blogentry_paulMy life as a freshman in college sucked. I must have been the only Asian college student on the planet that was failing his classes, couldn’t understand why gender relations were so terrible (a.k.a. Paul still couldn’t find a girlfriend), and looming over all of my collegiate misfortune were my parents questioning if I should have ever left home at all. That’s the worst feeling, right? Figures of authority telling you what you should or shouldn’t have done. So what went wrong?  I was headed in the right direction by going to a big time university and finally building a future for myself. Only once I got there, I was quickly humbled to a realization that perhaps I didn’t belong.

One of the wisest things I did that year was seek some guidance from the university’s Vietnamese priest – the ONLY Vietnamese priest on campus and possibly the only Asian priest on campus.  Anyways, being at middle-of-nowhere university surrounded by an 80% white campus population, I figured maybe he could relate to some of the things I was going through (except maybe finding a girlfriend part – you know, on account of him being a priest and all).

I had taken a big leap when deciding to go to school out of state.  In fact, I had pulled out all the stops to convince my parents to let me go to school out of state – so much that I choose to apply to Notre Dame because I felt it gave me the best chances of my mother approving.  I don’t even think I was as worried about getting in as I was worried whether or not my parents would let me go to a private school that they couldn’t afford.

My mother is a devout Vietnamese Catholic. She raised my sisters and I so that we could grow up and have better opportunities, go to school, and get the best education. She’s very protective and always valued safety and security.  She also LOVED football.  So it was a no brainer for me to look for prestigious academic universities that I could attend that had a nationally celebrated college football history AND happened to be in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by Catholic Priests.  Nowhere Else But Notre Dame.

When I was accepted, Notre Dame sent my family a number of brochures and pamphlets.  It was my mother who first learned about Father Martin Lam of the Congregation of Holy Cross. He is an art professor – an incredibly wise man whose past as a Vietnamese boat refugee, life of faith, and unique perspectives are captured in his artwork. My mother pointed out to me that there was a Vietnamese priest at Notre Dame and that she felt a lot more at ease knowing that I would be around good spiritual guidance. She was right.

I walked up to Riley Hall toward the end of my Fall Semester.  Cha Lam (as we would call him in Vietnamese) was having office hours.  I had spoken with him once or twice during the year before. A lot was going on in my mind – whether or not I’d make the grades to stay in school, distressed about not being able to accomplish what I had set out to do, but most importantly I wanted to understand what coping mechanisms did I need at that moment to deal with times of adversity.

I don’t remember much of his office – other than it being naturally lit by the mid afternoon sun.  Most of Notre Dame’s classrooms have his great old-school feel to them. Cha Lam asked me how I was doing and after a minute or two of the usual, ‘studying for classes’, I got right into my frustrations with being top 2% of my high school to being bottom 2% of my college and misunderstandings with girls who all felt like I was trying to date them just because I was talking to them. (A lot of ND girls went to private all-girls school and not normal public school like I did). I got a little bit into the homesickness and trying to understand my role as a minority. At one point I felt I was going to change the world and be a role-model for my cousins going to college after me.  But at that moment, all I could feel was failure.

Finally after venting, I asked Cha Lam how he got through it all.  How was he able to be at Notre Dame knowing he was the only Vietnamese Priest?  Did he ever feel homesick or culture shock?

He proceeded to tell me to imagine obstacles in life as being a fence. We are all in one way shape or form fenced in and restrained to a certain life – whether it’s our upbringing, tragic events like war, or what cards are being dealt to us. I have always been understanding of my parents generation – escaping Vietnam and being asked to build new lives here in America. Cha Lam provided examples such as dealing with the past and challenges of being a minority and acknowledged that sure, living in your comfort zone and fenced off world is fine and dandy.  He could have moved to California and be where the other Vietnamese priests went in densely Vietnamese populations.  That would have been the easy choice.  I too, could make the easier choice and run away from my academic troubles and back into the comfort zone of being at home.

But Cha Lam offered me this bit of advice:  that the best place to be is right up against that fence.

That bit of advice has since changed my entire worldview.  You see, being inside the walls of your fenced in life, you will only be able to learn and experience so much. And it’s not any greater jumping the fences and leaving your past, support system, and what you’ve already learned behind. By being right up against the fences of your life, you have the potential to push those boundaries and keep the world around you moving.

You can expand your mind, expand your abilities, and most importantly decide whether or not you can be a part of this larger world.  Once you accept that times of adversity are opportunities, it becomes a whole lot easier to accept that sometimes there’s no place you’d rather be than where you are right now facing the odds and making yourself a better future.

I later found out that Cha Lam traveled to other nearby towns each month to hold mass for smaller populations of Vietnamese Catholics. Some days, he said, if he was too busy or had work – those people would miss out on celebrating Vietnamese mass entirely until he could come up to see them again. I realized then that we all have a choice on whether or not to accept that living in adversity is too difficult for any one person to manage.  We can choose that it’s too much and recognize in a healthy manner that it’s too much.  Or we can choose that it’s never enough. That out there, there is some cause bigger than any one of us that needs our attention.

I learned how to deal with adversity that day and three years later graduated from the #1 Undergraduate Business School in America. (Just don’t ask me about my GPA…!)

Trust in the Process

blogentry_paulIt seems lately that I’ve run into two sorts of people in my Quarterlife:

  • Those that have explored life but have yet to discover what to do
  • Those that have discovered what they want to do with their life but have yet to explore

It so happens that I’ve always considered myself in this latter category.  I’m blessed that I’ve always had a solid direction in what I wanted to accomplish in life.  I’ve learned to be more ambitious than most – perhaps due to being raised in a protective environment. I know what I want, but not quite always been easy for me to get there.  It’s a process.

Similarly, many close to me have seen a lot in life.  They’ve traveled, spent time with many people to learn from different worldviews and wisdom, and yet they are left unsettled – wondering what their role in this bigger picture is for them.  These are the handful of us that are still unsure about our careers, our relationships, or what direction we are putting our lives in.  Is it the right one?

Both share a common thread – Doubt. I know what I want out of life, but I doubt whether or not I can accomplish it. I know how to live life to the fullest, but I doubt whether or not it will make a difference. I know this is what will make me happy now, but I doubt I will be happy in the future.  I know this is what will make me proud in the future, but I doubt it will be worth it in the present.

It’s a funny thing – trying to make sense of our Quarterlife problems. The key is understanding that everyone has them.  Even after quarterlife.  Sometime we string ourselves up in this endless doubt.  I am guilty of it myself.  You allow your own words and thoughts weigh you down – second guess yourself. “I can’t do it.” “It’s not fair.” “I don’t have the energy.” “It’s not enough.” And understandingly – doubt is supposed to be a tool to help us understand our limits, understand our feelings, and understand what path we are going to choose in our lifetimes.  But what important things are you missing out on because you let doubt cloud your judgement instead of trusting in the process?

I’ve made a lot of major decisions in my life.  Like deciding that I wasn’t going to become a doctor. Deciding that I was going to pursue a practical business degree instead of pursuing my dreams in writing, or something more artistic and creative. I doubted that I could be a doctor better than my classmates.  I doubted that I could make a living with the level of talent I had with my writing.  The decision to stop studying medicine – probably a good call.  I wasn’t passionate about science as I thought I’d be.  The decision to stop pursuing writing?  Well – that one I will never know.

You have to trust in the process.  The same exercise that I did in coming up with career options, I’ve had to do with personal life options as well.  I’m sure we’ve all been in the boat. What is the relationship that I’m going to have with my family? Do I want to spend the rest of my life with the person that I am with? What city am I going to live in?  Sometimes there will never be the one answer.  I sometimes still consider myself a romantic – believing in idealistic outcomes. If I can trust that I’m going to live a fulfilling lifestyle – then I will.  So far, I’ve made some good decisions in my life where I feel my path can be golden.  I’ve just yet to experience and explore everything life has to offer to get me there.

Spend some time each day freeing yourself from the doubtful outcomes.  Take time to allow your own words and thoughts to lift you up: “I’m the best I can be at this moment in time.” “This is a great feeling.” “I’m going to make a difference today by being a part of someone’s life in a positive way.” “I’m an awesome person.” “I’m an awesome parent.” “I’m a great friend.” “I can do this work better than most.” “I am going to be the leader of my own potential.”

You should be able to wake up every morning and say to yourself that you are an amazing person.

One thing we should rely on is in the human potential.  Everyone has a measure of human potential.  Some people we interact with – you know there is a vast amount of potential in them and you want to support them and see them push it through to it’s fullest. Others are very satisfied and comfortable with the decisions they make to just be happy enjoying what’s in front of them – knowing that there is security in the patterns of life they live. Both are perfectly good outcomes.  Just believe. Trust in the process.

Teach Back

blogentry_paulAre you a young professional?  Have you spent significant time in your day questioning the status quo?

Sometimes it’s difficult to break barriers.  I know a lot of young professionals – heck even some not so young professionals – who don’t know what else they can do to make a difference. It’s very easy to just give up.

Leadership. That’s what makes the difference.  I think that is why I’ve had to fit into that role of being a leader. It’s not because of power.  It’s not because of pride.  It’s because sometimes stepping up is the right thing to do.

My style of leadership has always been leading by example.  You have to be able to teach back and show any team you are on that you mean what you say.  You do what you mean.  If I tell people that I am loyal to my company – I mean it and I do everything to uphold that belief.  If I tell people that I am a good person and overall practicing Catholic – I know I’m not doing anything in this world that would prove otherwise.  The right thing to do is not always the most popular.  It’s easier to stray.  Easier to give up.  Easier to lose faith.  In the past few weeks, I’ve had a tremendous leadership opportunity – guest service training of over a thousand employees.  Some of them have been working at our property for more than 10 years.  Some of them have old habits.  Some have seen signs of the times that many of us may never experience.  A time when Vegas was fat.  Spending was rampant.  Times were good.  How do you motivate your team to keep on fighting the good fight when there may not be a promise of anything on the other side?  You remind them that they are human.

Teaching is one of my favorite things to do.  Anytime there is a training assignment, I volunteer to lead it.  There’s an importance to messaging.  Sometimes I think I want to me a motivational speaker.  Not because I have anything particular to talk about at the moment – but mostly because I love to talk.  I love to talk because I love to listen.  Listening is more than just hearing people’s conversation.  Listening is being observant.  Hearing their tone of voice.  Reading their faces.  Reading their posture.  Getting them motivated to take on another day with a different breath of life.  How do you convince someone that everyday is a beautiful one?  How do you convince someone that they can do even more at work than they already are with work draining them?

I accomplish this by trying to be entertaining. Out of the 12 or so trainers we have in Beverage and Restaurants – I’m by far one of the loudest.  I’m not shy about raising my voice in hopes that I can raise the energy level of a room.  Hopefully they don’t see me as a crazy person.  Each class has about 20-30 employees in it and most of them don’t know me yet.  When I talk, I know I need to get to them on a personal level.  So I share my story of how my parents are also food servers – how their tip money pushed me through college.  Now I have a hook. They may bother to listen to me because they know I am a product of hard work.  I’m not just privileged to have a management position and paid to lecture them.  My messages are different each time depending on the room.  But my point is the same.  We can work together as a team.  We can make the difference.

I always forget people’s names.  That’s something I need to work on.  Maybe it’s something I should promise.  I promise to be better with names.

As part of the training, we ask our employees to make some new promises.  Things they will do to be better at their jobs.  I made promises like how I’d know the drink menus and specials better.  What are all the restaurants known for?  I made promises that I’d look into making sure the restaurants look brand spanking new. I hope I can keep those promises just as I expect our employees to keep theirs.

So whenever you’re in a rut as a young professional – think of it as an opportunity to teach those around you how things SHOULD be.  Don’t accept the way things are.  You make the difference.  Ask – are you going to be a teacher?  Or are you going to allow yourself to follow those who have no faith in fighting the good fight.

Fly Me To The Moon And Let Me Play Among The Stars

blogentry_paulI had a wonderful dinner last night that reminded me of what living life and hospitality is all about.  Normally one would have a bad “Case of the Mondays”, but I was looking forward to having dinner with my executives.

One of our fine dining restaurants recently started opening up on Monday nights.  Business in Vegas has been a  little slow, so it has been common for fine dining outlets to be closed certain days of the week simply because there was not enough business.  However, this one decided to restart their Monday night dinner service and kick start it by making every Monday jazz night.  So that’s what my executives and I were checking out to see.

We arrived to see a steady crowd rolling in for dinner.  Now I didn’t grow up around fancy fine dining.  I was very grateful that I had made some good decisions in my life that allowed me the opportunity to be able to wine and dine with talented executives.  One of the perks of being in the Food and Beverage industry I guess.  Very shortly after being seated, the celebrity chef (our resort has a celebrity chef associated to every one of our fine dining restaurants) greeted us and chatted for awhile with my executives.  Awesome.

I miss the conversations in life.  When life gets busy, sometimes you fall into a routine or rut. It not until you allow yourself to go out once in awhile and pamper yourself that you realize there’s so much in life to experience.  I got to know my executives better on a personal level and hear their stories of their careers and relationships.  I’m really lucky to have great bosses.  And the fact they kept buying bottles of wine was nice too.  I got to appreciate the conversations you can have with people outside of the typical topics of work and family, etc.  I found out my executives were human – love having fun like anyone else.  They’ve lived in many cities, learned to surf, been through a few marriages, but overall still living the dream.

The jazz pianist and bassist began playing music.  So relaxing.  They were very talented – able to play the hits.  It’s when I heard them play Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon that it hit me.  I was enjoying my life.  Service was excellent, food was excellent, company was excellent, the bill was… well, don’t need to talk about the bill!

Music does that to me.  Songs on the radio or live entertainment.  You hear a song that connects you to a time that made you happy or perhaps lyrics that remind you of times that made you sad or thoughtful.  Either way, the music is tied to our memories on our experiences in life.  At that moment, hearing that song reminded me that I have a life that I can enjoy and live.  The world isn’t so scary sometimes.  We’re not going to fix the world in a day.

So take the time to have a nice experience of your own.  Pamper yourself.  Life is meant to be enjoyed.  Enjoy it with people.  Work hard, but play hard.  Learn to live, learn to love.  Learn to love life.

You Are Who You Chose To Be

blogentry_paulChoices. They are meant be difficult. If you’ve been reading the Lermz, he’s been writing about ways to improve ourselves and make lives better by bringing us closer to who we want to be. Who you are and who you want to be are sometimes very far apart. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to continue writing again. It may not mean as much to people reading as it does for me writing, but eventually.

There was a point in time when it was my choice to pick writing as a medium for my expression. I was never good with talking in person for some odd reason. I guess I was too shy. I remember the invention of instant messaging brought me a closer to people around me. In fact, I remember starting a number of my close relationships with my writing. That was my choice growing up. Reading and writing about my feelings instead of experiencing them. But it’s never too late. I have time.

Choices are meant to be difficult because you know that it can have an impact. Your choice to buy a coffee in the morning or decide to tough it up could make a difference in how you experience your day. Your choice of friends can determine your support system and whether or not you will succeed with certain tasks. What you eat for lunch. How you spend your money. Who you decide to fall in love with. What you do to show that person you love them. If you decide to get married. Have children. Some choices are by nature a lot harder than others. Choices are meant to be difficult.

I have been talking with my local friends lately about whether or not people we know sit at the “big kids” table aka the adult table or whether or not fully grown adult friends of ours are still sitting at the “little kids” table. This was all to make a point that there exists those problems and choices in life that can either be handled in an adult manner or in a childish one. Some common examples of little kid tantrums include not being able to get something they want materialistic like new clothes.

I’ve been seeing it a lot lately. Adults acting like children. True, it’s always good to keep that childish heart around. Not so much the childish mind. I see a lot lately – choices being made that go against what seems to make sense. But you can’t make sense of everything these days. I hate to use the phrase, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but if you allow yourself to believe that then it’s probably true.

But it’s not. We have the choice to want to make a difference. I’ve had to make a few, not many, difficult choices. Others have also made choices for me. Are they the right ones? Are they permanent? Are they reversible? I don’t think you can ever undo choices that you make in life. You can only make new ones. It’s up for you to decide. You are who you chose to be. I’m not going to give up on that. I chose to continue to be a better man, because I know someday there is going to be a time when I’m called and needed. I’ve seen this in my career already. I’ve seen it in my friendships. Will I be ready? Will I be the one for somebody? I can only hope that the choices I make for myself will make me a better man. One that can make a difference – to others and to myself.

So every time you talk with your friends about making tough choices – remember that it’s how you make those choices that will define who you are.

You Should Not Have to Stand Alone

blogentry_paulIf you haven’t been living under a rock in the past year, then hopefully you’ve heard of the efforts being made by media and celebrities to stop bullying.  Most recently, FOX ran a few episodes dedicated to raising awareness of the effects of bullying.  There is a powerful episode of Glee that aired last week that portrayed difficulties LGBT teenagers face in many communities.  I personally have a handful of LGBT friends and the thought of them ever feeling unsupported to the point of considering taking their lives… well I would never, ever, ever want to think of that. I, for one, would always hope that I could stand with them in solidarity.  We are better people.  We need to take responsibility of what is going on.

But the threat of bullying is real.  I’ve experienced it firsthand growing up.  Unfortunately, I’m not convinced it’s anything that will ever go away.  Not 100% anyways.  We will never be able to control other people’s actions – whether it be hateful, inconsiderate, demeaning, degrading, ignorant or otherwise. So how do we strengthen ourselves?  How do we come to a better understanding of what is going on and what should have zero tolerance?

I was raised to have thick skin.  I don’t think my parents were ever concerned that I would have social problems in school.  I think they had the idea that it was 100% academics and that they wanted to make sure I had equal opportunity with education so that I could have a successful future.  At first, I thought that was going to be the case too.  I was maybe 1 out of 10 Asian kids at my elementary school. Many of the hundreds of other kids had never even interacted with someone Asian until they met me. In kindergarten, there was no signs of racism or prejudice. I remember white girls were equally playful with me as they were to their Caucasian male counterparts. In fact, I think in grade school being different made me cuter. But that’s a different story.

My first experience with a bully was in 1st grade.  It was actually another fellow minority – a Hispanic boy who at recess made it a point to tell me I was different.  He used derogatory Chinese and Japanese slurs.  Didn’t care that I was Vietnamese.  I wasn’t raised confrontational, so I always just took it and walked away.  And usually nobody knew enough about minority relations to want to stand up for me.  After they realized making fun of my race wasn’t getting a reaction out of me, I feel into that group of nerdy/socially awkward boys that were made fun of for liking comic books over sports.  Having nerd glasses didn’t help me either.

Stupid jerks.  That’s what they were.  The guys that teased me for my Power Ranger t-shirts or my bowl cut hairstyle.  The ones that would knock the eyeglasses off my face.  The guys that pushed me off the playground equipment and laugh at me covered in sand.  Of course I did make friends – usually they would get picked on even worse because they dared to fight back.  One of my friends got picked on all the way through high school because they could always rely on getting a laugh out of his reaction.  Me, they got tired of me just walking away so they eventually stopped.

I remember some of my worst bulling was done by other minorities.  You know why?  Because they were being picked on too and they figured if they picked on someone of their own, it would make them feel higher and mightier.  Whoop-de-do.  Bullying happens folks, and I hope that each and every one of us in whatever capacity understands that we can make a difference by living by example and being better human beings.

In college, I continued to brush it off.  Ignorant college boys (typically when drunk) would toss out the racial slur or phrase.  Maybe it had to deal with fried rice or Chinese take-out jokes.  I also took ownership of my own bullying by making fun of myself – in particular my often difficult to pronounce last name.  This to me was slightly amusing because there seemed to be less of a desire to make fun of me if I made fun of myself.  Still.  Bullying doesn’t end in grade school.  We just tend to have a bit stronger strategy with dealing with it.

My point is that there were many times in my life where I felt I stood alone.  Nobody was going to stand next to me and defend me.  And I grew up learning that I needed to be okay with that.  But is that fair?  What about people that may feel more sensitive about being different?  After awhile, you get tired of it.  You get tired of being different of being lonely and it can make you think very dark thoughts about your place in the world.  I know sometimes we judge and we tell people that they can be over-exaggerating.  But it is not our place to judge or lecture others on how they cope with being different.  It is our place to be supportive and stand with them.

You don’t have to be one of to stand with.  Some people have it better than others in this world.  Could be money, beauty, intelligence, athleticism, family, friends – a many other things.  I think it’s fair to say that everyone has their fair share of insecurities.  I have many of my own.  There tends to be two camps of thought:

  1. You need to be the president of your own fan club. I love this idea.  You know yourself the best sometimes and you need to be okay with everything there is about you.  Where I don’t like this idea is that I don’t always agree that you make the best decisions on your own.  Sometimes you need that best friend that can be your voice of reason and I wish that every victim of bullying had those supporters.
  2. Surround yourself with like people or your greatest supporters. I tend to lean more towards this.  People don’t have to understand what you’re going through to be there for you. Where this thought falls is that I feel we live in a selfish society. There aren’t enough people out there to drop what they do to support you. It just doesn’t work the way we would wish.

We deal with this everyday.  You know, I often miss my college days because there was slightly more time for people to stop what they were doing to help a friend in need.  When you’re a full adult outside of college, everyone has to be selfish to be productive in their lives.  We consume ourselves with work, and need to relax a cool down.  I’ve seen this personally.  My parents get too consumed with another hard day at work that they don’t take time to ask me how I’m doing or they can’t read the signs that I was being picked on at school or I was feeling incredibly lonely or anti-social because I felt different.  We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others – I get it.  But what happens when all the time taking care of yourself – it becomes too late to take care of that other person that was in need?  Or vice versa.  I’ve seen plenty of times.  What happens when all the time taking care of others, you fail to take care of yourself and it becomes too late?

Life doesn’t get any easier.  We just need to get better.  Get stronger.  Are we prepared in our lives to deal with bullying and loneliness seriously?  Is life ever too hard that we can take some time in our lives to stand with someone you know may be dealing with insecurities?  How can we do a better job of reading the signs of depression?  How can we help?

I am thankful I’ve been able to be strong enough to stand alone in times of strife.  But I do not expect anyone else to have to stand alone. I don’t think it’s fair.  I hope that we can grow into a more caring society where we learn that it’s a beautiful thing to stand with people that may be different.  At the end of the day, we all wish to be loved and accepted.  I hope we live to see the day when there is zero tolerance to bullying.  Let’s make that promise to our future generation.

Loving Being In Love

blogentry_paulHappy Valentines Day! (or Singles Awareness Day or S.A.D) – whichever you celebrate or happy Tuesday if you celebrate neither.  I for one have always loved Valentines Day.  It’s one of my favorite holidays and while I understand it’s a mostly commercial holiday, I’ve always enjoyed paying attention to it.  I celebrated on the 13th this year as it landed on my new Disney movie night tradition at the apartment.  My friends and I enjoyed a nice spaghetti and meatball dinner together and watched the Disney Classic – Lady and the Tramp.  One of the sweetest romance scenes in Disney movie history is of course the Bella Notte scene.

In my young blogger days, I actually would go all out for Valentines Day.  For the entire month of February for a few years I actually changed the color scheme of my entire blog to pink and posted a number of entries around the theme of love and romance.  Growing up there was just something about Valentines Day that I recall enjoying.  It may have been the crazy trips to the store to buy boxes of Valentines Day cards you were obligated to give to every single one of your classmates in grad school (that was probably my first experience with the concept of inclusion).  Even in high school when Valentines Day became really awkward, I still continued the tradition in some way shape or form.  There’s something special about reaching out to someone you care about and letting them know that they are loved.  That no matter what – someone is thinking about them.

I probably won’t focus on love for all of my entries at Motivate2Inspire this month, but I did want to touch on a key think I’ve learned about myself over the years on this subject.

I love being in love.

My first official girlfriend was probably the first person to truly understand this about me as she experienced it first hand.  I dated this girl in college that was absolutely captivating – very nice person and we shared a lot of values.  That said, it was a completely non-romantic relationship, but a nice friendship at the time.  I just loved the idea of having a girlfriend.  Someone to talk to, be sweet to, watch movies with, hold hands, etc.  It only lasted 3 months or so because I learned pretty quickly that it wasn’t her that I was in love with, I was in love with the concept of being in love.

So how does that work exactly?  Well I’ll tell you.  I believe it had to do with growing up without any true real life examples of what love is.  My parents, though extremely caring and nurturing in their own way never really displayed any forms of affection.  Not with each other.  Not with my siblings.  Unfortunately I’ve found that this can be an Asian thing and it was apparent with my Asian family.  So I grew up relying on media.  TV. Movies.  Love stories I’d see in Disney films or read in books.  I grew up a romantic.  A hopeless one at that.  I knew I was always going to feel like love had to be perfect.  In fact, I held onto my first kiss for quite some time (like true kiss on the lips passionate kiss).  But there’s a flaw to that isn’t there?  Love isn’t perfect.  In fact, the true nature of love is meant to be broken.  You can’t understand love if you don’t understand what it means not to love or be loved.  The imperfect struggle makes us human.

It’s like what Steve Jobs had to say about life and death – “Death is very likely the single best invention of life.”  Sounded crazy the first time I heard it too, but it makes sense.  Without the looming consciousness that we may die at any future time, it is unlikely we would live our lives in the way/shape/form that we do.  Why would I worry about doing one thing or another if I knew I would have infinite tomorrows to do it then?  Love is the same.

It was the opposite of love that made me the way I am.  Some say the opposite of love is hate.  Some say that it is fear.  I tend to believe that the opposite of love is indifference – apathy – selfishness.  It’s the point of not caring.  That scares me the most actually.  To think about not being able to care about people – love them for who they are; and in return, to think about people not caring about me – not being able to love me for who I am… I think that’s truly telling on why I’m compelled to be in love with simply the idea of being in love.

Being alone can suck.  Trust me.  Though I’ve always been fortunate to be around family or friends or even a special loved one, life has its lonely moments.  I’m always improving on my thoughts with being alone – whether it be my own independence or learning from other voices like ones you can read here on Motivate2Inspire. Overall, I’ve conditioned myself pretty well to be okay with being alone and being okay with just being with myself and loving me and all that jazz.  I read comic books and play video games.  I could probably do that for months and months like I did in my teenage years.  But to be honest, being alone to me feels selfish at times.  That’s why I’ve always celebrated Valentines Day – single or while in a relationship.  It’s a day when I can drop my insecurities and fears and tell somebody that I love them.  Or that I’m thinking of them.  Because in return, I hope they will be able to open up their hearts – whether it be to me or other people in their lives.

In high school, I used to fold origami flowers.  Probably over 20 of them.  I handed them out to all of my girl friends (it was kinda easier having a lot of girl friends being in orchestra – the girl to guy ratio was always in my favor). It served a number of purposes.  For one, the girls that I actually had crushes on could receive one and it still kept my secret of having crushes on them because I gave them to everyone – hence not breaking my heart if they rejected it.  They wouldn’t because everyone got one!

In college while I was single, I was the weird guy that forced my group of friends to go out and dress nice and celebrate together as friends that cared for each other.  One time we dressed up only to eat at the dining hall and watch a hockey game.  But you know what?  It was nice being with friends and having a group date we could say we spent time with loved ones.

What are you going to do this year to be selfless and tell someone that you love them?  What does love mean to you?

I love being in love because I’m conditioned to be caring and thoughtful.  I’m conditioned to be selfless.  I’ve always considered myself an empathetic creature that is tied to my surroundings and the emotions of others around me.  I actually don’t know how to turn the feeling off.  I can’t shut myself off from the world even if I felt I ever wanted to.

Right now, I’m in a stage of my life that requires me to be selfish and take care of myself.  I’m not having too much trouble doing so, except for my need to re-condition myself to care more about what I’m doing with my life right now instead of caring about what other people in my life are doing.  It’s all that independence/interdependence stuff.  But just because I’m focusing on myself doesn’t mean I’m ever going to stop caring.  It doesn’t mean I’m ever going to stop loving.

I’m in love with being in love because somebody has to be.  Someone has to continue to believe in hopeless romanticism.  It’s not about being in love with one person, or being in love with one thing. It has to do with caring about people – caring about someone else other than myself.  And yes, sometimes that being in love involves romanticism, passion, intimacy with someone special.  And sometimes it just involves a thoughtful gesture to someone you know and care about.  Romantic or platonic.  Some chocolates. Cookies. Flowers. An old-fashion Valentine’s Day card. Does it really matter how much we read into the commercial aspects of this holiday?  Or can we just be happy with the idea that someone would love to share with you that they care.

Don’t forget to tell someone that you care about them this Valentines Day – or don’t forget to tell everyone that you care about them this Valentines Day!

Do It Yourself.

blogentry_paulDIY.  You see the term a lot on home improvement TV shows.  How can you pick up the same skills to accomplish something of professional quality?

Inspired by KristaRose’s article on loving yourself and being okay with being alone sometimes (READ HERE!, I wanted to add my own perspective on the DIY mentality on how we can learn to take care of ourselves better.

A week ago, I planned a shopping outing with a few of my friends from my old work.  I’ve moved into my own place now and after getting a new job and a nice bump in salary, I thought it was time for me to take care of myself – particularly my wardrobe.  I’d been wearing Sketchers that must have been 2 years old and I don’t need to remind everyone that my wardrobe tends to consist of just my business attire for work (that my mother sadly bought a lot of because she was overjoyed with having a son that wears a suit to work everyday…).  It can be a boring wardrobe and filled with stuff that doesn’t even fit anymore.  When I’m home from work, I didn’t go out that much and my laid back friends were totally okay with me wearing jeans and a Power Rangers graphic tee.  Whelp.  It’s time for a makeover.

My friends bailed on me for various reasons.  While I was bummed I wasn’t going to be able to consult any women on what new threads I should wear, I didn’t let it ruin my day and I decided to go to the popular outdoor mall all by my lonesome.  It was great!  The first thing I tend to notice are the people that hang out at outdoor malls: tons of kids and teenagers that have nothing better to do in Vegas since they’re not 21, couples, couples, and more couples, women that love to shop, and men holding shopping bags for their women – to name a few.  Shopping in a mall environment is often a social experience.  It’s a lot of window shopping.  I had fun walking to different shops and pampering myself with the thought of getting something new.  Fortunately, I was fairly focused.  I knew I wanted shoes, and the comfort side of me gravitated to the Sketchers store where I didn’t buy 1, but 2 new shoes.  One of them doesn’t have shoe laces!  Joy.

My second shopping spot was Banana Republic where I felt my style right now fits a little better.  Tried on a few things and actually found buying clothes that actually fit me is possible.  I used to by default buy Medium (M) for everything.  Mostly because Large was too baggy on me (didn’t stop me in middle school) and I was always insecure about wearing Small (S) size clothes because I tend to have that scrawny Asian look.  Nowadays, I’m learning that fitted looks and feels so much better.  Plus, now that I’m taking better care of myself and running and working out again, I don’t feel so bad buying Small to fit my body type.  It all depends on the piece of clothing.

I had a blast shopping all on my own.  Even grabbed some avocado bubble tea and window shopped for what I might buy next time around.

DIY. You can be your own fashion consultant.  It takes a little effort and an open mind, but it’s not impossible.  I have to thank my sisters for watching hours of What Not To Wear every week.  It’s one of my biggest pet peeves lately – seeing really cool people unable to express themselves because they just got stuck in life.  Unable to DIY.  You just want to reach out to them and say – let’s go shopping!  But in this economy, I can understand why people made a lot of sacrifices.  Some people aren’t motivated or inspired (see what I did there?) to improve their lifestyle.  Every person is beautiful.  Don’t you want the world to see the light and energy in you?

I can definitely relate to those who feel unable to DIY.  It’s tough.  Quarterlife, Midlife, or any kinda crisis can get us into these ruts where we stop caring.  We don’t worry about how we look when we go to work (I have to battle my dreaded acceptance of wearing suits I’ve grown out of – but next paycheck will squash this!).  We fall into our comfort foods and lose control of our health or fitness.  We get so overwhelmed with everything that’s going on that we start feeling like we lose control over what we can and can’t do for ourselves.  But trust me.  Everything is going to be okay.  You just have to learn how to DIY.

Sometimes I miss being able to rely on people close to me to take care of me and help me with things.  I took for granted a lot of things – people that unconditionally took care of me.  But being taken care of all the time didn’t make me happy.  I wasn’t growing as a person.  I wasn’t learning anything new.  I know my mother has terrible empty nest syndrome right now, but it’s what I needed to do for me to grow.  DIY.  This means my laundry, my cooking, paying bills, finding time to work out, finding time to hang out with friends, saving money to buy shoes!  (Don’t panic, I only own those two new Sketchers, running shoes, and dress shoes – so nothing out of the ordinary for a guy.  But who’s to judge if I do end up buying more, huh?  Honey badger don’t care.)  Those people that I love are going to be able to enjoy their time with me even more so when I can take care of myself because now we all can save time and energy doing more fun things rather than worrying whether or not I’m going to turn into a hoarder or starve because I don’t know how to use a stove.

I’m having a lot of fun with DIY.  I’ve been cooking a lot more, going to the gym more, and now that I’m training for another half-marathon, I feel that I’m setting achievable goals.  I’m also working with friends to spread the word and get more people to come up with better perspectives on life and have a positive attitude with what we need to do to get through this.  It’s going to be a better year.  If we all learn to DIY, we can save time and energy and hopefully use it to make a difference with our little changes in life.

I need to keep motivated just as much as I enjoy motivating others, so leave me a message or share Motivate2Inspire with your friends!  Don’t forget to Like Us on facebook!

Wednesday is New Comic Book Day

blogentry_paulWait what?  Who still read’s printed comics in this digital age???  This guy.  Every Wednesday is New Comic Book Day.  New comics are  on the shelves of  your local comic book store today!

I’ve picked up reading print comic books again after a long hiatus throughout my college years (I never thought about looking for a comic book store in South Bend.  I guess I figured I was geeky enough, that I would be hard to date women in college if I had comic books laying around my dorm room…).  Marvel as a company has majorly impressed me with their ability to take great IPs like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America and all of a sudden turn them into fantastic blockbuster movies.  I had also been reading on the interwebs that my favorite superhero team: the X-Men, would soon be going through a lot of major changes.  Realizing that perhaps watching and reading super hero stories just might be cool again, I returned to my literary hobby and have enjoyed doing so ever since.

Comic books are a form of art.  There are a  lot of talented writers and artists that use comic books as their preferred medium to express themselves.  So it may be true that I first picked up X-Men comic books when I was a boy because I thought the female super heroes like Rogue, Psylocke, and Jean Grey were super hot, but it was the stories that engaged me the most.  I always felt X-Men was a comic book title about diversity – civil/mutant rights – and as a child took some affinity to the topic being one of the only Asian kids in my entire elementary school.  It was cool to be different, but you could also read about all the struggles these characters have to go through in order to find some acceptance or reason to exist in a world that hates and fears them.  It’s been years since the X-Men was introduced to us, but still – a lot of the themes still exist and if you pick up a book today, you can see they are still fighting the good fight.

At the core, comic books are a good hobby.  I don’t see myself becoming the avid collector.  I read them because I enjoy them.  One day a week, I can pick up my comic books and relax and enjoy.  It’s cool to be a geek.  You should try it.  I certainly loved reading growing up because of comic books and great story telling.

It’s been one of my dreams to write my own comic someday.  It’s quite a challenging task, so who knows if I’ll ever get the opportunity – but it’s great to dream big like that.  I’ve always loved art and writing ever since I grew up with Disney and Marvel Comics (so cool that they are one company now!).  It inspires me everyday to think there are people that get to do what they love: writing cool stories and drawing amazing art to tell a story.

Comic books are my weekly source of creative inspiration.  What’s yours?  Do you have a favorite comic book?  When’s the last time you’ve visited a comic book store near you? Comic book geeks are nice people!  Just watch Big Bang Theory!