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?

The Art of Time

tumblr_n2s4auS2ik1tvihgio1_500 I believe that one of the most precious gifts for you to give and receive is time. Use it to do something purposeful. Appreciate it when it's given to you. Don't undermine its potential because when you use it sparingly, you'll realize that along with  many other things, there is a limit to it. So know that your talent is deserving of such precious thing. Take the time to nurture it. Your mind. Let it breathe every once in awhile and challenge it to go above and beyond the average-thinking. Your soul. Let it wander.  Do not deprive it from all the possibilities to learn and grow. Your body. Feed it. Build it. Invest that time to create a healthy and strong armor.

The reason why I am writing all of this is because often times, I find it incredibly upsetting to know that people don't use it wisely enough or appreciate it when it's given to them. Today, I will give you three instances in which this happened and the three lessons I've learned from it.

#1)  Not too long ago, I was sitting at my desk, surfing the computer when a familiar name popped up on my screen. My first instinct was, 'What does this person want from me?' And then I thought, 'Wow, Khanh. Way to give them benefit of the doubt. That is not okay.'

He asked me how I was doing in which I answered with great enthusiasm and joy. I am quite fond of him because we shared a special experience together, but it wasn't until 3 minutes into the conversation did I realize how insanely dull and forced it really was. 'Have I let our face-to-face communication dictate our online communication? Because as of right now, everything just seemed so superficial.' He would ask me some casual questions here and there and out of respect for him, I quickly responded. Ten minutes into the conversation. 'So Khanh, I was wondering if you can do me a favor?' 'Yep, there it is. The moment I was waiting for.' I didn't know how I should feel at that moment. Should I be flattered that he reached out to me? Or should I be angry to know that the only reason why he wanted to talk to me was because he needed something from me? Whatever it may be, I told him that I could do him the favor and that it was no problem at all. To be quite honest with you, I knew what was going for us. However, I decided to let my intuition slipped, give the person the benefit, and still end up feeling like I was only needed for my services. In this case, the time that I've contributed for the guy can essentially make a huge impact on his career. Therefore, I will let it slide this time around. But then it goes back to the first lesson I learned about time: It is arguably your  most valuable commodity. If you're going to trade it, trade it for something worthwhile. Trade it ---if you know it can potentially change someone's life. Keep it --- if you know that it is not invested on something  or someone worthy of its value.

This leads me straight to the second lesson that I learned from a relationship a couple of years back. So my senior year of high school was absolutely fantastic. I had it all. Extracurricular activities. Leadership. Athletics. Love. Community service. Life, if written on a piece of paper, felt almost perfect. However, as I flounder and falter to appreciate the little moments, I've realized that sometimes I can get soaked into the present and lose track of the days, hours, and moments with those who matter.  As the pressure to strive and succeed continues, I began to realize that perhaps my evolving has led me to become a person I wasn't necessarily proud of. I stopped making new friends. I stopped wanting to talk to people (this was something I've always enjoyed doing). I focused only on myself and the one person who I could have sworn to be the love of my life. I, without knowing, have cut the ties with people who were indeed so special to me. So as I saw my relationship slowly and surely dissipate, I was later left feeling alone and scared. 'What am I supposed to do now? I'm going to lose everything and there's nothing I can do about it.' Again, it was an extremely naive mindset, but I'll try not to be too harsh on the twenty year old me. After all, had I known then what I know now, I probably wouldn't be as confident or forgiving of myself. Progressively, with the help and love of close friends, I stopped crying and feeling sorry for myself. I began to exercise and focus more on my studies. That spring, I made it into the school of my dreams. That summer, I spent many moons frolicking on the beaches of Waikiki and Vung Tau. So here's to the second lesson I've learned and Rose Kennedy have said it beautifully: 'Time doesn't heal all wounds. The wounds remain. The mind, protects its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.' From an emphatic perspective, allow time to work its natural course and spend it on people who love you and things you are passionate about. Perhaps, I should have learned earlier on that moving on is not an overnight process. Learning to love myself is not an overnight process. The premise of healing, through time, begins the moment I decide to succumb to its might.

Here's to the last lesson I've learned and this is probably one of the most important ones. There were many instances in which I doubted my skills, passion, and beauty. I thought that since I had no intentions in becoming a doctor or a lawyer, that I would then end up being a simple 'failure' in my parents' eyes. What can I do with public-speaking anyway? How am I supposed to even succeed? Everyone can be able to speak. Everyone has some sort of a voice. What I've learned through the years of being a Communication major is that everyone has a unique voice, but that's not to say that they know how to use it masterfully. Since then, I've conducted seminars, aced every single presentation, went on to secure internship positions, raised awareness to non-profit organizations, and currently, I am pursuing a career that will hopefully allow me to really utilize my love for storytelling.  I wouldn't say that I've hit a plateau because this is only the beginning of my journey.  What I can say is that by taking the time to really work on my craft, I have become an expert at it. But still, it doesn't stop here because with any mastery comes room for improvement and I'm very much open to that. Moving on to the last thing: my beauty. I am not beautiful because I know how to dress or because my hair is perfect. I am beautiful because of every feature that I have that defies perfection. I am beautiful because I can speak eloquently, because I want to do something amazing in this world, and because I've learned that beauty comes from within. I use this beauty to walk into a room filled with wonderful people and still feel darn good about myself.  I use this beauty to appreciate all the other beautiful people and things around me. I wish many more of my peers can see what I see when I look at them and know that they are simply a beautiful being. Anyway,  all of these lessons leads me to lesson number three: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~Annie Dillard

Therefore, on the rare occasion when you'd question your awesomeness, I am here to tell you that you are wanted. There are people out there who will seek your talent, your experience, your mind, your soul, and your body. Don't waste a minute on something you don't love with someone who does not appreciate everything I've just listed. Be productive. Be forward. And of course, be present. I shall end this long post (and thank you for reaching the bottom of this, I hope you took away a thing or two) with a quote from our old time homie, Ben Frank:

"Dost thou love life? Then waste not time; for time is the stuff that life is made of."