Contentment.

So it’s been about two months since I got my second tattoo, and many many more months since I had been thinking of getting it. I still have the realism collage tattoo idea swimming around, but thought that I might want to wait until more of my life had passed, or some other monumental thing had happened. This one took much more time to sit on, wondering if I should ask my dad to write me a card for my birthday or ask him to rewrite the phrase in his best writing, etc. But in the end, I thought that the authenticity of the feelings and emotions behind every word at that moment back in time would be lost.

So why these words out of the whole page in my graduation gift? Why not the standard “I love you” written in his handwriting? It’s because I’ve come to realize that when I saw these words, it’s as if all the heavy stones I had placed upon my own shoulders disappeared. I had grown up hearing my dad say that all he needed from me was for me to do my “personal best”. However, the way that I interpreted those words were that I could always work harder and push those boundaries to make my “personal best” even “better”. Instead of an encouraging statement, it became the chains on my ankle, taking away my feelings of accomplishment every time something was finished. My goal in life had become “to make my parents proud”, because I had felt that in disappointing myself every time, I was also a disappointment to them. It didn’t help that all my life, we had butted heads on pretty much every single thing I chose to do.

In addition, there was my headache, which they could not understand. It wasn’t until last year when they started to see that it was more than just a headache like they would get, or a pain in their joints that come and go. That I had been living in constant, never-remitting pain in my head for the last 5 (almost 6) years. And they had finally started to understand how it added an extra level of difficulty for simple, everyday things, so how much harder was it for me to go through with my pharmacy degree and become a pharmacist with it.

So for them to acknowledge 1) my headache and all the difficulties that it challenged me with, and that 2) they were proud of me as always, made me feel that no matter what happens from now on, I could be content. It also made me feel less alone in my battles. Knowing that they were cheering me on from behind, that I was already a winner in their eyes, takes off that burden of winning the competition against myself for their sake. Contentment – a state of satisfaction. To be able to experience this emotion after a decade of working myself to pieces to strive that much further was foreign, but made all the sweat and tears worth it. It doesn’t mean that I’ll stop working hard, its just that I won’t do everything like my life depended on it. All my future successes can just be a bonus (well until I find a new goal to go crazy about…but that’s a whole other topic).

One month healed

The original copy in my graduation gift

Overflowing happiness that I haven’t felt in a while

So yesterday there was the first snow of Vancouver this 2016 (and of this winter). It was truly a beautiful sight and I was very happy on the ride to school (the heated seat in our new car was a bonus). The trees were all outlined with white and it looked like a picture out of those landscape calendars. It didn’t matter that I had class at 8 not did it matter that it was Monday and the first school day of the year. My heart just felt so full. Even the looming challenge of another school term did not deter me from smiling all throughout the ride.

Last night, I was able to figure out a time for me to meet my bff who had come back from her exchange term not too long ago. Having gone to different high schools, meeting up in person has always been a luxury. Our schedules never fit and it just seemed like we weren’t destined to be. But we always made it work. And I was overjoyed to be able to see her in person finally. It’s just different talking online and seeing words from her versus seeing her in person and getting a facial response and everything (being able to hug and hit her PRN).

Then a tad bit later, I found out a mark for a course I took last term. It had been disappointing that even in exams that I felt okay about, I had gotten below class average. My grades have been averaging 10% below average but still passing, which is kind of bittersweet I guess. Since marks don’t technically matter anymore. But it still hurts my ego considering my grades from before. So when I got a mark that was above class average AND in the high 80s, I was overjoyed. The whole day was perfect and I felt like my heart was going to burst with all the happiness. I felt like my hard work finally paid off even though it was just 1 course out of 9. I felt like the old me might still be there. The one who strived for the very best and not just average (well, not even average now).

On a side note, but still about happiness…I have found out why giving is so much more rewarding than receiving. When I receive presents, I feel their care and love. But when I prepare gifts for them, I’m able to think about memories that we went through and how the object holds significance beyond its usefulness/identity. It also is a way for me to transform my thanks and love into something physical for them to see. And it’s always been easier for me to communicate through writing rather than speech. When I imagine their reaction and see their reaction to my gifts and words, it makes the time it took to prepare it totally worth it. The smile on their face and the connection between us in that moment is priceless. Oh I don’t even know why and whether I should be so happy with school starting and all… but happiness is good. Happiness is something that we can’t force but comes to us, so I’m grateful I have all these opportunities to be happy.

Parenthood…reversal?

There’s always that story about how we grow up with our parents doing everything for us as babies. Feeding us, clothing us, helping us read menus, etc. Then, when they are old, we end up doing that for them, as their limbs and fingers aren’t as dexterous, as their eyesight and senses deteriorate. Everyone gets old, it’s a natural process. I’ve only recently realized how true that is. It’s partly due to this drama that I’ve been watching (Mr. Baek) where an old man is changed into a young man and begins to understands his son. I wish it could happen to everyone, but the reality is that it’s impossible to happen. So what if my parents pass away without knowing my true intentions, or grow old without feeling my care and affection, without those happy memories to treasure? I’d regret that even more than anything. Also, I feel like I’m at an age where I realize that I’m now an “official” adult and am able to not only take care of myself, but to take care of others too.

As a teenager, I had begun to realize how time flies. I took more care for my brother, giving him experiences that I would have wanted an older sibling to give me, if I had one. I used my own experiences to help shape his in a more positive way. However, I wasn’t able to and didn’t understand how to do it for my parents. They had more experiences than I did. I’m pretty sure they already went through all that I did, and little did I know about what it was like. I still have a long ways to go, but I feel like I’ve seen enough of the world to understand a little bit. Therefore, I’ve noticed that I’ve been more watchful of my parents. I’ve noticed their tiredness and their worries. I would now take on whatever I can to lessen their load. If my mom is tired after working, I’d drive instead. I hadn’t driven in a while because of my headaches. For some reason, when I’m driving with a purpose, I don’t notice the headaches. I’d also get medicine for my dad when he’s sick and get him to get a thorough physical check up. The thing that pops into my head most often now is that I want my dad to walk me down the aisle when I get married and for my parents to be able to hold their first grandchild. Easy wish eh? They’re not even that old. But life can be short. Having my uncle pass away due to cancer and my dad’s best friend pass away in a car accident, anything can happen. Maybe it’s me who’ll leave them, unable to give them more happy memories to remember me with. I’ve also begun to look after myself more. To be able to care for someone, you need to have the energy and health to do it. To be able to have them hold that grandchild, I’ll need to be healthy enough to have a baby. Honestly, I think that if I didn’t have to go to university, I would have a kid anytime, adopting or my own. I love kids. On the bus, a kid turned around and smiled at me. It felt like the sun came out on that rainy day. Anyways, I digress.

One more side note. There’s a song called Forgotten Happiness by Alien Huang that also resonates with me. I wasn’t able to find a complete translation so below this post, here’s my attempt to translate it. I only did the chorus because it feels like it’s describing my life. I’m trying so hard but I don’t know what I’m trying so hard against. It’s always a wrestling match in my head. How can I get out of this? How can I be happy? What IS it like to be happy? For now, maybe I’m trying my hardest to love people so that I myself feel whole, like I’m doing something that’s worth it. Who knows. But I just know that for my parents and those I care about, I’m willing to put in that extra effort to care and love them because time is indeed short. I’ve already lived 2 decades. How many more decades will I have? How many more decades will they have?

我們都 忘了怎麼快樂 (We have all forgotten how to be happy)
拼了命的拉扯 自己的人生 (Putting it all on the line to wrestle with your own life)
你若太認真 這場比賽就輸了(But if you’re too serious, you’ll lose this competition)
因為生命不過就短短幾十年的旅程 (Because life is just a short journey of a few decades)

我們都 忘了怎麼快樂 (We have all forgotten how to be happy)
用力的去愛人 讓自己完整 (Using all our strength to love people, to let ourselves feel whole)
就別太殘忍 讓自己的心受困 (Just don’t be too cruel and let your heart be burdened)
困在一個寂寞的 比孤單還孤單靈魂 (Trapped in a soul lonelier than the lonely)