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.

Happy 3 years to Me, Myself, and I

I cannot remember a time scarier, more exciting than now. Despite of my recent unexpected cold, I've been in the best and fittest shape of my life. My career is gaining momentum. My family and I are all getting along. I genuinely have the most caring and supportive friends. Surely, you can only imagine how I am feeling at the moment. The revelation is simple. I'm completely on Cloud 9. Despite of this, if you take a look closer at all the things and people I've just mentioned, there is still one evident thing that is missing  and that is a romantic relationship. Last year, I wrote a blog post about being single for two years. I'm going to link it down below in case you want to check it out. https://khanhpduong.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/happy-2-years-to-me-myself-and-i/

I clearly remembered how happy I was going into 2014 being single and that much hasn't changed. I'm still very much satisfied with my current status. However, more than ever, I've been receiving a lot of questions from strangers who just met me to relatives as to why I have yet to settle down. Therefore, I'm going to take this opportunity to give you (and them) a better, clearer explanation. If anything, writing it down will hopefully give me the clarity I need.

1) I have not found balance. Miyoko Ohno, a Japanese bridge designer, once said that there is nothing more beautiful than balance. Because my career is such a passion of mine, I find it rather difficult at times when creating the necessary space for my passion suddenly impacts the quality time that I do have with my loved ones as well as for myself. That elusive balance is essentially the end goal; however, it takes a conscious effort and work to eliminate noises, toxic people, non-essential things out of your life. Because my schedule is always flowing and ever-changing, sometimes it can be quite tedious for me to allot everything in a day, a week, and at times, a month.  Unlike active members of the hookup culture, I find it to be completely unproductive for me to expose myself into the dating scene and perhaps swiping left/right just for the sake of creating space fillers when I actually should be utilizing that time for more productive things. I've read a lot of online articles and research studies on this and most of them have pointed out that a lack of balance can later lead to other negative health effects such as stress and fatigue, which is exactly what I'm experiencing right now.

My friend Emily said it best. "Khanh, you have such a big heart, but it's not your job to compensate for the lack of love people experienced." She even later called me out for not staying true to my words. "What happened to scheduling a mini getaway at the end of January, hmm? It's almost the end of February now." 

She is completely right. While I've dedicated so much time trying to appease my parent's expectations as well as penciling people into my schedule whenever I can, I need to first make time for a person equally as important: myself. I don't think I've realized this until my conversation with her yesterday, but I've been completely derailed from the track I have set myself on, and of course, it has not only impacted my mental sanity but also my physical health.

2) I'm keeping my options open.  I have this unique quality has allowed me to expand my network of friends and that is my innate ability to connect with everyone I meet. Whether it's a stranger at the supermarket or even my college professors, I can strike and hold a conversation with just about anyone. For the most part, I find this gift to be rather fulfilling. I get to meet so many inspiring people and at the same time, be able to play a small and if I'm lucky, a big role in their lives. The only con that I can outwardly point out to you is that while finding chemistry with other people is rarely ever an issue, it also doesn't take me that long to see whether or not I can envision a future with someone (not just intimately but also professionally and socially).

Over the past couple of months, I've been meeting a lot of people who are very much different from one another. From their educational backgrounds to their pursuits, I would be completely lying to you if I didn't say that I haven't had my fair share of crushes. Presently, I could probably count those numbers on a couple of fingers or so. I'm a lustful person at heart, but at the root of it, there's no doubt in my mind that I would make an amazing girlfriend. I've been one before. However, I'm a better person today than I was three years ago and so Khanh 3.0 vs Khanh 1.0. Who do you think is going to take home the grand prize? In spite of everything, I cannot confidently say that I have found someone whose diligence, work ethic, intellect, and interest aligned with mine. Essentially, who I choose to surround myself with, especially in a romantic setting, has to be someone who can without a doubt handle a person who is obnoxiously driven and unapologetically free-spirited as me. And currently, things are still looking a bit hazy.

I, for sure, am not going to shy away when I tell you that I have a very specific taste when it comes to men. Physically speaking, most of them are fairly tall, built, and handsome. But whether these types of men are present or not, I have already created an inner barrier when it comes to love or anything that is close to it. It's not a matter of me being scared of getting hurt or committing myself to just one person, it's about discovering the perks that comes with being a successful and young millennial who has absolutely no desire in settling for anything less than what she deserves. So the only way I can go about doing this, without hurting anyone in the process, is if I continue to take my time in order to really see what/who's out there. Simultaneously, it's also about discovering myself and recognizing the things I want or don't want in a partner.

3) I just haven't found Mister Right  There has been plenty of Mr. Right Nows. The casual conversations, the daily text messages, the brief chase. I've experienced it all. Either that or I've seen my friends experience it themselves. There's this old saying that I firmly believe in which is, "When you know, you know." I've met enough people in my lifetime to know that some people are meant to stay while others are meant to stay, but only for a little while. This is also why I've never really been heartbroken or torn since my last relationship ended. I guess you can say that I'm in tuned with myself enough to recognize when chemistry is present or when it's not. When it's natural or when it's not. I would like to think that my prospective significant other is nothing short of a catalyst of joy, but there are still so many things that cross my mind whenever I encounter someone new. 1) Do I see this working long-term? 2) Will this person be able to satisfy my emotional, physical, and most importantly, intellectual craving and vice versa? 3) Will committing myself to this person enhance my life or deter me away from my goals and ambitions?

I take all areas of my life very seriously. I don't like playing games, I don't like leading people on, and I don't like wasting people's time. At the same time, I also refuse to construct a fairytale in my head and throw all my eggs completely in one basket, especially at such a critical turning point. At the core of any healthy and successful relationship (that is if you dismiss the romantic connection entirely) is friendship. So that's what I want to work on. Establishing grounded friendships first and see where life takes us later on. When it really comes down to it, I want a best friend before I want a lover. The only way I can find that person is if I completely stop looking and let things happen as they may. And I'm very satisfy with how things are. You'll see it in my smile.

---

One day, maybe everything as I know it will radically transform and without realizing it,  my very own Chuck Bass walks into my life. I'll be completely head over heels, gushing over him via Instagram posts and noteworthy tweets. (This is just the optimistic me speaking). The realist me will tell you that I'm in no rush. I've made a choice three years ago to commit in a love of self and this vow stays true to this very day. So happy 3 years, Khanh. I'm proud of you for everything you've accomplished, for being grounded in your values, and for maintaining your status, despite of everyone's pressing questions and societal pressure. Let's drink to that.

Date a Bad Egg; You'll Learn Something New

There's this familiar saying that goes, "If a writer falls in love with you, you'll never die." It's true, especially for me. Date me and you'll never die. I'll think about you, reflect upon our interaction (whether it's significant or not), and you'll somehow wound up in my writing. And years from now, a random stranger will stumble upon my blog and he or she will also read about you and with that, you'll able to live on far beyond the expected years. Today, I will immortalize a man through my writing not because he deserves it, but because he has taught me a very big lesson in which I'm about to share with you. So let's begin.

I met Jason* towards the end of July, right before I was about to fly off to Asia for an entire month with my mother and brother. What started out as a no-strings-attached romance quickly escalated to something more. During my stay in Vietnam, we would exchange casual text messages here and there; however, the conversation would always start and end with something along the lines of "I miss you. Can't wait to see you soon." Although I was never the first person to initiate any sweet words (I tried to keep my emotions intact as much as possible), I still replied to every message in a timely and fashionable manner. Etiquette is important to me and it's important for me to display it to any person whose paths have inevitably crossed with mine.

Moving on, I didn't think too much about our 'relationship' since I was pretty well occupied in Saigon. In fact, I had the most incredible time while I was there, but immediately dismiss the idea of any romance whenever the opportunity arise. I was at the point in my life where it really just wasn't a priority for me. It still isn't. Anyway, once I got back to California, I received a text from Jason a day later. "Are you back, babe? I want to see you." You can say I was surprised. Why wouldn't I be? I thought we ended things right before I left, but I guess my prompt responses has led him to believe that perhaps there was a possibility for more. I hesitated for awhile before agreeing to see him. Flash forward a couple of weeks later, I looked back to realize that four out of the seven days were actually spent with him. Normally, I would say something along the lines of "Time flies when you're having fun." In this particular case, however, time flew by because I had nothing better to do.

The realm between actually dating versus casual dating began to merge and evidently, the lines were blurred. We didn't share the need for exclusivity or intimacy like I did with my previous relationship (my one and only) but everything we did was pretty much along the lines of two people who were actually dating each other. Taking measure of my emotions was one of the more paramount things that crossed my mind because at the end of the day, I knew better. I knew that we had was only temporary and I wasn't about to invest my whole being for someone I saw no future with. Even then, despite of my friends' encouragements and advice, I continued to see him.

On a good day, we would watch episodes of How I Met Your Mother, go to the bars with his guy friends, make random trips to the liquor store, and he'd also cook dinner for me. The lobster melt sandwich was always and forever will be my favorite. Our conversations were always shallow unless we somehow managed to talk about gun control and war violence then he would go on for hours in which a simple talk turns into a rather relatively engaging debate.  It didn't take me very long to learn that I had nothing in common with this person. We do not share similar financial backgrounds, educational pursuits, ethical codes, nor communication styles. We're as far as part as any two person could be. However, that didn't necessarily drove me away because again, I knew where we stood and at the point, I was content with not asking for more.

So for the longest time, I looked at him the way any tourist person would look at the Mona Lisa. Always from a slight distance. Enough to admire the intricacies of the brushstrokes but still far enough to unable to look at the renowned classic and understand what the fuss was all about. This is my fancy way of saying he was beautiful. 6"1, broad shoulders, strong bone structure. It didn't help that he was also justifiably modest and attentive to smaller details. However, he was also one dimensional, at times even passive aggressive, and probably one of the best liars I have ever met in my entire life.

It was always easy to say that intuitive answer would have been to let him go. To simply walk away from someone who was inwardly manipulative; however, it would be unproductive if I told you that I wasn't fond of him because in a strange way, I was. I was very much attracted to this person. I like to explain this unusual attraction through the works of Cutting, a professor at Cornell University. He discusses the psychological mechanism behind this logic as simply the "mere-exposure effect"--> unconscious familiarity bred affection. The more you see something, the higher the chance you'll end up liking what you see, even if it wasn't desirable to begin with. Similar to the Mona Lisa, I was drawn to his relative obscurity and how he fit so well in my desire to stray away from something unconventional; however, Jason is no renaissance art and certainly not worthy of being remembered for anything grand. What propelled my re-evaluation of him was not my friends' inherited opinions but through my very own reflection at all of the men who are already present in my life.

It's safe to say that I am an extremely spoiled by them. It's not that I'm continuously wined and dined (although that does happen here and there) but because these men have all blessed me with things money can never buy. Love, time, respect, and quality friendship. So after six months of on and off interactions, I decided to call it quits. This was the first time I have ever walked away with someone with no remorse. Since then, the thought of him rarely ever crosses my mind...except for now, but that's only because I' m writing about him. It'll be the first and most definitely the last.

Lesson of the day: sometimes great art and mediocrity are confused with one another, even by experts. This is why it's extremely crucial of us to see as much as possible, read as much as possible, and of course, experience as much as we can. After all, 'the more we're exposed to the good and the bad, the better we are at telling the difference. The eclecticists have it.' 

Man vs. Boy. Why Knowing the Difference Makes all the Difference

I've learned more recently that the difference between being twenty years old and being twenty one years old isn't actually correlated to the fact that now I am able to legally drink and gamble in the United States. No. The same thing can be said as I transition over from my "yolo" year to being twenty two years of age. The only thing that has changed noticeably throughout the years, my physical attributes aside, are my perspectives in life as well as the people in it. In high school and all the way up to my junior year of college, I've always been drawn to the guys I can't have. Not because they were already in a relationship (because that is just not my cup of tea) but because they were young and aloof. So it wasn't a surprise when I find myself being bro-zoned yet repeatedly, which at the time felt like a pretty big slap in the face and ego. But somewhere in between preparing for graduation and surrounding myself with much older successful peers, something changed.

I began to feel more confident with my physical appearance. I was independent, passionate and it became quite obvious to all my friends that sometimes I get a little carried away when it comes to penciling things onto my GoogleCal. While I was able to mature internally, I also became tired of wearing a big fat oversized sweater and sweats every time I go out because of my fear of objectification. And so along with my new internal confidence, I also learned that it's perfectly fine to embrace my sexuality and sensuality so long as I walk with grace and class.

Physically speaking, I was on my A-game when it came to my eating habits and exercise routine. I'll say this right now and that is I'm in the best shape of my life!!!! I had to add in several exclamation marks since it has been two and a half years since I started my fitness journey and let's just say I've come a long way since walking those double X miles at Jordan Intermediate. I feel extremely empowered not only because I can finally rock a bikini the way that I want to but because I've been surrounding myself with very empowering women. And so in the midst of adjusting to all these new internal and external changes, I find that my taste in guys have also changed. And believe me, the comparison between what I thought I knew about the opposite sex versus what I know now is so great that I should give myself a nice pat in the back right about now. It all goes back to this summer.

Four months ago, I met him. Him...the guy who made me feel a little bit more optimistic and hopeful about commitment and relationships. Him...who reminded me that a woman should feel incredibly uplifting and 100 percent herself because he respects her for the person that she is. Him...who encompasses a shared set of values and is unafraid of taking big risks because he knows that something great will come out of it. All of this reflection has made me realize why I've been so unsuccessful in my dating life and that's due to an undebatable fact that I've been meeting boys not men. Now it has nothing to do with their age, rather a hell lot to do with their life experiences, maturity, and emotional stability.

Although that person no longer plays a prominent role in my life (long story short: Different stages. He was ready to settle down ie. marriage and I wanted to build my career), I am still very appreciative of our friendship because I've learned a whole lot from him and one of things include how to spot the differences between dating a boy versus a man. I was able to gather some of my insights and compiled it down to the pointers below.

A boy - Says he'll do something, but finds every excuse in the book not to do it A man - Follows through with his words. Credibility is important to him

A boy - Wants to initiate a date or conversation, but is afraid to make the first move A man - Not afraid to go after what he wants

A boy - Plays the game A man - Knows the game, played the game but walks away from it entirely

A boy - Tells you what he thinks you want to hear to get into your pants A man - Takes his time and puts in effort to get to know you better

A boy - Values quantity over quality A man - Values a quality woman over meaningless encounters

A boy - Makes you an option A man - Makes you the priority

Looking back, the distinctions between the two is so clear and drastic. It even seems ridiculous and almost hysterical on my end. You see, a couple of months ago, I would have been okay with settling for dating a fun, good-looking, and charming fellah. And I did it. I dated one and he was great because he was exactly the kind of person that a busy girl like me needed at the time. I knew going into it that there was no future for us so I enjoyed every single moment when we were together, but that's as far as it went (which is not really that far). Nowadays, I see dating in a whole new light. Objectivity aside, I am only willing to invest my time and effort in someone I see potential with and that person is a man not a boy. We're going to have uncomfortable conversations, but at the very least, I'll know that it's raw and honest. Open communication and a maintaining a high level of consistency is important to me.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not looking for my soulmate or the father to my child because I'm fairly certain that I won't find him anytime soon. However, if I'm going to date, it will be with a person who knows that I am deserving of nothing less than a gentleman. So for all my ladies out there, I hope you don't feel as if you're being too picky in this millennial age where hooking up and hanging out are the norms. No. This is my way of telling you that you are worth so much more than that and given the right time, place, and person, you'll find a person who appreciates and adores all of you. Not just the parts that he likes. Again, we're all in this together and I'm just extremely excited to explore the rest of my early twenties, enjoying every moment that it has to offer, and I bet you..when you and I least expect it, the right person will walk into our lives and make us realize why it never worked out with anyone else ;)

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 [:

What's Commitment?

tumblr_n4euelvyzU1s6ilfuo1_500 For years, I've watched girls (some of whom I know personally) put their career on the back burner for the sake of their romantic relationships. While it is important to balance both aspects of our lives, I find it incredibly difficult to sympathize with those girls when they start to realize that things are probably going to go south. Granted, I've made that mistake a couple of years back and by doing so, I've learned that it's important to prioritize more efficiently. For instance, I will not give up my gym time for the sake of going out on a date. I will not stay up later past my bed time just because I feel the need to wait for the guy to text me back. In summary, I'm just making a smart use of my time with people I care about and things that matter. Now that I am a little bit older and hopefully wiser, I try to look at situations from a third person standpoint so that I don't let little things such as lust and butterflies to cloud my better sense of judgment. Recently, I read a study by Pew Research Center indicating that the median age for marriage as of 2011 reached 27 (record high). Quite frankly, I don't mind seeing an increase in delayed marriage and excessive individualism. Why? Because personal satisfaction to our growth and self development are important things to keep in mind. Needless to say,  it's extremely refreshing to see the conversation towards the 'single life' shifting. Are there moments when I wish I could simply jump onto a plane and chase after my long lost love? Sure. Thing is, that person is nonexistent for me. What I do know is that I am empowered by those who call their own shots, rather than settling for less than what they deserved. Note that commitment for me is different than settlement. It is an experience...much like eating a vanilla ice cream cone on a hot Friday afternoon. Commitment is not a 'perhaps' or 'maybe' kind of thing. You're either in it for the long run or you're not. Commitment, essentially, revolves around your unequivocally ability to act in the spirit of forever. So as of right now, I am committed to finding myself. This is not a sporadic decision, but a conscious choice on my end to wholeheartedly open my mind and soul to new possibilities and adventure. Speaking of which, I am extremely excited to see what's in store for me. Until then, I think it's time for me to pack for Vegas. Wish me luck!