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Something I think about often in my personal life and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it at least a couple of times in this blog: my mom and my grandma are quite angry and bitter and I don’t want to turn out like them. I simply do not have any desire to carry such negative emotions inside; they drain my energy. Most people that know me would say I’m chilled and don’t get stirred up.  Yet in my own relationship with my mom and with Col, it’s shocking how easily I get pissed off. I could brush it off as them knowing how to press my button, but I’m more and more alarmed at the frequency, and I think I have to acknowledge it’s more about me and how I handle my reactions and less about them and what they do (as perceived by me).

I’m not a Buddhist but I do usually find myself turning to Buddhist practices. And here are the 2 things that I need to keep reminding myself:
– Every action creates a reaction. The only way to stop the negativity and to avoid escalation is not to react, or to react positively. Not every conversation is an argument where I have to boil everything down to small details to see who wins the logic contest. With my mom, a lot of time she says things out of habit; I do not need to make a big fuss every time. With Col, he does not want to hurt my feelings with his words; he doesn’t know exactly how they affect me. And sometimes, it’s me who’s overthinking his motives and then react based on my own projection.
– Physically, the best way to calm down is to be conscious/mindful of my breathing. The second thing is to repeat in my head the importance of kindness. The ultimate goal in life is to love. I’ve seen enough suffering. If people are happy, then I’m happy.

Update: 3 hours after I wrote this, I already failed spectacularly with my mom.


About 2 years ago while talking with a buddy about our love interests, I came to the conclusion: I’m not fit for dating the well-off.

I have nothing against guys with money or a promising career; I was simply observing based on past behaviors. Men that I have dated include a musician, a dancer and organic farmer and artisan, a filmmaker, and a carpenter. 6 years in school, I was surrounded with 20 and 30 something engineers, Ph.D holders and whatnot. Whatever attraction that I felt toward these academically and/or financially successful quickly faded. Many of them have the “ideal” profile for me: play sports, cook well, travel, be environmental-minded, etc. Yet it just didn’t click. I’m glad to say that my exes and now bf have been really great too. One thing that distinguish them from the not-bfs is that they don’t have 5-9 jobs and don’t have a lot in the bank.

Normally for my dating life, it wouldn’t matter a bit. I spend little, except for traveling. And even then, I do it cheap: camping by the beach, eating at holes-in-the-wall, picking up little dresses at second-hand markets.. I dig frugality and the simple joy of activities that don’t involve a lot of money.

But what if dating means spending at least $2k on airfare and expenses to be with each other for a month, and we struggle to pull it off twice a year. For years, I told countless friends that were in LDR that most of the time, it didn’t work; the success rate that I’d seen was about 5%. This time, which side of the statistics would I fall into?

Da Nang panoramic

June-July 2006,

I finished freshman year and went straight to Middlebury college for summer language school. I had just turned 18 the day before a friend drove me 5 hours from Connecticut to Vermont. It’s not fair to call him a friend. A college-mate. I didn’t know his exact age but he was already balding, wore thick glasses and baggy clothes; and he limped. We had only known each other by name during my first year. I wanted to be around smart confident beautiful women and men, hoping that by association I would turn into one of them. Tito obviously didn’t belong to that group. We didn’t hang out; even worse, I had judged him for his lack of good look and hipness. Summer school was still a couple of weeks away when I had to move out of the dorm. So I crashed in at a friend’s who was sharing an apartment above a pizza shop with Tito. And it only took me a day to see how kind and unpretentious he was and to feel ashamed at myself for my shallowness.

The summer in Vermont was peaceful and idyllic. There’s an organic farm a couple of miles from campus, which I stumbled upon on an afternoon walk and would return a couple of times every week. I would work quietly for half an hour in the dirt, and then sat on the hill, looking down at the green field and the blossoming flowers in purple, red, and yellow. I wasn’t contemplating much. I didn’t know who I was and what I wanted and just needed that little time for my thoughts to drift off.

At Middlebury, I met Annie, from Alaska and going to school in Hawai’i. She is the sweetest girl. Always so kind and caring and has the most radiant smile on her face. The way she talks and the way she touches always gave me such a sense of calmness. I thought she was the most beautiful. I wanted to be that beautiful, kind, and radiant. I felt so smug that I could call her nee-chan, claiming her as my older sister.

There was another girl. Brunette, tall, and slim. Her eyes sparkle, her laughter echos like a ringing bell. In fluent Japanese, she talked about renting an attic in Boston for $50/month, smoking pot and hanging out with artsy friends. She was beautiful too. I don’t remember her name anymore, but can still picture her smile and her eyes. .

And then, there’s Jamie. I had always felt like a loner at that point. I had asked myself so many times, am I the only one that tears up and sobs uncontrollably when when I see the news or read a novel and see that someone suffers? Am I the only that sit at night looking up to the stars and think about the world with every spirit on it? I was romantic, sentimental, but not understood. And then I met Jamie. Jamie talked about how wonderful the world is, and how much he loved it. Yes, he loved the whole world. And I said there agape. He put into words what I had always felt deep down inside but did not know how to express. He was how I was, and so much more than that. He was friendly and well-liked, while I would sulk in my insecurities. He skates and snowboards and I’m sure can do many other sports. I took a tennis class and could barely serve a volley past the net at the end of the semester. Jamie asked me to go out on a walk one night and took me to a field close to school. We stood there. In awe. A million fireflies, a sea of dancing lights in the dark. I never knew there were so many fireflies in the world. We came back to the dorm and kissed at my door. I was 18, and didn’t know a single thing about love and sex and relationship. All I knew was that I was falling hard, if not for a person, then for an ideal. And I was scared. So I ran. Or rather, I made myself stop and stand up. For a long time after, I would argue with myself if I made the right call, if I was missing out on the best things in life. I analyzed and overanalyzed our interaction and dynamic. But it was all in my head. And in my heart, there’s always a small special place for him. We ended up sending snail mails to each other on and off so it is a happy ending to our friendship. I am grateful for having met such a women-lover in the best sense of the word. For he lived with me a moment of magic, and planted in me the first seed of self-confidence.

A note on long distance relationships written by an Indian woman living in the US was making its round among my circles. It certainly rings a chord, but I lack the strength and the conviction that she and so many other have within themselves.

Right this moment, 100% of my relationships are managed long distance: emails, phone calls, Skype video calls, Viber and Whatsapp texts.  In many cases, it’s compounded long-distance, for lack of better word. We who move around tend to bump into people that also jump places.

In 2010, I talked about the woe of traveling, not knowing what to do when I feel a spark that my realistic pessimism say wouldn’t stand against geography. 3 years later, I am not not running away anymore, but still have one foot at the door.

The hardest part is the lack of those micro moments that seem so insignificant but whose absence amplifies and intensifies the emptiness. A brief look into the eyes, a soft touch on the hand, an accidental brush of the hair… In those split seconds, we verify and can assure ourselves again of our unspoken bond.

But the hardest is not the worst. The worst is you can’t be there when needed. When that person is broken and you know just being there, being able to hold hand and give a hug would mean so much more than the dozens of texts and calls, more than all the words of support and encouragement you can utter. The first time I realized this, and not one, but two people need me to be there.

is meeting people that you know you will have to part soon and might never have a chance to see again. I often try to persuade myself that it’s all worth it, being able to make special connections with people you hardly know, sharing so many beautiful moments and the joy of life, learning how to live better each day. It’s a little bit easier when the connection is platonic; friendship is something that I can try to keep through the internet. But if it’s romantic, what am i supposed to do?

I’m taking digital photography this semester and the process has been self-revealing, thinking about what kind of images I respond strongly to, what kind of subjects I am drawn to…

In the beginning, I was pretty happy with my works. I have taken quite a few portraits of strangers that turn out quite decent, and I told my class how much I enjoyed the short interaction with all the built-in presumption about what the other is and is not. At that time, I thought it was very reflective of my own general approach in live: making snap judgment, building rapport in a short amount of time.
But now looking at the photos all together to prepare my portfolio, I feel frustrated. They look repetitive, and there’s something else – I don’t know exactly what it is, but I’m not as satisfied as I was a couple of months ago
I talked about this with J., a guy in my class. He suggested writing my thoughts down and I realized that I hadn’t written anything in my dairy for the past 3 months – it’s time to start again.
Thinking about photography is forcing me to rethink my life and reevaluate issues that I thought I’d resolved (this sounds heavy). And this may be why (unconsciously) I have been so resistant to the idea of making my photos more personal, to be more invested in my subjects and my models.
I thought I’d learned how to balance: how to build friendship without getting too intensely attached. In the past few years, I’ve made quite a few friends, people who mean the world to me, but I cannot name one that I would get to see somewhat regularly in the next couple of years. And I thought I had come to terms with it. But maybe I’ve been kidding myself the whole time, maybe I’m still struggling.

I say that if you care about me, you’d understand, please don’t worry about me, let me do what i want. But maybe i’m just selfish, doing whatever that springs up in my mind without sparing a thought for others.

I say that i’m bad at keeping in touch, but i still treasure whatever we have between/among us. I’d like to think that i’m being present where i am, but maybe i’m just selfish and only reach out to people when i need them.

I say that i don’t have a boyfriend, cause i move around too often, and cause i’m incapable of spending my whole time with someone, that it’d suffocate me. But maybe, i’m just really selfish and don’t know how to curve my ego, to know how to take a step back to accommodate someone. They say all relationship must have some kind of compromise. Maybe.