I'm fucked. Of course I can't manage the workload of an Impact manager of an NGO. But that doesn't mean I will fail, necessarily. So why is it that this amazing opportunity has me immediately fearful of how lacking I am in ability instead of embracing this opportunity to learn? I am trying to resolve this by taking each task as it comes and telling myself I can ask for help up that hill if I need to and if I do, it doesn't mean I've failed. What matters is that the task gets done...

4)Recognize what I really want.
Actually, I've been trying to work on this resolution for years now. I'm a very indecisive person so this resolution was supposed to help me make decisions and make sure the decisions I make are not regretted later. When I was trying to decide whether I should stay in the bay area or move and take a chance with Clint back in 2008 (oh-so-long-ago), I spent a lot of time thinking what it is I want. My plans weren't working out according to... plan. And now here was this opportunity to take a chance on love. I had to ask two questions of myself: 1) Do I want to take a chance on love? 2) Is Clint the type of man that I really want? Is anything else distracting this decision or affecting this decision? I had to answer these questions by asking myself a slew of other questions; How important is love to me? Do I want a relationship right now? Will I regret not taking this opportunity? If Clint were different in any way, would I still consider this chance? (i.e. was it Clint himself, all the traits that made Clint who he is, the attraction? Or was I attracted to the idea of Clint?) If Clint's circumstances were different in any way, would I still consider this chance? (If he lived down the street from me would this be an easier decision? If he lived in Russia would it affect my decision?)
To really understand what I wanted, I had to really get to the bottom of who I was, what I was looking for, and where my priorities were... I think I asked myself all the right questions though cause I now have what I really want.

5) Be who you want to be...without denying who you are.
Ok, that one is a bit confusing. This resolution is kind of an umbrella resolution for a plethora of other little resolutions I want to put into place. In Psychology, we learned that the simple act of smiling can make someone happier or at least improve their mood. So instead of waiting for happiness to come and make them smile, people should smile first, and the mood will follow. So, a small resolution I have is to "Smile, even when I want to frown." This relates to my larger resolution because in order to be who I want to be, I have to act on it. I can't just wait to become a person, I have to actively engage myself in becoming someone. If I want to be the type of person who makes other people happier, or makes people more aware, or inspires people... I have to act on it. Part of that entails a bit of sports-psychology. Envision how you want to be this person by envisioning the situations in which you can exemplify these traits. However, be true to yourself, don't deny who you are. I think this resolution requires a two-step process requiring "Learning acceptance" first before working on this (it may be a while until I graduate from this first lesson).

6) Other people don't know everything--and neither do I. How can I improve someone else's understanding? And conversely, how can someone else improve mine?
Patience is key with this one. What I love about this one is it automatically makes you resolve different things without intentionally specifying it--this resolution implies on a certain level that we have to be more understanding of people's backgrounds and circumstances and thus of people's differing perceptions and understandings. I find this resolution to be a more humbling way of saying "Be more tolerant" because that is what this is in effect asking of myself and in a rather humbling way. No matter where you are in the world, this resolution is important both on a low-level scale to a global-political scale.

Alas... these are my resolutions that I've been working on as I try to develop into a more wholesome, patient, and understanding person. The next post will outline ways to keep up with my resolutions!