Transitioning and Embracing the Chaos

If it's anything I learned from the likes of Mark Cuban and Sir Richard Branson, it's that "success doesn't always come in the first go or through a single opportunity." Mister Cuban started his career by selling garbage bags and later teaching disco lessons. Eric Lefkovsky sold carpet for a living before co-founding a group coupon site. I understood very well that preparation is key in all of this. At the same time, I knew I had to listen to that inner voice in my head telling me to pick myself back up whenever a door was slammed in my face. So what happens after that? Well, the answer is simple. I would build myself another door. Okay, what if that doesn't work out? In that case, I'd find any means to climb through the window. The point I'm trying to make here is that I never abide to any self-limiting notion or other's people subjective opinion on how I should live my life because the most beautiful part about this entire post-graduate journey is that I finally get to paint my present with my own brushes and palettes. For many months, I've watched my friends settled into a new chapter of their lives. Some of them are pursing higher education (yes, my childhood best friend just got into Notre Dame Law!) while others packed their bags and moved into a brand new city. It's an exciting time for us all and I couldn't have been more proud knowing I have such a hungry and ambitious group of friends. While they are all trying to adapt to working full-time, I have moved back to Orange County, got myself a two year gym membership pass, and submitted my resume/CV to some 25-30 prospective companies in Hollywood. Yes, I've gone to final rounds of interview for companies such as 20th Century Fox to Lionsgate; however, something always went south. That's part of life right? Whether it was my lack of direct experience or my being a fresh college graduate, either way, I was never the right fit or someone was always a better fit. I could never wrap my head around these hiring decision process, but it was important for me to maintain my confidence in the auxiliary experiences and skill sets I've gained over the years.

I would be completely lying to you if I said playing the waiting game was not difficult. Often times, it was extremely nerve-racking, especially when you have Asian parents breathing behind your neck. However, one thing USC has prepped me for is to consistently showcase my adaptability and willingness to grown and learn. During this time period, I read (a lot), I watched plenty of YouTube videos, I did tons of research on entrepreneurs and successful people. While school "can teach us competence, it can't teach us character," so having enthusiasm and passion for what you're doing goes a very very long way.

I hope sharing a little bit of my story enables you to know that it's okay to experience pushback. If you've read my previous blog posts, you'd know that I've gone through my fair share of struggles and will continue to do so. I've learned to accept the fact that it's okay to not land what I had perceived to be my 'ideal' job. Things will eventually fall into place as soon as we all realize we're more than capable of creating and building that door of opportunity ourselves.

Best of luck and as always, Fight On!

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 Aftermath of Pressing Pause

Two months ago, I wrote a blog post about pressing pause. You can read that post right here:https://khanhpduong.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/1230/

I figured that since I was done with school (for now), people would more than likely be curious as to know what it is that I am doing with my life (or not, I could be wrong). But the blog post above accurately depicted the emotional state I was in. Exhausted. Desperately in need of escape. And so I did what I believe to be one of the best decisions I've made, thus far. I pressed pause.

During that time, I've learned a couple of things that I would like to share with you.

1. Sometimes it's nice to not live by an agenda. For the first time in four years, I had a couple of days all to myself. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I was able to wake up in the morning, enjoy my cup of green tea, read a couple of news articles, and have lunch with an old friend. No agenda doesn't mean that I sat at home all day. It just meant that I didn't have any specific obligations. 2. Before you can do anything, take care of your mental and physical health. Healthy body = healthy mind -- Healthy mind = healthy body

3. Take a step back, breathe, relax, and reflect. It's good for you.

Whether you believe it or not, things are going to be okay. I know it sounds cliche. I know you've heard these words before, but best believe there's a reason why people keep telling you the same thing over and over again.

4. Be open to something new. Something scary.

This summer, I dated. Opening my heart up was extremely difficult, but it was a learning experience. I went into things feeling like an extreme novice...only to realize that I was handling every situations well. I had a wonderful time and met pretty awesome people.

5. Have fun.

This is just simple. Life is too short to not enjoy it!

I am so thankful for the past couple of months and am especially appreciative for mother's patience. I could tell that she stresses when thinking about my future, but I cannot wait to give her the best surprise ever ;-) And let me just put it in a simple phrase, she will not be disappointed with the news I'm about to deliver.

Stay tuned, my friends.

You Don't Have to Try

tumblr_n8lzk6m7sz1t88g9do1_500 Caption: Here is a photo of an icon who refused to accommodate to people's vanity. Another reason why I am absolutely in love with Marilyn.

Yesterday, I mistakenly did something I haven't done in a really really long time. I compared myself to another woman. By no means am I related to this person in any way. Aside from being raised in Orange County, she and I have never officially met. However, before bed yesterday night, I happened to do my random surfing through Instagram when I saw a photo of her dead-lifting. Curious as to who she was (like that would make any difference), I began to scroll down her page. It wasn't long before I had a change in mood and I was longer in the right mindset to sleep.

"She squats heavier weights than I do." "Her abs are more defined." "How do I even get my hips to pop out like that?"

Questions after questions kept rushing through--all of which demonstrated my self-doubt and insecurities. These were feelings that were all too strange to me. But as I furthered immersed with the experience of Instagram-surfing, I quickly realized that this unexplainable feeling has brought down my spirit tremendously. Now I didn't look at this stranger as a girl that I wanted to be. Instead, I looked at her and recognized her as everything that I am not. Stronger, fitter, etc.

"What is happening to me?" I thought to myself. "Why am I feeling this way?" And that's when it hit me. I, for the first time since high school, am conducting self-loathing and body shaming--two things I'd never advocate. As a strong believer in loving myself for all that I am, I learned through this experience that I also need to love myself for all that I am not. Altogether, it was an uncomfortable experience and I could only image what other girls are going through each and every single day.

A couple of weeks ago, my mother and I went out for lunch when she was talking to me about an article that she saw online. The article touched base on the effects of self-image on models and how it led to the death of countless of women within the industry. Curious as to what they looked like, I asked her to show me the page and there it was. Photos upon photos of beautiful models before they were merely skin and bones. After looking at a couple of them, I told my mother to put it away because I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't stand the thought of some beautiful human being passing away because she didn't feel like she was good enough.

But you know what? Having these type of insecurities just brought me closer to those girls I saw in the photographs and moreover, it brought me closer to the friends (I know) who are suffering from such body-related issues. In a way, however, I wanted to look at this sense of vulnerability as an act of humility. Writer and activist, Stephen Fry, said in one of his books that "these devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter, and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me."

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”  ~Vincent Van Gogh

With that said, after fifteen minutes of pure agony, I closed up the Instagram application and told myself that I wasn't going to allow myself to sleep tonight if I didn't feel good and happy. Thus, I opened up one of my favorite blogs and began to do what I love: I read. Fifteen minutes later, I passed out like a baby.

I was debating for a while if I should write about an experience that was somewhat unusual for me, but then I decided that these are discussions that I should not avoid since they're real and they matter. The effects media has played on my life has been extremely beneficial and positive, so far (hence, why I am pursuing such career) . I also firmly believe that it could be used in a way to not only assert power but influence upon the youth generation. However, it is also productive for me to recognize that media effects vary among individuals and yesterday night gave me my very first taste of bitterness and self deprecation. And for all the ladies out there who find themselves hating their bodies or the way that they look like, I hope that you all can look deep deep down and reflect on the unique qualities that make you invincible. For me, I just feel extremely grateful to be alive, healthy, and strong. Yes, I may not be able to add on two extra plates (for now), but I've come along way since my two pound weights and I am proud to recognize that.

So here is me telling you that you have so much to offer to this world and that these media-based perspectives should not define you. Take charge of your own life and reclaim the joys that come with loving yourself in your entirety--flaws and all.

I highly recommend you listening to this beautiful song by Colbie Caillat. It's called, 'Try.'

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