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.

Hard-Hitting Lessons Along The Way

I can say from personal experience that nothing is more exciting than being optimistic about a new opportunity, a new friendship, a new connection, and etc. It's one thing to have dreams but it's another thing to have goals. Like most of my college graduate friends, I really had no idea what I wanted to do. The only dream I ever had been that of pursuing something in the entertainment industry and even then, it was a dream that was incredibly difficult to explain to my Asian parents. So when a door opened earlier this year, I decided that it was time to take that leap of faith and see where it may take me. Unfortunately, it was a door that led to many tribulations and mental abuse. Rather than harnessing my dreams and developing stronger skill sets, I had to face off-handed remarks and criticism--day in, day out. It took me a month to realize that this wasn't the kind of life I wanted to live and three months before any immediate action was held.

My incredible network of friends have been nothing short of supportive even though sometimes I just want to tell them that it really has been such a challenging year for me. Challenging but equally rewarding. I lost a person who could have been my maid-of-honor. A person whom I claimed to be my better half. I lost a job that was so close to home and for a few weeks or so, I fought long and hard to continue to keep my pioneering attitude towards a brighter future. 2015 has been a year in which I've failed, scraped my knee, and bled. It has also been a year that taught me resilience, grit, and forgiveness. I've walked away from each of these experiences learning more about by my inner self and even more determined to work harder because success is earned, not given.

My skin feels thicker and so are the walls I've built around me but if given the choice, I would absolutely do it all over again.

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.

How I Conquered My Fear

"Do you think I like him? You know me better than anyone else in the world. You can answer this question." "You do," my best friend said to me. "You do, but you've always found reasons not to pursue anything more. Your biggest excuse to not pursue things is that you need to focus on yourself and your career, yet you're able to have late weeknights with him, date-adventures with him, and talk to him daily. He knows you on an intimate level, different than how other guys know you."

I stood there in silence as her words replayed over and over again.

She ended the conversation by asking me, "So what does that say?"

I smiled because whether I was aware of it or not, I like him. I definitely like him.


A lot of people never really understood why I stayed single for so long. Sometimes, when I'm out with my girlfriends on a Thursday night, I would get bombarded with questions such as, "How does a girl like you not have someone special in her life?" No matter how hard I would try to beat around the bush, it was almost impossible to escape everyone's burning question and curiosity about a personal life that didn't belong to them.  At the core of it, I knew that these men could not wrap their heads around the idea that someone like me can actually stand her ground and be completely satisfied with herself. Little did they know that the confident and energetic girl who has no trouble approaching them is the same girl who experienced a lot of pain and heartbreak.

At the time, I was extremely content so when these situations arise, it was almost easier to smile my way through conversations as I continued to explore my pool of temporary options. My mantra was simple. Like the guy enough to give him bits of your time, but not enough to give him your full-self. This meant that I never felt the urge to give any of these guys my loyalty, my trust, and my commitment. After all, if you're not bae, you don't get bae privileges.

While I was having a good time and enjoying myself, my career was the only thing that was running through my mind. At the time, I was spending money that I didn't have and my freelancing work was not enough to help me sustain myself financially. At one point, I had to turn down every dinner dates with friends because I could no longer pull money out of my savings account. The last and final thing I could even think about is finding myself a boyfriend.

So for 6 months straight, I began to hustle. Once I got into the momentum and flow of things, I started to hear back from companies and had at least 3 interviews scheduled every single week. During that time, I was consistently talking to one person every single day, but I never put much thought into it since my biggest fears has always been that I would somehow end up losing my sense of ambition and drive.

One night, while I was laying on my bed after a long day at work, I pulled out the book that I've been completely obsessed with and that was when everything hit me. I've been living in my own fears for way too long. Immediately, I felt a strange mental shift and the rest was history.

My former self always praised her independence and feared anything or anyone who might threaten it. I was wrong. I was so wrong. I've never been more independent in my entire life.

Nowadays, I get to eat the food that I want to eat, buy myself something nice every once in a while, and enjoy quality time with a very quality man. "You mean this entire time....this is what I have been so afraid of?"

One of the lessons I've learned is that I am by no means giving up my current path to be on an indefinite pause. I am still working hard and my career is still running on my mind (probably more now than ever). This time, however, everything is different. Now I have someone I can share my struggles and successes with. The good and the bad.

I'm extremely excited for us and for our journey. I am also proud of myself for going after something even if it means I'm holding on to dear life and hoping it won't leave me broken like the last.  Did I also mention how exhilarating it feels to conquer a fear and kicking it right in the booty? Try doing something that scares you and let me know how it goes ;-)  Until then, Fight On!

Story Behind a Decade Worth of Friendship

It has been a couple of weeks since I had that falling out with two of my best friends. I say a couple of weeks but in reality, I've completely lost track of time. So if anyone ever asks me, I would probably respond with something along the lines of, "It feels like forever." But just to be fair, I'm going to round up the days down to 'a couple of weeks.' However, before I continue on to tell you how I've been able to cope with everything, I'll fill you in on a little basics regarding friendships. I know it's hard for people to believe me when I tell them this (considering my outgoing manner), but growing up as an only child for nine years, I was a complete introvert. I would dread the opportunities when I had to speak to people and conduct small conversations. The feeling of being an outcast at school felt like a norm. Maybe not for other people; however, I was perfectly okay with it. Or so I thought. I was scared, insecure, and continuously anxious. It wasn't until the third grade did I start or at least attempt to make actual friends (some of which I still keep in contact with today).

Friends, to me, has always been my rock. We eat together, dance together, cry together, study together, and so forth. While I was completely cold to my family (again, still felt like an awkward teenager at the time), I was quite the opposite when I was with them. Also, one of the most incredible things is that we rarely ever got ourselves into any heated arguments or debates. I honestly can't remember the last time a friend and I stood face-to-face and yelled at each other. That just wasn't the case.  There has always been this strong misconception that when someone has a lot of guys with her (i.e. me) that she must not get along with girls, but that's absolutely not true. While I do have a lot of male friends, at the core, there were always strong, beautiful, independent women around me. No question about it.

Until recently, everything in my life felt like pure gold, especially this particular friendship. She and I would be in contact with each other every minute of every day, FaceTime at night, send each other good morning and good night texts. I mean you guys, if you know me or even if you've never really talked to me before, you would know who this person is. She is, despite contrary belief, my other half. *Note* I know earlier I stated I lost two good friends, but one of them has been so physically and emotionally absent from my life, I really have nothing much to say about her. The other person, however, is or should I say was my rock. I loved her like I would have loved my little sister. We had this special connection where we wouldn't need to say a single word to each other, at the same time, knew exactly what the other person was thinking. That's the most incredible thing about a relationship that is built through time and trials. You get to share a special bond that no one knows about other than the two of you. So while I was busy trying to build up my network, she was still the person I would always take as my go-to plus one.

Granted, I never questioned what we had because it was perfect--- a friendship most people can only dream of. Despite having a big falling out a couple of years prior, I always felt the most beautiful when we were together. She made me feel beautiful by a) saying it out loud b) dolling me up c) the way she looked at me every time I was done putting on the finish touches to my face. So when I sent that final text message to her before I completely deleted her presence out of my life (for reasons that maybe I'll elaborate more in the future), you know that it's something I've been thinking about for quite some time now. In summary, if you're curious, I will tell you that somewhere along the decade year of friendship, I started to feel this huge disconnect between us and no matter how hard I tried or loved her, it just didn't feel like it was sufficient.

Have you ever had that gut feeling telling you to finally let go? That's exactly what I had. That very same intuitive, gut-wrenching voice whispering to me, "Khanh, just let it go." And in that moment, despite me wanting to fight for what seemingly was one of the best friendships I've ever had, I decided to release and walk away.

Whoever told you that doing these kind of things is easy must be lying because it has been eating at me for quite some time now. I would seldomly think and undoubtedly question my decision everywhere that I go. Work, gym, social gathering, home. Sometimes, I would be hanging out with my parents and I would see two girls walk by laughing with each other and without me realizing it at the time, I'd miss my other half. There was a point in my life where I knew I had found my maid-of-honor. (I never told her this because I didn't know if I was ever going to get married, but if that special day were to come, it would have been her).

But you know what? This is just another bump in the road. I could reflect now and completely regret my decision or I could choose to move forward. After all, this is not the first time I've experienced loss. I know what it feels like to lose someone I truly care about. I know what it's like to lose someone I love. I know what it's like to feel and be alone. For the past (insert number of weeks here) I've been occupying myself with work and thankfully, it has kept my mind off of the subject matter. However, waking up this morning, I felt serious pain. I'm questioning why things ended so abruptly and badly. I'm wondering why I said what I said and whether or not if it was the right thing to do. I know this completely contradicts what I said at the beginning of this paragraph, but don't mind me. I'm still trying to cope with everything myself. There was a point when I even thought to myself, what if I decided to place my pride away, pick up the phone and tell her, "Let's work things out. Let's get through this together?"

The answer? Well, I will never know.

I beat my alarm clock today so I finally got the chance to write everything down. As therapeutic as this is, I will dread re-reading this particular post. The subject of my writing will probably never read this, only because she no longer has access to any of my social media, let alone my blog. However, I wanted to point this out so you and I both know that I did not discredit everything she and I had, there is and will always be one solid truth. I have never loved a friend more than I have loved her.

Alright, time to wipe the tears that's already streaming down my face. I hope you all have a wonderful day. As always, Fight On.

New Chapter. Let's Go!

It's a Friday night but unlike many other Friday nights, today will be the last Friday before I start my full-time job and I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to start this new chapter of my life. Following graduation, I was completely exhausted from packing on my schedule left and right. Two internships, five upper division courses, Greek life, etc. I wanted to do it all and that's exactly what I did. I did it all and I spread myself too thin. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Looking back and reflecting on everything now, I wouldn't have changed my decision for the world. I learned how to multi-task, I am able to work under tight deadlines, and more than anything, I found that fire that kept me going...day in and day out, but things weren't always easy for me. My parents and relatives were constantly asking me questions about my future. "When are you going to get a boyfriend?" "What are you going to be doing now?" "What's next?" Questions after questions. While I have tried many times to avoid giving them bullshit answers, I couldn't help but to settle for a mediocre response. "Just wait. You will see." If you can't already tell, the problem is quite clear. I had no answers. To me, not knowing was perfectly normal. As for my parents? Well, it drove them nuts.

For the past couple of months, I've been living under a microscope. Although my mother tries to alleviate my stress by sending me your average 9-5 office job listings, I was constantly searching for more. The more I did my research, the more patience and confidence I started to gain. I knew that at the end of the day, my time will come so while I don't have full control over timing, I could still enjoy the "Started-at-the-bottom" ride while I still can. Due to this fuck it mentality, I ended up doing a lot of recreational things. I traveled. I partied. I explored new places. I read (a lot). I dated. To sum it all up, I had a lot of fun. Someone really special entered my life (Danny) while other friendships began to dissipate. While I'm sad that some bonds aren't as strong as it was before, I'm also lucky to know that I still have some pretty amazing people who will always stay by my side.

These months have taught me so much about myself, my desires, my interests, and my dislikes. They opened up my eyes to venturing out and trying things that I may not have had the courage to try and for once, I am so so fucking excited. I have mentally, physically, emotionally prepared myself for this new opportunity and I'm going to do what I've always done in the past. I'm going to run with it and see where it goes.

Before I end this post, I just wanted to thank you for following my journey and for being a part of it. You have made more than an impact on me and because of that, I'm forever grateful. Take care and I'll be back on this blog soon!

As always, Fight On!

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.

It's Break Time

After Electric Daisy Carnival 2014, my friend David (he's from Virgina) happened to cross the borders of Las Vegas to Orange County the very next day. Since he was in the area, we somehow decided to spontaneously spend an entire 12 hours together. First, I took him to run a few errands with me, we stopped by Irvine so that he can try a popular dessert place there; meanwhile, he never once complained. A true trooper. On our way to an arts and craft store, he briefly mentioned to me about wanting to take a nice walk around a park, but I outwardly dismissed the idea. It was only our first time hanging out and I did not feel comfortable enough to be completely alone with a stranger in a park.

Anyway, throughout the day, we managed to break the ice by exchanging stories with one another. Most of them were about interpersonal relationships, health, family, and our future. He told me about the things he learned from his travels and why he turned down Harvard Business School in order to create his own company. Needless to say, I was inspired by him. Although I have met thousands of people, it is still rare for me to be completely infatuated with someone, but there was David. And I was totally infatuated by him, but not in a romantic way. We shared similar beliefs and he was just so much smarter than I am. At one point, I even thought to myself, "Holy shit. This is what it's like to be around someone who is just down right brilliant." On top of that, David was also very in tune with his spirituality, a quality I found to be extremely intriguing. As the day went on, our topics for discussion grew denser and before I knew it, a vulnerable side of mine began to unraveled. It felt extremely therapeutic. So therapeutic. There's almost nothing more beautiful than finding a person who looks at you and sees all of you. That person for me happened to be David, one of my big bro's fraternity brother. I could probably go on all day, listing all of these wonderful qualities about him, but I'll just leave that for another day.

After getting dessert, I drove him back to my house and told him to wait in the car since I had to pick something up. Later on, I walked back out and asked if it was okay for us to stop by Walmart because I had a couple of items I still wanted to return. He politely agreed. I could tell he was exhausted from our day's festivities so I told him to adjust his seat and take a short nap. I'll do the driving. Ten minutes later, he woke up and looked out of the window.

"This is not Walmart," he said....looking awfully confused.

"Yeah, I know. I wanted to take you to my favorite park."

He turned to me and gave me the brightest smile. "Wow, you surprised me. This is amazing."

David didn't know this at the time, but that was the first time I have ever done something spontaneous for someone. Initially, I was skeptical; however, the more I got to know him, the more fond of him I became. It's crazy to look back and pinpoint the beginning of a friendship and ours just happened to form on some random summer afternoon.

We then spent the next hour  and a half walking around the park and talking about habits, books, and more spiritual practices. At the end of the day, he asked me to do one thing. "Khanh, I want you to spend a day without distractions. No technology, no agenda, nothing. And in a month's time, I'm going to check back with you and remind you to do it." I stood there in shock. While I am known to be able to keep myself in full composure, David wasn't buying any of the bullshit and facade. He saw my restlessness and knew better. Because of that, I am forever grateful.

A month later, he sent me a reminder text. And of course, knowing me, I never did it. I never took that day off.

Flash forward a couple of months aka today--- I was having one of those usual deep conversations with my good friend Emily when she stopped mid way and told me, "Take yourself on dates, have a night in where you don't talk to anyone, me included. Go explore somewhere foreign, admire your surroundings, but do it all on your own. I want you to try it and it's hard because you're always surrounded by people and you're always making time for other people but you need a day for just you. and I really mean it.

Khanh only. Pay attention to you. Treat yourself. You of all people deserve it. You are more than worthy of giving the love to others to yourself. Even if it's just for a day."

I nearly bursted out in tears. These days, I always feel as if I'm being tugged and pulled. So many expectations and stresses. Don't get me wrong, I thrive on these two things. I truly do. However, I've lived with the notion that I must always remain present in people's lives. My friend needs me. My mom needs me. My brother needs me.  He needs me. However, I can't recall the last time I got to spend an entire day by myself. It has been two and a half years. But you guys...I've lived an extremely exciting life. I have friendships, romance, struggles, and heartbreaks. I've seen and done a lot of incredible things and I'm so fortunate for every opportunity that has been presented to me. But quite frankly, I am also in dire need of some quality time to further breathe, reflect, and meditate. Like David said, 'Simply block out the noise and allow myself to feel.' 

All of my guys friends laughed at me when I told them that I wanted to be a grandma for awhile, but little did they know that I meant every word. From now until I'm ready to get back onto my mojo, no more music festivals, no more dating, and no more late nights. It's about time I give myself that break I rightfully deserve. Oh, goodness...it's already 2 AM so much for sleeping early.

Namaste. I'll write to you soon.

Almost is Never Enough

Ariana Grande said it perfectly,"And we almost, we almost knew what love was, but almost is never enough."You can listen to her song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b87dBaL4qI0

I had an amazing weekend. Great company, great music, great memories--most of which I can still recall, which is an awesome feat for me. Then I spent all of yesterday in bed, drinking green tea, and giving my body the rest it rightfully deserves only to wake up and realize that it is Monday. Don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against Mondays, but today just happens to be an exception.

Any rave goer will tell you that what they are experiencing is simply [Blank insert name of the event here] withdrawals; however, this wasn't my first rave nor was it my second. Going through withdrawals shouldn't be this bad, but I'm a little bit more skeptical and concern this time around. Why? There are a lot of things I need to figure out. I'm not scared at all...I'm just giving myself some time to think things through before making my final decision. These next few months are extremely critical for me and I just don't have the time or energy to screw it up.

Moving on, this morning I woke up, drank some water, checked my text messages/emails, and then I logged onto Facebook (pretty much the usual). Of course, the first post I saw happened to be a bunch of pictures of him and his gal in the Bay Area---a trip that he and I were supposed to take together. Now I know it's unhealthy for me to think about the 'What if I did this' or 'What if I did that' but I couldn't help it. The album was filled with gorgeous photographs with the man that I chose to walk away from because I was fresh out of USC and completely new with the whole dating scene. Aka noob. Luckily, I'm a fast learner and quite adaptive I must add so it didn't take me too long to be more acquainted with post-grad life but when the right time came around, it was already too late. He moved on. I mean, we were never really anything official to begin with, but there was potential. It was the first time in a long time that I saw someone of whom I could see myself investing time in. Indisputably good-looking, driven, and forward. We didn't have to play any games or beat around the bushes and that's exactly how I like it. A good friend of mine tried to cheer me up and told me not to focus on what I don't have and more on what I do have. She said I was so blessed and loved and that things will naturally fall into place.

I believe her. I always believe her. From the outside looking in, my friend is absolutely right. Somehow, someway, things do work out on it's own. However, when you're on the inside looking out, it's hard to keep up that positivism 100% of the time. It's not to say that I've completely lost hope but it's never easy when it comes to walking always from something that felt right. I guess that's how it works though. Sometimes life gives you lemons, other times it gives you oranges. It doesn't really matter what fruit we're talking about because at the end of the day, I only care about the one that passes the test of time. Goodness, how come no one ever told me how difficult it would be to navigate through my early twenties. I know the old folks always tell us to enjoy our youth and take advantage of our prime years, but this transition is kind of strange for me. Overwhelmingly strange, but I do try my best to enjoy it as much as possible. Key word: try.

I mean I have kept my body in tip top shape. I go out with the girl friends. I spend time with my family. I pretty much have done everything except giving myself time to relax and reflect. I haven't been able to breathe at all because all I've been really doing this past month is drinking, dancing, gyming, and repeat. October was fantastic, but it flew by because I wasn't focused at all. I was extremely distracted by irrelevant things and by things, I'm talking about people. The Khanh that I know and love is more than that. She's ambitious, a goal-getter, and she's fearless. Today, not only am I suffering from Escape withdrawals but I am also missing the girl that I used to be so proud and fond of. I desperately want to find her again and so that's what this next month is all about. November = Me focusing on me as well as ridding all distractions and any toxic interpersonal relationships. Never again will I settle for 'What could have been' or 'It almost did but it didn't' because let me tell you something guys, almost is always never enough. Okay, time to retrieve to my hermit cave. Have a wonderful Monday everyone!

A Week's Reflection

"You look beautiful," my friend said as he gave me the biggest most welcoming hug. After all, the last time we saw each other was at his grad school orientation for USC."Then why am I still single?" I jokingly responded as we were trying to hide our excitement. He laughed at my response and then said to me, "They don't know how special you really are." This past week has been a strange one for me. I don't even know how to describe what I'm going through, but a good word for it would be discomfort. I feel uncomfortable in all sorts of manner. I don't feel like myself and I most definitely have not been acting like myself. I spent all day yesterday in bed, recovering from the night before, but I have to say that one of the best decisions I made all week was to go out yesterday night.

I bumped into a lot of old friends and by old, I mean I've known these guys for years. Luckily for us, there was also an open bar and since we are all of legal age, we took advantage of it. By we, I mean me.

The rest of the night was filled with small, fun conversations and obnoxious antics. It was great. I've always love unexpected reunions with people I adore. But every now and then, when no one was watching (or so I thought), I would take out my phone and look to see if there's any new notification. Yep, I was waiting for someone. I shouldn't have, but I waited for a response anyway. Then all of a sudden, in the midst of a very chaotic crowd, I felt that uneasy, tingling feeling again. The feeling of discomfort. There I was surrounded by an incredible group of people and the only thing I could think about was 'When is he going to text me back?'

Okay, woah woah. Let's back track it a little. Since when did I allow myself to start caring so much? Why should it even matter? I could not stand it anymore so I grabbed a bunch of small ice cubes and started to eat them---wishing that it'll keep me distracted for just a while longer. Granted, the heavy drinks finally kicked in (I'm telling you...when Khanh drinks, she really drinks) and the rest of the night became a big fat blur, kind of.

This morning, with a clearer or should I say more sober state of mind, I started to think about this feeling of uneasiness and why it has occupied so much of my internal thoughts. I shook my head. 'Khanh, you're ridiculous.' I, a firm believer of all things self-love, have unknowingly stopped executing the one thing I believed in. I stopped loving myself.

I haven't felt beautiful in a very long time, but that's because I was looking and turning to all the wrong people. I wanted validation from those who knew very little about me. They don't know my interests, my hobbies, my values, etc. The worst part about all of this realization was that I have let myself down.

After awhile, I started to think about my old friend, his words, and how genuinely warm his expression was when he told me I looked beautiful. Now I know I may not have been feeling all that great this past week, but today is a new day and I'm all for a fresh start. Time to start giving my soul, mind, and body more lovin. We are all deserving of at least that much.

What Costed Me Everything

The difference between my junior year at USC versus my senior year at USC is so drastic, I don't even know where to begin. During my second to last year of college, a majority of my time was spent with my sorority pledge sisters. We ate together, slept together, cried together, traveled together; essentially, we did everything together. In fact, at one point, the situation got so bad with my awful apartmentmates that I ended up sleeping over at my pledge sisters' apartment in downtown LA 3 to 4 nights a week. I never went home on weekends. I barely talked to my mother or visited my grams. The only time I was back in Garden Grove was for Christmas and summer.

Two things that my recklessness costed me: quality time with family and my career was nonexistent.

Things started to change come senior year of college. I took on two internships (one in Hollywood and the other one in Santa Monica), enrolled in five upper division classes, held 3 officer positions in Greek, and etc. As I begin to see momentum with my career and academic pursuits, the relationship I had with my sorority sisters rapidly deteriorated. While I lived with three of them, I probably spoke to only one.

Every morning, I woke up at 4 AM, meditated, read, and got my hair and make-up done. By 7 PM, I would be back from Lionsgate and immediately, I would bike to school and stay in class until dismissal which was 9:30. By 9:45, I was already in bed. On the weekends, however, I manage to drive back home to visit my family as well as pick up my week's worth of food.

Two things that my ambition costed me: quality time with my pledge sisters and my love life was nonexistent.

In summary, no matter how hard I worked to be the gal that 'has it all,' I was essentially losing something (or someone) each and every single time. Coming from a person who has accomplished a great deal of things at 22, I can tell you that these are extremely high opportunity costs that often led me to feeling empty, alone, and confused. At the same time, I felt like I had a purpose...like I was finally going somewhere in life. The adrenaline of reaching one milestone after the next was too good and I couldn't stop. In fact, it was so good, I completely trained myself to continue to tackle on all of my tasks at 100 MPH. Talk to anyone who knows me on a person level and they will tell you that I was crazy. Then again, I'm always crazy.

What I didn't realize at the time, was that my craziness to fulfill my dreams meant that I had to sacrifice more than the average college senior. I turned down dates with quality men. I turned down hangouts with girls who used to occupy every single hour of my time. I turned down Thirstday outings, massive raves, and my little brother's award ceremony.

But things are different now. Following graduation, I've traveled and visited my extended family in Vietnam. I've received invitations to company dinners, networking mixers, concerts, dinners, gym sessions, and I even went on my first date in two years! [https://khanhpduong.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/my-first-date-in-over-2-years/] While I may have lacked a love life in college, the numbers of cute guys I met per week began to skyrocket. It didn't stop there. Suddenly, old friends wanted to catch up with me, new friends wanted to hang out with me, and men, overall, wanted to get to know me.

However, as always, there's a downside to everything.

The cost of me saying 'Yes' to every outing: time.

Despite forming new interpersonal relationships and eating great food with amazing company, I gave up something that was most precious to me. My time. For instance, while the guys that took an interest in me were objectively great guys, I knew right away that there was no potential for anything more. I've always known the man that I would wound up with and unfortunately, none of them felt right. But because I did not want to be impolite and was highly encouraged by my girlfriends to be more open minded, my bias towards courtesy led me to suffer some consequences. Nothing deadly, but consequences nonetheless.

What I should have done from the very beginning was that I should have been completely and utterly honest with those people as a service to them and myself. If I was straightforward about my feelings, or lack thereof, I would have had more time to focus on building my career and life path. More of my time could have been dedicated to exploring new hobbies or taking up pole dancing classes. You see, the luxury of getting all that attention and lust costed me some meaningful memories that could have been made with those I love and care about.

Point is, much like other members of this modern society, I've fallen under the trap of thinking that I could have the perfect balance. Incredible career, supportive peers, awesome boyfriend, hot body, etc. etc. But the truth is this--- I'm still working on finding that balance.

Recently, I've been feeling more pressured than ever before and the thought of losing out on enjoying the present scares the fuck out of me. I don't want to ever suffer from #FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Instead, I want to fully taking advantage of every single moment, doing things I am passionate about with people I love; all while ensuring that my time is distributed wisely, of course.

Afterall, isn't it one of life's biggest gifts?

I Know Nothing. My Take on Connections

"What do you know about him?" my little bro asked bluntly as he drove the both of us to our usual gym outing. Without hesitation, I started to go down a list. "Well, he's...." without fully realizing that my answers lacked substance and thought.

And of course, my little saw right through me. "The only thing I got from you was that he's tall, he's nice, and he has a good smile."

And then he went out to say something I was already well aware of. "You know nothing about him."

And then it finally hit me. He was absolutely, undeniably correct. I know nothing about this person. I don't know what he likes to do on his past time. I don't know how his friends are like. I don't know who he is beyond these four walls. At the end of the day, I had no freaking idea and the strangest part was that I was so okay with it. For once, I was okay with not knowing.

But why? Why is that? Especially when these minor details used to hold so much significance to me.

It wasn't too long ago when I declared myself to be the ultimate people person. In a way, I still am. But things has been changing rapidly since I got back from Vietnam. I've been more distant and I cannot believe I am even writing this out, but I'd be lucky if someone can keep my interest beyond the two week mark. As of late, I've been unamused, extremely irritated, and yeah...you got it...even angry. I guess one of the most arduous tasks for me was to determine the point in time in which I lost sight of real versus unreal connection. From a psychological perspective, I can outwardly declare that the way in which I see my ideal self is completely incongruent with my actual experience with the world. Self actualisation became difficult, but as I begin to further contemplate about my little bro's words, I suddenly found what I was looking for: clarity and objectivity.

And so this is the conclusion I came up with.

I've been completely distracted with an idealized, non-existent 'interaction' so much so that I've lost track of the one person I needed to focus on ---> me. Because it has been such a long time since I've formed a natural connection with someone (refer to my previous blog post, "The Second Person"), I've started to settle for less. Despite it being good company, I am fully confident that there is always potential for a deeper connection to be establish and I should be open to that, instead of running away each and every single thing things start to move forward. Therefore, I desperately need and want to try something new. I don't know how well I'll be able to execute these major points, but I will most definitely try.

1) Don't pigeon-hole the other party aka let them be the person that they are meant to be instead of mentally changing their image in my head to satisfy my own sense of self

In a recent article I've read on genuine connections by Leo Babuta, he wrote, "Explore who people are without knowing what you'll find. Be curious. You’ll find the real them this way, and it’s much better than finding what you hoped to find."

2) Recognize that that there are no gains without pains.

We all yearn for meaningful human connection and yet we hold ourselves back from putting the full 110 percent. We want something real, but we're not willing to work for it. We want something beautiful, but we're not willing to spend time to cultivate it. We want something organic, but we're constantly playing the game of cat and mouse. So now, now I want to build a genuine network with people who are already close to me as well as be open to setting aside prejudgments when meeting new people.

3) Be okay with being vulnerable.

I want to be a competent, strong, and intriguing woman. At the same time, it's impossible for me to always be well put together. I can attempt to always wear that facade but then I'll be unauthentic and that's the last look that I'd want to go for. What I need to do is to remind myself that I am not a robot. I'm a human. I have emotions. I have my moments. Sometimes, I'll slip. Sometimes, I'll have a really bad day. Sometimes, I'll be cranky. But you know what? I find that in these moments of vulnerabilities I have grown to trust the people around me (my friends and family) as well as establishing an even closer, deeper connection with them. So it is absolutely okay to be vulnerable.

That is all that I have for today. Wish me luck, guys!

The Second Person

There's just something about us together that excites me, thrills me, and scares me at the same time. Although I've had many crushes in the past, he was one of those people that stood out from the rest of them. When I met him, I was a freshman in college. Having been in a committed relationship at the time, I did not think much of our encounter. He was just another tall, handsome guy that I passed by in the halls. But somehow, someway, I still remembered his face...or rather, his height.

When we were officially introduced, I was pleasantly surprised. There are thousands of people on campus. How is it that I am able to actually shake hands with the guy and say to him, "Hi, my name is Khanh." Either way, it happened.

It was nice and to my amusement, we clicked immediately.

He was beyond intelligent, sarcastically charming, musically inclined, and our conversations were always thought-provoking. After every single one of our talks, I would question a lot about my life and my existence. I would think about traveling the world to fulfill my wanderlust and leave everything I've ever known behind. He brought another side to me that I didn't think was possible. His thoughts and ideas on the way things work pushed me to walk outside of the circle, instead of being stagnant in one. Without even realizing it, he pushed me to choose the road less traveled, but it felt comforting because he knew I could do it. He gave me something that another person wasn't able to give to me at the time. He gave me hope. And that was my favorite part. His rebellious nature went against structure, organization, and of course, education. Normally, a person like that would push me away, but I understood where he was coming from and in a way, I was envious of the guy because I wish I had the courage to walk away from all of that. But I couldn't. He did.

Why I am reminiscing about the memory of this person, despite not seeing him for years, is because I miss him. Not just him, precisely, but the intellectual conversations I had with him. I miss bonding with someone while sharing our passions and ideologies without any external factors manipulating our chemistry. I miss being around a person that I can be hundred and ten percent myself with while having butterflies all at the same time.

Since then, I haven't met a guy who could stimulate my mind as much as he did. Okay, maybe my friend from Stanford but that's because he's a genius and it's beside the point. This person, without knowing, has made me want to better myself, to see the world, and to follow my own pursuit of happiness. Instead of holding me behind, he decided to let me go and now we are no longer in contact with each other.

I don't regret anything. Our unlikely friendship blossomed in a time when I experienced the most heartbreak and change. I am grateful for having to meet a person who never pretended to be someone else. That's the type of person I like. A genuine one.

Thinking about all of these things humors me because it allows me to reflect on my recent encounters with people only to be left disappointed because nothing is comparable to what I had. Now I know everyone is different and charming in their own respective ways, however, I know substance when I see it. But it's okay. Maybe it's just not the right time.

So I hope you enjoyed this story. It is a story of the second person and last person I ever fell for.

It has been almost three years since then.*

Motivational Monday: Ready, Set, Go!

In the midst of a very hectic and stressful week (What, it's only Monday?), I thought there's no better way to relieve myself from some of that stress than to turn to one of my most cherished form of communications: writing. So here we go. Now that I am longer on pause, things are progressively changing. I have set certain deadlines for myself and strangely enough, I am nervous, excited, a bit pressured, and if anything, I'm probably feeling all of the above. I don't know what the future entails, but I am confident that the next few steps are going to be extremely crucial for my career. I want to stay focus. I want to get things done. At the same time, I feel overwhelmed and uneasy. Therefore, it's only natural for me to turn to someone I completely trust and love. My best friend, Steven.

Unlike the average BFFL (best friends for life), Steven is not simply my everyday homie. He is my logic, my mentor, my left brain I should say. At times, my navigation. I can't even record the number of times this man has inspired me; it's incredible. Talking to him always makes me feel some sort of reassurance and it's comforting to know that there's always someone I can turn to.

Moving on, for as long as I can remember, I have consciously made an effort to keep my professional and private life separate. Yes, I do enjoy sharing my accomplishments with my network of peers, but when I'm out with my friends on a Friday night, the last thing we'd talk about is work. Typically, the conversation centralizes around our new adventures, bad dating stories, and things we've learned since the last time we've seen each other. And the one topic that's always off of the table? Work.

In my circle, there are entrepreneurs, consultants, engineers, teachers, and even a political candidate. While we are all passionate about what we do, we try not to let our profession put a strain on our friendships, which is why we all actively go out for a couple of drinks or two and talk about irrelevant things every now and then. Trust me... alcohol, in this particular case, is good. But anyway, I'll tell you right now that having this type of support system has grounded me in so many ways.

All of this reflection had me thinking about a conversation I had the other day with an old high school classmate. She said, "Hey khanh, you know u really inspire me. Congratulations on getting so far so young, I know ur capable of doing much more. Keep up the good work." It was definitely a nice surprise. Khanh? An inspiration? Wow... Overall, it's still a strange concept to me because when I look in the mirror, I still see the same ole' me. Twenty-two year old girl from Little Saigon.

Nonetheless, I cannot discount the numerous of love I've received as of late. I'm practically a human unicorn. So thank you, guys. Keep doing what you do best and just remember that I'm right with you!

Walk Away, I Dare You

"Don't tell yourself that it's toxic. If you do, you're only going to want it more." IMG_0468

My nephew made a valid point when he said that sometimes, it can be extremely difficult to rid a bad habit of ours. For me, it was him.

Despite the numerous of times I told myself that I could not fall for this person, it took me quite awhile before I realized that I unconsciously did something I swore not to do. I fell. It wasn't a hard-hitting fall, but I managed to get a couple of scrapes here and there, which explains why I haven't been feeling like myself for the past week or so. Because no matter how hard I tried to 'forget,' the memories would come flashing back more vividly, more real than ever before. It was like I could replay the accounts of what we had in my head and I did just that. Over and over again. The way he looked at me. The way he would randomly pull me into his arms. I never thought in a million years that I would be next to someone so aesthetically beautiful (talking about him like he was a piece of art because at the time, he was) and get to call that very same person mine. But despite all of the good, I knew right from the start that what we had was unhealthy for multiple reasons. One) He didn't make me feel beautiful. I'm not talking about my physical appearance, I'm talking about my soul. Two) He didn't empower me in any way. Three) We have different ethical codes.

Being with him exhausted me mentally whether I liked it or not. And so as soon as I was able to catch on to those cues, I knew that it was time for me to make a decision. Stay and be unhappy or walk away and set myself free.

I chose the latter. I chose the latter because after a breakup and minor failed what-could-have-been-relationships, I deserve to be happy. I deserve a person who is not just an artwork, but a masterpiece. I deserve so much more than whatever it is that I was receiving and it saddens me that it took me this long to realize all of this. At the same time, I am feeling optimistic and a little bit brighter every day. You see, one of the most awesome things about dating is that you get to learn more about yourself every time. Through your successes and your failures, you'll take these attributes (whether they are good or bad) and grow into the person that you are meant to be. I know that we usually have the tendency to view the past as something better than what it really was, but let me just tell you right now that the present is absolutely magnificent.

I am feeling better. Not significantly better, but I can feel my body growing stronger as well as my state of mind. I've been increasing the intensity of my exercises, eating and fixing my diet, and keeping good company around.

And you know what? I think I'll be okay [: