When in Doubt, Take The High Road

One of the things I will never comprehend is how people can publicly attempt to destroy another person’s self-image in hopes of bringing them more contentment. The irony, of course, is the very fact that these people have the same tendency to be attention-seekers but view themselves as supposed role-models. It’s almost borderline hysterical when I see someone try to preach righteousness and equality when all they demonstrate is a lack of professionalism, compassion, and accountability. Public figure or not, an act of kindness transcends monetary items. Sometimes you can tell someone’s true character not by the way they treat their friends and family but the manner in which they go about interacting with those they don’t know ie) the waiter, the cashier, the person taking their drive-thru orders. My rule of thumb for dating or for keeping people in my life is to always surround myself with those who make me feel like I’m breathing fresh air. You will never know how toxic others can be unless you, yourself, understand what a quality relationship/friendship is really about.

As a victim of bullying, I’ve learned that hate speech is almost unavoidable—unless of course, you are willing to be alienated and live your life behind closed doors. Somewhere out there, there will always be a person who will never understand your action or give you credit for your work. There will be those who undermine your accomplishments and character and no matter how badly you want to just give them a hug or shake their hand, you know very well that given the opportunity, they will never extend the same courtesy to you and that’s okay.

If you’ve been my friend for a while, you will know that the concept of giving up the need to please everyone was something that was extremely difficult for me to fully digest. It’s almost in my nature to constantly think about my loved ones’ happiness and well-being. Is my mom happy? Does my brother view me as a positive influence in his life? By going on such an unconventional route, would my dreams impact my family’s quality of life? These thoughts are always replaying in my head so much so that my own self-worth and happiness were dependent on what others were saying/thinking. While I’ve always been the one to encourage understanding and kindness, it took me a long time to show myself that kind of self-love.

Don’t we all make that kind of mistake? We spend hours and for some, years in trying to be the daughter or son that our parents want us to be. Some of us even take it a step further by sacrificing our own hopes and dreams in order to fulfill someone elses’ vision of success. Time again, I see my friends putting their own wants aside in order to be on a higher pedestal that result in no life satisfaction whatsoever. We all think we’re doing the right thing, but in the back of our minds, we know that this kind of fulfillment is only short-lived. There are times (now) when I would look in the mirror and feel extremely proud of the person I’ve become. I’m crazy. Sometimes a bit too wild, too different, too outspoken but at the end of the day, my best friends accept me, my boyfriend values me, and more importantly, I love me.

Things took a positive turn the moment I realized that loving my body, mind, and heart is an ongoing process. I understand that my intentions are good and that I will never try to inflict any pain or judgement because I fully understand that everyone is fighting their own battles. Life is already hard and I’m not here to make it harder for others. Do I have the ability to do so? Of course. If that was my life mission then you bet that I’ll be rallying a crowd up and exploit everyone who has ever done me wrong. Do I have the time and commitment to do so? Absolutely not. Other people’s actions or preconceived thoughts about how I dress, how I look, what I say are a mere reflection of their own self. I’ve been through enough to know that I shouldn’t be in a position to spread that kind of negative energy on someone else.

Presently, I have two options 1)  I can further speculate people’s integrity and place it on a public domain for others to interrogate or 2) Focus on my purpose and continue to pursue my goals. Well, I’m going to go with the latter on this one. Creating bad blood and passing on hate are not my forte. Being passionate, producing quality work, eating good food with good people, loving the same man…these are things that define who I am.

Every trial and tribulation has been such a growing experience and I truly mean it when I say that I enjoy the pitfalls because it has led me to witness people’s humility, sense of humor, character, and ultimately, their most authentic self. Am I more guarded as to who I keep in my inner circle? You bet. But the losses of friendships and relationships are things that push me to always be in search of quality, not quantity.

XOXO,

Khanh

Post-Pageant Reflections

12697064_349186951916892_6016959546786805107_o For the past couple of days, I've received a lot of deep sentiments from those I'm close to as well as those I've recently been acquainted with.

"You're a boss ass bitch and I'm sure EVERYONE who has met you knows that."

"I was in this competition, but I was among one of your fans and number 1937274 supports.  Yas I got in line for it. I was team Khanh all the way."

"You're an inspiration and always will be."

Their words were hard-hitting because in the back of my mind, I knew that it came from a place of genuineness, which is something that is extremely difficult to come by. Although I've heard similar things before, there was never a time that I thought I would be in search for that kind of reassurance. After all, life has taught me that it is extremely important to walk with my head held high and continue to be the light in someone's life. However, at the end of all of this, I took myself back to the nursing home two and a half months ago when I promised my grandmother that I would take home a title for her.

For the past couple of years, her health has slowly been deteriorating. She went from being able to walk on her own to needing a wheelchair for assistance. As time passes, she lost her voice completely and so the kind of conversations I've ever had with her was limited to nonverbals ie) gestures, head nods, smiles, and such. I deeply long to hear her voice just one more time. I want to sit down and explain to her how my commitment and perseverance didn't prevail, but I was too embarrassed to say a single word.  I wish that I could tell her that through this experience, I've learned to love myself more and be more confident. However, the truth is outright. I am confident and I am loved. If there's anything that I'm sure of, it's these two things. What I really took away from this entire thing is that life will continue to throw me curveballs. My attitude and my reaction will be the true testaments to my character.

Over the course of 23 years, I've won a lot of things. Crossword puzzle competitions, tether ball games, Lieutenant Governor election, concert tickets to see The Weeknd (twice), and etc. Even then, I've been on the other side of defeat. I had love and lost it. I had best friends and a decade later, we are no longer on speaking terms. I was 2 votes away from being elected as Junior Class Vice President. The point is, I've come close to the finish line and have experienced both the highs and lows that come with victories and losses. How I try to make sense of each situation is to remind myself that I am a better person because of it.  Morgan Wotten said it best. "It's often been said that you learn more from losing than you do from winning. I think, if you're wise, you learn from both. You learn a lot from a loss. You learn what is it that we're not doing to get to where we want to go. It really gets your attention and it really motivates the work ethic of your team when you're not doing well." 

I've been more motivated to write and share with you my thoughts because it's the only way that I can reflect and make peace of everything. It's the only way that I'll ever learn. So what's my next step? I'm not quite sure, but I promise you it won't be a boring one.

Stay tuned.

 

The Ugly Truth

For the past two and a half months, I've breathed everything pageant related. I would start every morning by reciting my proverb, followed by a session of rapid fire Q&A's, then scrolling through websites to see my potential wardrobe for the big day. I felt the fire coming back and I knew that if everything goes right, I could possibly walk away with the crown. I was wrong. Hard work didn't pay off. Dedication didn't pay off. I nailed all segments of the first round, performed 150 times better than what I've shown to the staff at weekend practices and even when I thought I did everything right, I was wrong. I didn't advance to the second round. As I walked off stage after the MC announced the last name that would be joining Top 10, I felt anger and frustration. Immediately, I looked directly towards the table of judges only to find them whispering to each other and nodding their heads in agreement. Something felt off, but I couldn't quite point my finger on it.

It was in that moment that I started to think further and recalled the moment when I walked on stage to deliver my proverb in Vietnamese. Rather than glancing at the score card and taking down notes, I saw their facial expressions as all 5 judges started to whisper to one another. Words I could not make out due to my having to say my proverb out loud. As confident as I was, as soon as I got backstage, I felt a tiny knot in my stomach. Despite my intuition, I prayed that for once, everything will fall through. Well, it didn't and I was wrong (again).

My initial reaction was anger. Nothing made sense to me. As I sat on the sideline with my best friend, one of my pageant sisters walked up to me and said, "Don't look too mad, Khanh. Someone is throwing shades at you."

I had an inkling of who she was referring to, but I didn't want to make a quick assumption. A day after the fiasco, I had more people telling me the same thing. "Someone is spreading the word about you looking mad and your reaction." It wasn't long before I figured who it was and my intuition, this time, was right. Sadly, it happened to be a person I saw every weekend for pageant practices, but someone I never really interacted before today.

Typically, when this kind of unnecessary drama arises, I'd tend to ignore it. Only this time, it was different because I knew that if I didn't approach the subject to her, she will continue to bash me for a long time. Honestly, why someone has the time to make others feel bad about themselves is beyond me.

I eventually told this person that her words are hurtful and that I hope she could extend the same courtesy to me as I have for her. Rather than being my usual upfront self, I wanted to look at this situation as a means to spread compassion and kindness. Unsurprisingly, I received a response that was far from those two things. She "lol"ed her way through and said something along the lines of admitting that she did indeed said those things. I wasn't taken aback by it because I wanted to give this person a benefit of doubt, but I was wrong (for the fifteenth time). Initially, I shrugged it off because I knew that these meaningful words came from a place of insecurities and lack of confidence. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much she had in common with the panel---whose integrity and transparency are things I've questioned.

I wanted to share this personal experience with you since I know that some of you out there may have experienced similar injustices, pre-judgments, and down-right shady people. Of course, our situations are different but there's one thing I've learned and that's rescripting the paradigm. Instead of lashing out and being angry (like I was a few days ago), I've learned to come to terms with myself. I stand by my moral code. I am a person who tries to see the good in people time and time again. Even then, I've used my own self-awareness and conscience to develop skills that will enable me to walk away feeling like a winner in my own rights.

I may not have the crown. I may receive backlashes for trying to challenge the status quo and the nature of my own community, but I stand by equality and freedom of expression. I don't believe in silencing myself when I have much to say about the corrupt system that has existed over the years.

One day, when my platform is big enough, I will share with you my real story and struggles. You will learn that things are not always black and white and people are not exactly what they portray themselves to be. So if anything, trust yourself, your gut instinct, and continue to spread goodness.

I'm going to take some time off and do more reflections. Perhaps, I will share with you more of my insights then.

Until next time - Fight On.

My Dear Grandmother

About a week ago, I received a phone call that changed my life forever. "Grandma's in the hospital," my mom franticly whispered on the other line.

As soon as I heard those words, Jonathan and I dashed to the hospital and found my 90 year old grandmother in the IOU. A couple of hours later, she was transferred to the ICU. A day after that, we were told that all of her internal organs are failing and the only way we can keep her alive is if we get rid of the infection in her body by giving her a dialysis while being hooked up to a ton of tube-like things.

It's been a week filled with so much pain, tears, and turmoil. Standing next to her bedside made me feel helpless because I knew that there was nothing I could do to alleviate her pain and suffering. Instead of crying while I'm at the hospital, I was encouraged by my loving boyfriend to talk to her and so I did. I told her I love her. I told her that if she gets better, my mom and I will bring her home so we can celebrate Tet (Lunar New Year) together. I told her that I am prepping for this pageant and that I can hopefully bring back a title for her. I convinced myself that if my grandma fights, I'm going to fight but it hasn't been easy.

Every new day brings uncertainties and unanswered questions. While her health has progressed, the dialysis has stopped working. I've reached that point where I'm too numb to say anything and too exhausted to cry another tear. I know very well that as much as I am hurting, it's my mother that I'm most concerned about.

All of this chaos has taught me to prioritize the people I love and to never take anyone I care about for granted. On the other hand, it has made me rid more friendships, which is something I'm not complaining about either. My best friend Emily says that's probably the biggest takeaway I'll have these days from the situation at hand: perspective.

"You have to remind yourself that life hasn't been unfair because your grandma has been in good hands and good company till the very end. Remind yourself that even though she wasn't fair to your mom, you owe yours and your mom's existence to her. She had a good run, and she had an exceptional daughter who gave way to an incredible grand daughter too. And although this is the grimmest of situations to be reunited with family, you get to see faces you normally don't get to see. Situations will help you bond more deeply with family too."

Amidst the agony and the dread, tough situations like these brought me closer to my incredible friends and of course, to my number one cheerleader, Jonathan. I would like to end this post by thanking everyone for their kind words and action during this difficult time. I couldn't be more loved and I owe so much of my well-being to your consideration.

Let's hope that my grandma continues to Fight On.

2015 Year-In-Review

Much has happened since the start of the year, but here are a couple of things that stood out to me:

  • I had my first full time job and for lack of a better term, hated it. They said that your first job will most likely not be your last and I'm thankful that these words are more than true in regards to my circumstance. I found myself dreading the work that I produced as my boss's tyrannical nature began to affect my self-esteem and confidence
  • I found something I am naturally really good at aka taking photos and being in front of the camera. Instead of rejecting my calling, I started to follow my intuition, which eventually led me to the world of modeling
  • I lost a lot of friends and in turn, found my core group. No matter how hard you work or how much you care, sometimes there are people who are meant to be in your life. Other times, it's best to accept the very same notion that not every passerby are going to stay and that's absolutely okay.
  • I fell madly, deeply in love. If you ever get the chance to scan through my social media, you're going to find more than enough photos of me and my boyfriend. But here's the thing, folks. I feel absolutely #noshame in demonstrating the amount of love I have for him. Why? Because every single one of my genuine friends are going to be happy because their respective friend is finally at a really good place in her life right now. Shoutout to everyone who has given us nothin' but love. Anyone else who seems to be bothered by my [x] amount of posts are probably not worth my time #notsorry

There are a lot of things I've started to practice this year-

  • Saying "No" more often - and it feels freaking amazing! No guilt. No knots in my throat. Nothing.
  • Expressing compassion. Trying to look at another person's point of view to see where they're coming from. Why they may be in pain or why they may be acting a certain way. Everyone has a story, it's important to really listen to them.
  • Increasing a higher level of self awareness. I know when I'm happy, unhappy, excited, and disappointed. I am slowly starting to see who and what Khanh P. Duong is really about.
  • Closing in my circle. I still have friends who I would go great lengths for and then there are people who I will never really bother to talk to because our paths will most likely never collide again.
  • Letting go. Letting go of friendships that no longer inspire me. Relationships that no longer serves me. And people who no longer challenge me. As I go through one chapter after the next, I am beginning to feel more relaxed and optimistic about everyone who manages to stay with me throughout this long and enduring journey. My true Most Valuable Players.

Overall, I've had a rough year, but I've learned and grown so much. I'm also very thankful to each and every single experience because it has pushed me to cross boundaries and become a better, more diligent friend, co-worker, girlfriend, daughter, and sister.

Thanks for tuning in & wish you all a magical 2016! Fight On forever!

Smaller Circles, Bigger Changes

I know it's been awhile since I've last posted, but a lot has happened since then. For starter, I somehow landed a spot on the Top 20 and will be competing for a national pageant title come next year. Also, my modeling career has been drifting towards a more promising direction so at the very least, I have that going for me. All in all, life has been filled with its fair share of ups and downs---more ups than downs so I'm glad. While I do have a good amount of quality Khanh time, I have noticed how different life is compared to let's say 9 months ago. I definitely have the same core group of friends---the untouchables as I would like to call them (a.k.a. Steven, Emily, David, Brian) and while my professional network is slowly expanding, the older I get, the smaller my inner circle gets.

Exactly a year ago, I would spend most of my Thursday nights at a go-to night club with one of my good friend at the time. Sometimes we would even kick it up a notch and go out on Saturday and Sunday too. I don't know how I did it back then but that kind of lifestyle just doesn't quite appeal to me anymore. More recently, I've traded in music festivals for concerts. Late nights for date nights. Large gatherings for one-on-ones. And it wasn't until this very moment did I realize, "Holy shit. I'm going through the "I'm to old for this" kinda phase. While the change was sudden, I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I just don't feel too settling with being THAT girl anymore. By that I mean, I simply want to detach myself from that post-graduate image. Ya know, the girl who always goes out, always have a good time, and yet never have a clue as to what it is that wants to do with her life.

At the ripe age of 23, I have pretty much cut out alcohol, except for the occasional drink or two *special occasions only* and have been maintaining a better eating and exercising regime. Did I mention that I actually drink coffee now? These habits, although hard to distinguish at first, has led me to believe that perhaps I'm growing out of my old shell, which I think is a really good thing for someone my age. First and foremost, I am very conscious in regards to where my energy is being spent and in particular, who I am spending it on. This is applicable to my career move, my relationship, my friendships, and etc. Secondly, I've discovered the power of the word "No" and "Yes." Saying "No" to things or people who may be detrimental to my well-being and "Yes" to new opportunities and collaborations.

Overall, it has been a truly enriching experiencing. Dealing with loss was hard. Saying good-bye to people I claimed as my "ride-or-die" was hard. Heck, a friend of mine for 6 years who used to refer to me as her "Best Friend" recently unfollowed me on Instagram and all I did was this..."oh. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯" There are a couple of things I've been pretty obsessed with lately and those things are as follows: e-books, podcasts, actual books, and interviews on Youtube.

Here's one I would like to share with you today. It's a podcast featuring, one of my favorite writers, Mark Mason. http://www.knowledgeformen.com/podcast-mark-manson-2/

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did and thanks for checking in!

XO

It's Coming Together

This year has been all sorts of crazy, to say the least. I've said good-bye to more friendships than I could count. I got a boyfriend even though I swore off men and have since then broken my promise of "Let's stay single until you're 26, Khanh." I woke up one day and X'ed all of my nearly finished applications for big corporations because I've realized that a nine-to-five just wasn't for me. I also decided to pick up heavier weights again and my butt have experienced exponential growth since then. (Hi, @jonathantam) Although I have approximately a month and a half left of 2015, I can't even begin to tell you how anxious I've been. A few weeks ago, I received devastating news---one that tested my ability to stay sane and above all else, news that tore my family's mental state and shredded it into pieces. I also got into a huge disagreement with a good friend of mine and for a quick second, I felt like I was experiencing some sort of unwanted deja-vu. It's been quite a ride but I'm extremely grateful for every moment, every life lesson, every mistake, every falling out because each of those experiences has led me to this exact place and I couldn't be happier.

If you want to know how I'm feeling then I'm going to tell you. I'm scared. Venturing into a brand new industry is an exhilarating and equally frightening thing to do. I'm anxious. How do I even go about telling my mom about all of this and have her completely understand the emotional turmoil I've been going through? Through all of these emotions, however, the one that stood out to me the most....the one that kept me going is excitement. While I'm batshit scared, yes...I'm almost too enthusiastic to let anyone take this away from me. My life has been something I've worked incredibly hard for -a labor of love so to speak- and like I've said many times in the past, this is only my beginning.

It's going to be a crazy holiday with projects, work, and my film following Thanksgiving festivities but it's going to be a lot of fun. Wanted to give you some updates now that I can still take a breather. As always, if you're reading this, thank you for all of the support truly.

The Pressure of a Modern Woman

Two and a half months in. It took me nearly two and a half months or so to accept and settle the fact that no salary and compensation package was big enough for me to ever sacrifice my own personal growth and happiness. Initially, I was scared that the decision to quit my job meant that I would somehow leave a permanent blemish on my work record. However, while things could have ended on a better note, I tried telling myself that it could have been worse.  Thankfully, I learned that sometimes you just need to let things go even if it means letting go of a role that originally fueled your enthusiasm and hunger. Yes, as nice as it is to be open and optimistic, that kind of magical thinking would have left me feeling extremely unsatisfied and thwarted. Pros? Now I am able to spend more time pursuing a role I can actually see myself thriving in. These kind of uncertainties definitely led me to experience a medium level of stress. Frankly, it's all I ever think about nowadays. Next to that was this --- does this mean my mom wants me to help her in the kitchen now? Which leads me to my next curiosity --- did Steve Jobs ever sit down and think about the dinner he's about to cook....Okay, I'm only bringing this up because it seems like everyone around me is putting more pressure for me to be domesticated now that I have so much free time on my hands.

So here are my thoughts on this. I have plenty of friends who wake up early, go to work, go home, clean the house, and prepare a meal for their respective partner. At the end of it all, the highlight of their day goes back to the very notion that they can sit down at a table and share a meal with someone they care about.

More recently, I started to imagine how nice it must be to desire and obtain that kind of comfort and stability. But before I could allow myself to settle for that state of mind (not that there's anything wrong with it, it's just not Khanh), I accepted the fact that it wasn't the kind of life I would have wanted for me.

If I haven't put it out there already, I absolutely adore my boyfriend. He lifts, he cooks, and on top of everything, he knows how I like my coffee and eggs in the morning. I giggle at the idea of having cooking nights with him, while catching up on the latest episode of Suits. I also giggle at the idea of me coming home with groceries and preparing him a meal for once. That's also me giggling at an idealistic Khanh. Realistically, I couldn't envision a future where I had to put on an apron every night, wait for my partner to come home, and be completely happy with my life. I always had the thought of, well if I worked hard enough, I wouldn't ever have to worry about how the meal gets on the table. It'll be there when I get home. My concentration is less on my culinary skills or lack thereof but more on what I can do to further my talents, contributions and performance in a professional setting.

I feel all sorts of pressure but it mainly stems from the very fact that I so badly want to make my parents proud. While their wishes for me include settling down, finding a good husband, having a stable life and job, the ones I have for myself are extremely different. I want a partner that can challenge me, a life that is constructed with series of losses and wins, and a career that can sometimes be all too consuming but equally gratifying.

Old me would have immediately wanted to apologize to my parents and my boyfriend for not knowing how to cut a watermelon and/or making something aside from cup ramen. But after writing all of this down, I figured it's better to have a healthier and more open approach and who's to say I can't perhaps learn how to cook killer meals while slaying every new professional venture? We'll see how it goes. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that I don't burn the house down.

Uncomfortable Conversations

I have completely lost track of the amount of uncomfortable conversations I have had within these past couple of month. However, I felt a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders when one of my favorite authors reiterated the notion that that sometimes a person's success is measured by these kind of unexpected, unwarranted moments. For about two months or so, I've been feeling a significant amount of stress, which eventually led to me feeling extremely insecure and unhappy. The only time I would ever feel at ease is when I'm around my close friends, family members, and/or my boyfriend. I, being the person that I am, was very much aware of the situation. I knew exactly why, who, and what that made me feel so unsatisfied and unmotivated. Instead of being decisive and put it upon myself to take some calculated risks, I chose to not change my circumstance and as a result, I felt into a very dark pit hole.

To do or not do? To say or not to say?

At the very worst, what could happen? Well, let's see here. 

  1. I might have to start over.
  2. I will have to face the unknown and uncertainty.
  3. I will fail.

Okay, after writing all of these things out, it actually doesn't seem all that bad. I've been through way worse, but if you really wanted me to be honest with you, I'll tell you that I'm hanging on for what's left of my passion and fire due to the very fact that I believe that change is possible. If I changed my attitude, my work ethic would suddenly change. If I changed my actions, perhaps, I would finally get that stamp of approval that I've been so desperately seeking.

These things ought to happen, right? Wrong. At this rate, there's a high chance that nothing will change unless I'm willing to step outside of my comfort zone and actually have that uncomfortable conversation. It's never easy to eliminate every single physical and psychological baggage, but it's always better to follow your heart than be miserable and dreading to wake up every morning. I don't wish this upon anyone, especially not myself.

I guess I have a lot of thinking to do as I move forward with my next step, but we'll see how everything goes! As always, Fight On!

Yes to Progress

Lesson I’ve learned over the course of a couple of weeks or so – turn every negative into a positive. Incident #1(-): I got a cold sore breakout three days after my trip to Las Vegas

(+): I need to take care of myself better and apply lip balm with actual SPF

Incident #2(-) someone I thought I admired and could get along with ended up being the exact opposite

(+): Hardship is not a permanent situation and encountering bad people is just all part of the whole process.

Incident #3 – (-) It rained pretty hard as my friends and I drove to San Bernardino for DadaLand

(+) I learned how to ignore the fact that I was in an ugly yellow plastic bag and instead focus on the music and of course, dance in the rain

Within the month of June – July, I’ve lost weight, gained it back, and then lost it again. Sometimes, I would go home and I would feel a significant amount of stress. The journey to building my empire has been anything but easy and sure enough, I’ve spent a few nights imagining how my life would be had I walked away from it all.

It's always easier, am I right? To run away and not have to deal with the situation entirely. Though the thought have crossed my mind, at the end of the day, I'm not a quitter. The road, as uninviting and rough as it is, enables me to toughen it out and work even harder. It's hard and I completely get it. When the expectation and vision that we have for our future doesn't align with our reality, we can get a little impatient. It wasn't until I took a few steps back and breathed did I finally cut myself some slack.

I hope you understand that I've been struggling and although I complain every so often, I've never been hungrier for progress. However, progress (like many things in life) takes perseverance and time. So I hope you take some time today to press pause, reflect on your current situation, and know that this journey towards progress is only the beginning.

This is only my beginning.

Choosing Interdependency

As a young working professional, the idea of having a career, social life, dating life, personal life as a one-size-fits-all sort of deal just never resonated with me. I'm dependent in a sense that I still live with my parents. My mom still does my laundry, cooks my meal, irons my shirts, and etc. I don't need to pay for mortgage or worry about car insurance. I guess this explains why I always attribute my successes to my beautiful mother. For over twenty-two years, I have been financially dependent on my parents. This has changed over the past month or so since I'm finally able to make enough money to cover my expenses, which has been stressful but equally gratifying. Just the other day, I even rewarded myself with a new pair of black stilettos and it felt amazing. I felt like I earned it and you know what? There's nothing wrong with treating yourself to something nice every once in awhile.

Moving on, my transition from dependence to independence (as Covey would explain it) has been a fairly smooth one. My family and friends are all extremely supportive. I able to invite my mom, little brother, and Danny to my company's soft launch party just last month. I'm currently taking on a couple of weekend projects with other companies on the side. Keeping myself busy and getting back on that mojo felt right.

My newly found independence has not only allowed me to gain a sustainable income, I am now in a place where I may actually consider stepping into the dating scene again. By dating, I don't mean swiping left or right on a Tinder application or seeing a different guy every week. I mean to actually devote some time into getting to know someone. Instead of broadening my network, something I have already been mastering, perhaps this is a good time to invest in a person or so. To discover their likes, their dislikes, their quirks, what makes them tick, and anything beyond the superficial exterior. I want to let you know that this is a hugeeeee leap for me. Throw this idea to me a couple of weeks ago and I probably would have rolled on the floor laughing. Khanh, for as long a I can remember, does not do commitments, but all that has changed about three days ago when I picked up my book again.

It took a couple of readings for me to finally come to a conclusion that independence and interdependence are not mutually exclusive whatsoever. I lived with the notion that while I was dependent on my mom and independent in nature, sacrificing my career to pursue something as minuscule as a relationship would eventually deter me away from my ultimate goal.  After finishing another chapter, however, Covey made it clearer to me that much of my past personal achievements came from collaborative efforts - interdependence. He says that no matter how exceptional I am or how productive I can be, there will always be some sort of limitation when it comes to being independent. In light of this, I have now chosen to broaden my perspective and be open to building and nourishing interdependent, highly effective relationships. The idea (in summary) is that two is better than one.

I guess the question right now is...so who's going to be the lucky guy?

Catching Up

Within the past week alone, I've been to four different cities, juggled a bunch of projects, and celebrated Memorial Day Weekend with some of my closest friends. Currently, I'm still trying to figure out this whole work-life balance thing without completely destroying my mental and physical health so after I finished writing that previous blog post, I finally came to terms with myself. I am and will always be, a workaholic. It has always been in my nature to push myself, to work a little harder, and to live outside my comfort zone; however, now I think it's the right time for me to really settle in and figure out which relationships/dreams are worth the investment and which ones are not. Since I have a couple of hours to myself every night, I've been completely devoted to this Stephen Covey novel. He said, "We are not a product of our circumstance, but of our decisions." Oftentimes, people find themselves feeling impatient and wanting to change their circumstance rather than themselves. A better way to look at it is that while we can't control every substantial or insubstantial event that happens to us, at the very least, we can change the way in which we see these events as well as our reactions to them. Self growth, for me, has always been something to strive for on the daily. At the same time, it's more productive if I recognize this ongoing process as a very tender investment. So in order to successfully excel in self-improvement, I have to give myself room to grow, make mistakes, take risks, and fail a couple of hundred times over.

When I was in the sixth grade, I would lock myself in a room and read as much as possible because I wanted to have the highest AR points in my grade. Although I enjoyed my readings, my innate competitive nature took away that feeling of leisure. Now that I'm older, I'm starting to appreciate writing and novels for what they really are.  So instead of rushing through Covey's novel for the sake of "reading" it, I actually read every page out loud and then reread it again in my head. I enjoy hearing the sound of my own speaking voice, at the same time, I wanted to internalize every concept, every paradigm; more importantly, I wanted to really apply these 7 daily habits.

Okay, it's time for me to eat my dinner now. I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend and if you get the chance, take some time to remember why we're celebrating this holiday.

To the women and men who fought and is still fighting everyday for the life I get to live, thank you so much.

Burnout

I'm a happy camper and I have all the right reasons to be. My career is going well, my family and friends are doing great, I'm starting this awesome book called "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. Life's great. Okay, that's optimistic Khanh talking. Realistic Khanh will tell you that the work week definitely takes its toll on me. I wake up at 8 every morning, but my day is not over until 7:30 PM at night when I'm done with my workouts. With that said, I've noticed that my mood has also changed drastically. If I get at least 7 hours of sleep a day, I would wake up feeling extremely refreshed. However, as the day goes on, I find myself feeling extremely irritable and at times, highly sensitive. Not only am I much more attuned  with other people's behaviors and reactions, I've also developed a IDGAF attitude, which I'm not too proud of. [I can sometimes do reckless things to hurt others whenever I start to feel this way] Ex: Say things I don't mean, do things I wouldn't normally do, etc. So before things start to go out of hands, I had no choice but to turn to research in order to explain my current dilemma.

Here are some of the conclusions I've reached:

1) I haven't had enough time for myself.

"When the Well-of-Self overflow with 'too much': too much time with others, too much time at work, too much attention poured into someone else. When we direct too much energy outward, we lose the sense of spaciousness that defines well-being and that's when irritation ensues. So if you can see your irritation as a sign that you need to take some space to fill up your well nourishment, you will return to the situation with more space inside and your irritation will naturally diminish.'

2) I'm experiencing a classic case of burnout.

I started pursuing my career with fire and passion. I also wanted to have an outstanding social life so I did what I could to schedule an event every single weekend or so. Concerts, raves, social gatherings. You name it. While I've gained an incredible network of friends and have finally stepped into the entertainment arena, I began to obsess more about my work as well as reaching this level of perfection (something that obviously doesn't exist). I gave up dating completely, walked away from a couple of friendships (see blog post below), and without realizing it, I took it upon myself to become a workaholic as I continue to seize every opportunity that came my way.

The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, PsyD describes this burnout as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.”

“A lot of burnout really has to do with experiencing chronic stress,” says Dr. Ballard, who is the head of the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. “In those situations, the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors.”

 

And of course, with this comes all kinds of negative emotions ---frustration, cynicism, pessimism. I'm not even going to go in further details with all the other cognitive problems I've been experiencing. I understand that it does in fact come with a territory and I'm no stranger to piling things on my plate. However, I know when something's wrong and right now, something's really wrong.

With Memorial Day Weekend coming up, I hope to spend a couple of hours to unplug, practice meditation, and read a couple of more chapters of my book. I am still very much grateful for the life that I get to live, but by investing so much of my time into work and other people, I have once again failed to prioritize myself. -Typical Khanh maneuver-

Alright, it's time for bed. I hope you guys take a chance to really think about what you've been doing lately and whether or not you've loved yourself enough to give you some time to breathe. I know that I'm guilty of this all of the time, but again...I'm still a work-in-progress.

 

 

Post-Beyond Wonderland

I'm back! And sick! (Again)  It has been a pretty eventful weekend for me. I celebrated my two year rave-aversary with some amazing people at a two day camping event at Beyond Wonderland. Of course, everything comes with a cost because my cough is back and I've used up half of my tissue box this morning alone.

After the guys dropped me off at home Sunday afternoon, my friend Lily asked me if I wanted to go to a small concert with her in Los Angeles and I told her that I would love to join her. Later that evening, I told my other friend I would not be home until eleven or so and he called me crazy for pushing myself too much. "Why would you not choose sleep?" he asked me. Truth is, I was beyond tired but quality time with my friend was important. She landed an amazing job and it's rare for me to spend time with her in general so I'm going to take whatever time I can get. Good friends are everything and while I'm still working on this whole life balance thing, I think it's important for me to prioritize the people I care about.

At 7:15, Lily arrived at my house and drove us to the city of Angels. I know I visit LA all the time and I've been living there for the past couple of years, but I miss it tremendously. I miss the city when I'm there, I miss the city when I'm not there. My new practical take on love and relationships is that if I'm fortunate enough to stumble upon that one person who makes me feel the way I feel about Los Angeles then I think I might just be at my happy place.

During our car ride, my friend updated me on her new job. I asked her what her short-term and long goals were. We exchanged some fun weekend stories and at one point, I asked her why she wasn't dating as of yet. She told me that she was open to the idea, but it has been extremely hard for her. I understood exactly where she was coming from. You think finding a person who you can get along with is hard? Try Hollywood.

"Are you scared?" I asked her.

"Yes."

"Of what? Of giving love, receiving love, or losing love?"

"Losing," she said.

It broke my heart when I heard her say that. I knew that deep down, a person as kind and compassionate as my friend is deserving of the world and an incredible man who can give all that to her. After hearing her thoughts on the subject, I reassured her that she will be okay. She might not be able to see it now because timing just hasn't been right, but I'm very confident that a good person will walk into her life in the future.

In the meantime, all of this discussion somehow swayed me to reflect on my very own personal life and current situation. I'm not going to lie. I have had plenty of opportunities to meet new people, to date, to have fun here and there, but I've been very coy about it this year. Romantic relationships are complicated and of course, I'm not really one to be completely in touch with my emotional side. Since I've turned the switch off for so long, I'm probably more desensitized than ever before.  I look at men very differently now. I have gained this new ability to see past their facade, the charm, the way in which they speak to me. It takes me no more than a couple of conversations before I could reevaluate their true nature. The gift of reading people is secretly a blessing and curse in disguise. Why? Because when you're able to see people for who they truly are, it can either scare you or excite you. Typically, for me, it's always the former. My wall starts to build up every time I watch a person walk in and out of my life, but I'm pretty used to it by now. Good-byes do get easier each time.

So following my amazing weekend, I was able to learn a couple of [new] things about myself.

  • I am no longer afraid to speak my mind
  • I am no longer afraid of going after what I want
  • I am still at a place where I cannot fully commit to any person other than myself
  • I am very much in control of my environment and who I want to keep in my life
  • I am no longer afraid of saying "No"
  • I honestly don't give a fuck (very often)

Being in a saturated environment such as a massive rave has really enabled me to open up my mind and heart. I never never dared to act irrationally and I'm proud of myself for not doing so. I'm no longer a college student so it's important for me to have my fun but also know when to hold my ground and stature.

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your week and take care of yourself so you won't be sick in bed like me!

The Golden Rule

Not too long ago, my friend and I were invited to a private tasting event for a popular restaurant in Orange County. Needless to say, he and I were pretty darn excited. Free food? Count us in! Upon arrival, we were greeted with a warm welcome and smiles from the staff and host who seated us right by the bar. I could say that we probably had the best view in the house since the kitchen and chefs were right in front of us. My friend was to my right, leaving a couple of empty seats to my left. Not very long after, a man walked in and filled the seat next to me. I turned over to introduce myself as I normally would and he gave me his name. I later asked him several small talk questions in order to break the ice and as it turns out, he's a senior editor for a well known food blog. He told me he has been working for the company for four years and is currently taking on a couple of other roles within the brand. Social media marketing was one of them. As an area of my expertise, I thought it'd be nice to share with him my  take on food marketing strategies and so I did. However, he didn't take it too well and responded with a high pitched laugh of his. At one point, he turned the tables around and bluntly asked me, "So what are you?" Now I've received plenty of questions in my lifetime but this was one of those rare instances where I had no desire in answering such poorly constructed question.

"I'm a college graduate," I said.

He stared at me for what seemed like forever and then slowly turned his head as more of his friends started to arrive. Granted, I knew there is a time and place for everything and I wasn't about to tell this guy what's up. Under different condition and setting, I probably would have told this guy off. As a person who is a brand ambassador for his company, I was thrown off by his rude demeanor and tone of voice (I saved a couple of minor details just for the sake of not giving too much away). It took me awhile to think back about  previous conversations I have had with my producers and then I realize, "Wow. These are the kind of people they've always tried to warn me about." It was very clear to me that he was a networking kinda guy so the second I said the word "college graduate," his body language took a 180 turn (literally). I never got to finish my response, but to be quite honest with you, I had absolutely zero interest in communicating with a person like that.

I've been taught in school to always live by the golden rule, which is to treat others the way I want to be treated. While I revered these kind of values, I'm also no longer a person who is unwilling to speak up for herself. However, actions speak louder than words and I'm looking forward to the day when he realizes the bridge he has burnt by making someone feel so small.

Later that night, I overheard the person talking to his fellow friends about a new marketing concept that he came up with, which sounded a lot like the discussion I had with him just moments before. I giggled a little at his lack of originality and need to share something that wasn't his to begin with. It has been awhile since I've come across a rude person, but I didn't want a person's lack of mannerism and class ruin the rest of my evening. So I did what I was extremely good at. I block out the external noise (aka his voice and obnoxious laugh) completely.

I think it's always easy to allow yourself to build animosity towards a person when they don't treat you the way you'd like to be treated. However, words and actions of a person say a lot more about them then they say about you. People are going to have their shortcomings, myself included, but at times, it's better to take the high road so that's what I did. I laughed everything off and proceed to enjoy the meticulous prepped meal with my friend.

Lesson of the day: we can't always have a say of how others will treat us, but we are in complete control over our very own conduct. So of course, the way to happiness is made much brighter by applying the precept, “Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you.” And I'm telling you...the people who treat you poorly are the same ones who will remember your name.

Giving Back | SCervice Day

Two weeks ago, I signed up for USC Alumni Scervice Day and it was probably one of the most rewarding decisions I've made all year. In high school, everyone knew me as a couple of things. 1) the manager on the girl's basketball team 2) that ASB chick who does the morning news announcement 3) Key Club. While I'm proud of all three, if I had to choose to be under one category (granted in life you never have to really be just one thing), I'd choose to be a member of an organization that gives back to their community. I didn't have to be in Key Club for me to know that I've been madly deeply in love with service. After being rejected my freshman year and later accepted as a member my sophomore year, my life changed. Weekends were dedicated to nearby projects and in some cases, workshops and conventions. What started out as a hobby later became one of my passions.  I loved waking up early in the morning and found my sole purpose in life, which is essentially to make this world a better place. I know it sounds like one of those cliche lines I got from the Internet, but it's true. I've always lived with the mantra to leave things better than when I found them.  Whether it would be crafting with kids at CHOC Hospital or helping breast cancer survivors find their gowns for their big day, I enjoyed interacting with people. They always have a story to tell and a bright smile on their faces as they are telling it, making it even harder to not be inspired by them.

This past weekend, I took a day off from work so I could participate in a wonderful USC family tradition. Being a career woman, I never try to place myself in any position that would jeopardize my hard work, but I knew very well that I had to find that balance between doing what I love and giving back when I can. Therefore, I made a new initiative this year and that is to pay it forward at least once a week. It might seem minuscule compared to my high school days, but it's a start for me. Along with 50 other alumni yesterday afternoon, we packed over 1,100 food boxes that will be later distributed to senior families and low-income homes.

Here are two things I learned from this one experience.

  • There are three (basic) fundamental things you can give in order to serve your community.

1. time      2. money      3. food

Don't get me wrong here. You definitely don't have to be Warren Buffett in order to make a difference. That act of giving is as grand or as simple as you'd like to make it. So if you can, give when you can.

  • Volunteering serves not only others, but also your soul.

As soon as I packed my very last box, I felt like I just won a gold medal. While I only volunteered for five hours, I couldn't imagine how difficult it would be had I worked eight hours a day, five days a week at the cold warehouse. On a more positive note, doing for others not only provides you physical rewards (yay endorphins!), it can also give you a perspective and an even greater appreciation for your own life.

When I went home later that day, my mom gave me a little talk about the decision that I made aka giving up a workday in order to do something I've always done in the past and how it might not necessarily be the wisest choice. Although I respect her opinion, I knew that the rebel in me would have chosen what felt right. And you know what? Being at Orange County Food Bank that day felt right. I was empowered by the Trojans I met. There were pharmacists, engineers, business men and women. I was empowered by the people who dedicate all their time to these causes. And of course, I was even more empowered to do bigger and better so that I can give give more and be more.

I'll end this post by leaving you a quote that has inspired the high school Khanh and this one is from Mahatma Gandhi.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

The Things That Matter

It's almost midnight right now, but before I head to bed, I wanted to write down a couple of things that's currently running through my mind as I finish up my reading on seeking happiness and finding success. Plain and simple. The author briefly discussed the notion of success and how it can negatively impact our lives if we consistently try to believe that success boils down to one single moment, one single milestone. Not too long ago, I dated a guy who presumably had everything. At 23 years old, he has a two-story house, two cars, two beautiful little puppies, a steady job, and well...me. To me, he was the definition of success. To him, not so much. Every time we were together, he would talk about his new business venture and the amount of money he wanted to make in the near future. He even asked me if I was interested in being partners with him, but that was a red flag right there. Uh uh. No way. If it's one thing I learn, it's that I should never mix business with pleasure. Definitely not the best go-to combination. While his drive was extremely admirable and sexy, it was often times very difficult for me to be in the same room as him. For hours, this person would express how unhappy he was with the amount of money he's making. Again, this coming from the same guy who purchases only designer labels and high-end products. It was, at times, quite frustrating to see how torn he was between choosing prestige and money over delayed gratification.

At this point, it was only a matter of time before I discovered an absolute truth. This person has no room for me in his heart. Despite knowing this, I chose to treat him extremely well. I wanted him to see how purposeful life can be when he stops seeking for happiness in all the wrong places. To some degree, I liked him, of course, but better than that, day after day, I chose to be with him.  I knew, however, that what we had would never be enough. This is not to say that I'm not good enough. I held all the qualities he wanted in a partner, but we just never reach that level of compromise or commitment. For this very reason, I could never picture us having a future together. It just wasn't possible.

Normally, when a person recognizes this kind of truth about her man, she is likely to feel some sort of negative emotion. Not me. I wasn't angry at him, nor was I sad or disappointed. Instead, I feel for the poor guy. I cannot imagine living a life where I am consistently searching for happiness in monetary items. If you know me, you can clearly see why this person and I would never work out (not accounting other things as well). We were much too different and I wasn't planning to ever compromise my happiness in hopes that I could change a person's outlook entirely. I would love to be the person that makes someone a better man, but it's not my place to purposely try to change a person just because. After all, he grew up with this mentality and we know how that old saying goes, "Habits die hard."

Lesson I learned: choose to be with people who understands and values the importance of seeking happiness in life's small joys.

I Love You, Mom

"Here's to strong women. May we know. May we be them. May we raise them."

March 8th was International Women's Day, a holiday I was extremely excited about. So after work that very same day, I went online and listened to a twenty minute podcast given by Emma Watson. She spoke about the HeforShe campaign, a United Nation initiative for gender equality and the empowerment of women. After listening to her words, I felt incredibly inspired to write in this very own blog of mine.

I know I've spoken and written previously in the past in regards to the amount of pressure I receive from my parents to succeed, but I think it's extremely disheartening if I discredit the woman who, at the same time, inspires me and supports me through it all. This person is, of course, my mother.

Here's a little timeline to put everything in perspective. She is the youngest of 12 children. At age 5, she woke up at four in the morning every day to help my grandfather sell glass cups. At 18, she finished high school as class president for four years and moved out of the house soon after. At 22, she became a business owner. At 26, she got married and had me. My mom has an unprecedented work ethic and ability since she was young. Beautiful as she may be on the outside and I'm telling you, this woman does not look a day past 35, she is unquestionably even more beautiful on the inside. Now I don't know when I started to love her (and I mean really love her), but there has been nights when I wished I loved her longer. I wished I understood her. I wished I could take all the pain she has endured for forty something years and throw it away so that she can sleep more soundly at night.

I noticed that whenever we go out together nowadays, strangers or distant relatives would comment on how my mom has raised such a beautiful daughter. (They do not know much about me so I'm assuming they are talking about my physical attributes) Whatever the underlying meaning is, I never take those words lightly. I could tell from the expression on my mom's face that whether she'd like to admit it or not, deep deep down, she's proud of the young woman I've become. Yes, I'm not nearly close to where I need to be; however, it gives me a peace of mind when she does give me a reminder that raising me has been easy. I was never the trouble maker. I taught myself English and mathematics. I followed a curfew until I was in eight grade.  I did my own hair and played around with my cousin's hand-me-down clothes. I've always had perfect attendance and had no trouble succeeding in academics and extracurricular activities. Moreover, I was always never home. My independent personality, while it has led me to many of my successes, is also the same reason why I was never as close to my mom as I would like to be. My brother, on the other hand, well that's another story.

Years after I learned how to communicate more openly, our relationship also began to improve. I cried on her shoulder when I found out my first love has moved on with another person. That very summer, she booked me round-trip tickets to Hawaii and Vietnam. When I graduated college and was extremely sad that my father completely forgot about it, she threw me a $1,000 banquet and told me I could invite all of my best friends. When I wanted to take a breather after being burnt out in school, she decided to use the money she saved up so that she could take my little brother and me back to the Motherland.

So let me re-explain what I meant when I said I receive a lot of pressure from my family. There's a certain level of expectation that comes with being the oldest child; however, with my brother being the genius in the family, I was lucky enough to avoid being placed on that pedestal. Steven is the child that faces a lot of pressure. Me? I'm the wild card. By that, I mean....I rarely ever follow the norm. While I grew up incredibly disciplined and I still am, I also believe in living life freely and unapologetically. I never cared for the norm or what was "cool." So whether I purposely tried or not, I stood out regardless. Because I refuse to follow orders unless I make them myself, my mom often times question my choices. Other than myself, she is the one person in the world who really wants to see me succeed. I guess this explains why I've been feeling so burdened because I'm not sure if she's proud of me right now. There's a lot of uncertainty up in the air and the thought of disappointing her in any way seriously brings me so much pain. At the same time, I use that emotion to fuel me.

My mom once told me, "To pursue a career likes yours and to actually succeed, you'd need to be either really lucky or really talented." So today, I wanted to tell her that I am both. I thought about it long and hard as to how I'm able to communicate these words effectively to her and then I came up with an even better idea. Why should I tell my mother this when I can show her? I have a little secret. Okay, scratch that. I have a big secret. A big incredible surprise and I'm only waiting until everything settles down before I can reveal it to her and then later, the rest of the family. Until then, I wanted to take this time to show my appreciation to the woman who is truly the reason why I am everything that I am today.

I love you, momma. Hope you're ready for what I'm about to tell you next ;) :*

The Day I Met Michael

My entire face is burnt from standing in the sun for 9 straight hours at the exposition. I broke my mile record while running to work today because parking anywhere near the convention center meant that I had to spill $40 out of my wallet. Instead of walking back to my car empty-headed, I gathered 3 boxes of goodies (who knew goodies were so heavy) so I can drop it off to my friends' families because I know they'd love it. All in all, I'm sure I would have performed better had I slept the night before but work hard, play hard. Am I right? This isn't the most interesting part of my day though, but I'll get to that in just a sec. Let's start from the beginning. Last year, I took an upper division course called, "Ethical Issues in Entertainment and Communication" and one of the topics we dived into was homelessness, particularly in Skid Row. Although I've seen homeless people facing extremities in third world countries, I sometimes forget to account that more than 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year. I guess one of the advantages about traveling is that it really has helped broaden my view when it comes to these kind of serious issues. At the same time, it also sparked my curiosity to learn more about what's happening in my own home (ie. California, Los Angeles, etc.)

Today, during my lunch break, I had my first one-on-one experience with a homeless man. Rather than sitting on a bench like everyone else, I took a seat on the curb, trying to get as much as shade as I possible could, scrolling through my phone endlessly like I always do. Not too long after I settled down, a man took a seat right next to me. I turned to my right and there he was. I could tell he hasn't shaved in weeks and his clothes looked unwashed. That aside, nothing about him really struck out to me. I knew right away that it wouldn't be long before he struck a conversation and so I waited.

"Hi."

"Hi."

"How old are you?"

"22."

"I was going to say...you look like you're 18."

At first, my cranky lack of sleep self felt irritated. While I wouldn't place the blame on anyone other than myself,  sleep deprivation + 85 degree weather + talking to people all day long = still cranky, still smiling. Even then, I continue to answer all of the questions he had for me and after two minutes or so, my most FAQ popped up.

"So..are you seeing someone?"

Can't say I wasn't shocked because I definitely was. His question, in this particular setting, was so out of the blue for me. It's either that or I will never understand how people can be so forward about something that is so personal, considering I just met this person.

"I'm sorry. What do you mean by that?"

"Like...do you have a boyfriend?"

"I don't."

At this point, I think he could tell my patience was running short. Instead of mischievously trying to plan my escape route like I normally would at a bar or a club, I closely examined his body language and gestures. He's nervous. I could tell. But it was his eyes that told me he was more than that. He wanted to be heard. He wanted someone to listen to him. So of course, I did what Khanh would do in these kind of situations.

"Tell me your story."

So there I was, sitting on a tiny little curb, having a full on conversation with this man who was a stranger just a couple of minutes ago. Turns out, Michael (let's call him Michael. I'm really bad with names) has been homeless for two weeks now. While he tried to make ends meet, a friend who originally offered to give him a place to stay randomly decided to kick him out soon after. Nowadays, he's trying to work on his music and his love for rapping/writing lyrics. Initially, he would show me photos of him back when he was in his prime as well as some songs he has written and produced. I knew that these were the kind of gestures any many would have made in order to impress the woman he was talking to. I'm not jumping to conclusions here. You can say that I've finally reached a point where I can tell a person's motive very well. In this case, however, Michael's intent shifted.

At the beginning, he would say something along the lines of, "You know. If I clean up. I clean up really well. I look better than this." I trusted him when he told me that. He had beautiful blue eyes and a nice complexion. But truth be told, I originally felt like I was in an awkward situation between wanting to connect with someone vs being scared as I am anticipating his next move. I didn't really know how to feel or react. Should I stop talking to this guy who is without a doubt showing interest in me? Or should I continue?

For about 15 minutes or so, he went on to tell me more about his background and his music. While I tried to mind my own business, I had a lot of insights on the industry that I wanted to share with him as well as certain critiques about his work. But before I could put in my two cents, I asked him if he was okay with me being brutally honest on his ventures and album covers. I always do this. By this, I mean I have a habit of asking people whether or not they could handle the truth (or at least my perception of what I believe to be true) Why? 1) some people don't take criticism very well; therefore, I respect that and will remain silent 2) I don't sugarcoat things; therefore, what you hear is exactly how I feel about [insert scenario here] Surprisingly, he took all of my suggestions very well. He even went on to ask for my thoughts on marketing tactics and his next career move.

My encounter with Michael lasted no more than twenty minutes. Even then, it really gave me a few perspective on things.

1) Our conversation went from him asking me surface-level questions such as, "Are you seeing someone?" to him telling me, "Khanh, the more I get to know you, the more I like you."

This shows me that when you decide to reveal your most authentic self to a person, their perspective on you will also change.

2) Homelessness does not determine one's character. 

Michael, on the outside, looked like every thirty year old man (Although I guessed his age to be 24 because he looked quite young). Truthfully, I would have never guessed he was homeless and so it wasn't until until he told me about what has happened with the fallout of his friend did I realize that he had a big luggage next to him.

Yes, he has less monetary items than one would presume, but I've seen people with the world in their hands and yet they're still unhappy and dissatisfied with themselves. He didn't allow his social disadvantages to define him. So living and financial situation aside, Michael was just your average struggling artist. Talked to me like how any guy would talk to me. He smiled, he shared with me his stories, he wasn't afraid to ask for help, he held on to the fact that he was on 'America's Got Talent' twice. He's a dreamer, that's for sure. I saw it in him and his hunger reminded me of someone I know very well ---myself.

3) Treat everyone with kindness. 

At the root of everything is one central theme: love. For the past three years or so, I've practiced giving love to my family, my friends, and more recently, myself. However, I also want to relay that same type of treatment to everyone. I can never stress how important it is to spread love and kindness, especially in a time when so many negative things are happening.

My Conclusion -I think it's extremely important to recognize that homelessness does exist and that it is prevalent and often times, an easily dismissed issue. Instead of neglecting the issue, we should actively try to seek progress in reducing the devastating effect it has on the millions of Americans out there. I say progress rather than solution because I feel like we should take things step-by-step and each day, hopefully, we're that much closer to finding the cure for all.

And so I hope you don't make the same mistake as I did today. At first, I acted very cold to Michael until I finally took the chance and got to know him slightly a bit better. I knew he didn't want sympathy so even after hearing all of the tragic things that has happened to him, I didn't give him that. Instead, I wanted to leave him with something I've been blessed with every single day. Hope. So before I ended my 8 hour workday, I walked over to the corner of the street to find Michael and when I did, I reached over to give him a handshake then I said to him, "I wish you the best of luck on your music career and I'm happy to have met you today." 

It's always easy to overlook other people's stories when you're trying to write your own, but if you can, I highly encourage you to take some time out of your day to just listen to someone. Let them speak while you listen. You'll be surprise how much you can learn about a person and what drives them. It starts with you and your open heart.

You and I both are aware of this but we will never know what others go through unless we decide to walk a day in their shoes. Although twenty minutes or a day is only a small glimpse, a small fraction of what really goes down, I will tell you that by tapping into the lives of others, you'll learn and gain more than you've bargained for.

Creating Space for Yourself

Something I've learned over the past couple of days while I was wallowing in melancholy is that anytime I carry any of that sadness with me, I also become more philosophical and in tuned with myself. My humor becomes darker. My patience runs short. And without a question, my tolerance for bullshit goes from 30 to 0 very very quick. If I had a choice, I would choose to be happy all of the time, which explains why I try to surround myself around positive-thinkers. But when you have a great deal of internal and external stresses that you single-handedly created for yourself (remember, I thrive on stress), sometimes it's hard to put on that day-to-day smile that you used to wear all too well. For the first time in two years, I believe, it's hard for me to smile. Two days ago, during my lunch break, I decided to put away my phone and take a walk around the surrounding neighborhood of Newport Beach. After walking for about 10 minutes or so, I somehow managed to follow a cemented paved path that led me to a park with unique streams, wooden bridges, and varied wildlife. That was the first time I considered myself to be 'one with nature.' The tall trees casted a shadow above me so it was quite chilly to say the least. I could hear the crows chirping, but it was the sound of rushing water that brought me contentment and tranquility. I even remember there was a certain point when I decided to stop moving and instead, focus on my breathing. As I began to meditate, I tried to purposely bring back my darkest demons, but I failed. Because I was so faraway from other humans, my mind was completely blank. It was a beautiful moment...really and I'll tell you this. When you give yourself the opportunity to be awestruck by nature, you are left not only with its beauty but also with an even bigger peace of mind.

You've heard of it many times in the past, but my on-the-run lifestyle has always left me feeling very connected to those around me. Even when I am alone, I'm still constantly holding a conversation with someone (via text, Facebook message, Snapchat, and etc) It becomes almost habitual for me to stay responsive through a number of social media outlets. Technology has made it easier for all of us; at the same time, I can't imagine how strenuous it is for us to find space for ourselves. A private space that is occupy by a population of only one. With this in mind, I decided yesterday night that I will utilize the next two days as a mean to self-reflect, meditate, as well as have some quality me-time.

I will never apologize for my wanting to transpose myself into the position of others nor will I change my need to feel empathetic. However, in order to better my existing relationships, I must first work on the relationship that I have with myself. I'm lucky to know that my journey of self-discovery will not end once my two day period is over. In fact, I know I can always turn to my supportive group of friends and say with great confidence that I have people who will love me through it all. For better or for worse. I'm so grateful for that and I can't wait to walk away with this experience feeling more rejuvenated and energized than before.

Until then, Fight On!