Two Weeks of Tears and Triumph

That title sounds pretty epic, no? That’s because these past two weeks have been epic as hell for me. While the Earth was spinning and everyone was living out their lives, while the Universe went on, completely indifferent to my existence, my own personal world crashed and burned. And then was risen from its ashes like the cliched awakening of a Phoenix. And it’s pretty much been a roller coaster of substantial extremes.

Anxiety, depression, and I guess my own subconscious refusal to fully become an adult all contributed to the emotional breakdown I experienced on my favorite holiday of the year: HALLOWEEN. I won’t go into detail, but I pretty much realized I was being a terrible person to someone I deeply care for, and that person was kind of pushed to their limits… That triggered my anxiety so that I didn’t want to be around people, and my depression so that I didn’t want to leave bed and face the world beyond my warm comforter.

But, I managed to pull my shit together, and I started adulting. And things are looking up. I’m making a conscious effort to better myself as a person. I’m also making progress in learning to drive! (Yes. I am 23 years old, and I’m a scaredy cat. But, this isn’t Tokyo or Moscow, so, unfortunately, car > public transport.)

Now we enter week two, and yesterday proved to be a huge moment for me. I published The Adventures and Shenanigans of Bastien Falco!!! Look. I’d been working on this novel for almost three years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve edited it and had others read it. Peers, adults, teenagers, professors. Friends, family, acquaintances, strangers. I spent months submitting to literary agents, and editing, and submitting again, etc, etc.

Eventually, I realized that my baby — my brainchild! — is probably not what agents are looking for right now, no matter how polished it is. No matter how much blood, sweat, and tears I put into making my characters feel real and believable. So, I took matters into my own hands. Self-publishing! I mean, I’m a little wary about self-published works. Anyone can publish a book nowadays. Throw together any old crappy story and you’re good to go. There’s no literary filter. For that reason, self-published books get a bad rep. And I really really really really wanted my baby to be published by an actual publishing company. Alas.

Such is life….

But I’d come too far to give up on it. So yes. It’s out there now. I only need to figure out to market it. At this moment, I’ve sold a grand total of one book. (Le sigh.) I mean, yeah, the print version is available here for $11.99, but I’m only getting $2 in royalties from that! And I paid $120 for the cover art!! (which was done by the lovely, talented Joye Cho. Really, her work is worth waaaaaaay more than $120. If you don’t believe me, check out her DeviantArt: JoyeCh0.)

But if you’re really that cheap (or poor, like me), then there’s a Kindle version available here for $2.99 (FREE if you have Amazon Prime).

Anyway. It’s not so much about the money. I know I’m not going to get rich off this book. But, I know this book needs to be out there. And I know what you’re thinking. Every author thinks their book is special. Why should I buy your pile of crap?

Because I’m not deluded >____> I’m my own worst critic, and there are soooo many works I’ve written that I am determined never, ever to have published, even posthumously. Ahem.

I know that The Adventures and Shenanigans of Bastien Falco deserves to be read and loved.

And yeah, I may be bragging a little, but damn it, I think I deserve it. I have literally been passionate about writing stories since I was four years old. In college, I was in creative writing classes and workshops with juniors and seniors who couldn’t make coherent paragraphs, who apparently had no idea what a run-on sentence was, who thought they could get away with being a writer without having to read books, etc etc. I could go on.

I worked my ass off. 

In fact, in one of my classes, my professor tore up my work so much that I went back to my dorm and cried. I contemplated skipping the next class. But I sucked it up, made an epic revision, and turned it in. The very next day, my professor walked into class raving about how good it was and telling the class that they should read it.

So. Yes. After all that, I’ve sold a grand total of one book.

Quite humbling. And a little disheartening. (Very disheartening.)

And for the most part, it seems like I’m the only one who thinks this is a big deal. (Well, my parents kind of think it is, but, I mean, they have to. They’re my parents.)

I was so invested in this story that I thought its publication would be more spectacular than it actually was. But it was a normal day. Because in the grand scheme of things, Bastien Falco is just a blip in my personal social circle.

So. Yes. And on top of this, I’ve been running around like a headless chicken job searching, learning to drive, and gathering all the materials I need for the JET Program (which I just sent off today! God, what a load off my shoulders).

I miss dancing ballroom as much as I did. I miss competing in collegiate ballroom comps with my boyfriend and winning ribbons. I miss having money. Like, student money from my nice, cushy student jobs.

In other words, the theme of these past two weeks has been: Suck. It. Up.

Or, as better said by Utada Hikaru, Keep Trying. 

Dear Fat, Skinny, Fit, Healthy, and Chubby People…

I know I’m writing this a little late, but the Internet recently went a little mad over Youtube personality Nicole Arbour’s video Dear Fat People.

I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a while, and now I have the perfect excuse. Hopefully I can pull this off with more finesse.

I have some pretty strong feelings about this fat vs. skinny nonsense. I’m not talking about fitness yet — I’ll get to that later. Right now, I’m talking about the fat people who body shame skinny people, and the skinny people who body shame fat people, and the ridiculous obsession with being skinny.

Okay, look.

In the first place, body shaming is not a helpful thing. It doesn’t get anyone anywhere, and it doesn’t motivate anyone to be healthy. Stop telling skinny girls to eat a sandwich, and stop calling fat girls whales. All right? I used to be unhealthy and fat. Then, I starved myself, and I became unhealthy and skinny. At one point in junior high, I was eating 800 calories a day. I went from double-digit pants sizes to a size 8, and I was ecstatic. But all my friends and family were worried about my health. When I was a freshman in high school at a 4th of July picnic with my friends, they kept an eye on me and pretty much hassled me about not eating any food. At one point, my mom wouldn’t let me leave her sight after eating because she thought I might be bulimic.

If I didn’t have people like that who cared about me, I might be dead right now. Eating 800 calories a day is not okay.

I wasn’t even eating healthy things, either. I didn’t look at vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, or anything like that. When I looked at the nutrition facts, my eyes went straight to calories. As long as it was delicious and I didn’t go over 800, I was happy. That is a shitty way to live.

Starving yourself is not glorious. It will not make you happy. Eat. EAT! Your body needs nutrients!!

Back then, I was obsessed with being skinny, not healthy. If I were motivated to be healthy instead, things would have gone a lot more smoothly for me. It wasn’t until I was 18, a freshman in college, that I began working out and eating right. When you treat your body well, you feel good. I love the way my body feels after a good work out. I’ve cut a lot of junk from my diet, and I’m very keen on fruits and veggies. When I was younger, I was all meat and potatoes, but now? I’m disappointed if I’m eating a meal that does not involve vegetables or fruits in some way (unless it’s pizza. I fucking love pizza. I would eat cheese pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if it wouldn’t kill me). I’m also a vegetarian now. I’ve been so for over a year and don’t plan on ever going back to meat. While I highly recommend it, you don’t necessarily have to cut out all meat to be healthy.

And contrary to popular belief, it is possible to eat well without having to purchase $6 salads. If you do a bit of research, eating well doesn’t have to empty your pockets.

I dance ballroom. I got to Planet Fitness. I buy most of my food from the organic aisle. I FEEL GOOD. And you know what? I look good, too. When I say that, I don’t mean “I look skinny” — I mean I look HEALTHY. I gained a little muscle. My skin, hair, and teeth are all healthy.

Healthy comes in many shapes and sizes. And don’t trust the Body Mass Index (BMI). It doesn’t account for “muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, and racial and sex differences.”

Right now, I’m about a size 4 or a 6, depending on the clothes and the store because women’s sizes are stupid, but my ass is kind of big. It’s gotten a lot smaller since I started dancing, but it’s not as small as I would like. Sometimes it makes me sad. Sometimes my stomach isn’t as flat as I would want it to be, and I feel fat. But you know what? I get over it pretty quickly, because I’m a god damn dancer. I’m a lean mean dancing machine. My legs are amazing. I even obtained some upper body strength — something I never thought I’d achieve because I used to be such a weakling. (Seriously. I could only lift 40 pounds at one point.) And I’m healthy. I find clothes that look good on me and call it a day.

Whether you’re chubby, skinny, fat, toned, or what-have-you, your body is a well-tuned machine. And you only get one. Be good to it, and it will be good to you.

Do something active that you enjoy. This is for everyone. Moving around is good for the soul. (Real talk: I have depression. And while I have meds for it, I also know that getting up and being active also helps. Sometimes I need a kick in the pants to get up and go, but when I do, I feel worlds better.) Build some muscle, get your blood flowing, do some stretches, lose some fat, build your endurance, or some combination of the above. Try something new! Sports, dance, martial arts, yoga, hitting the gym, Zumba, working out to Youtube videos in the comfort of your own home…. Join a fencing club! If you’re having fun, you’re more likely to stick with it.

Sedentary lifestyles aren’t good for anyone, whether you’re skinny, fat, or anywhere in between. The human body wasn’t made to sit around. Even if you’re watching T.V., do some squats or something during commercials.

And don’t exclude mental wellness! 🙂 What you think about yourself and the way you look at things makes all the difference. First of all, no matter what you look like, don’t ever let anyone make you feel “less than” based purely on your body shape. If you start exercising to lose weight so boys will think you’re pretty, chances are, that motivation is not going to last. Things like that also often lead to unhelpful methods like yo-yo dieting.

BUT.

If you exercise because you fucking want to. Because you want to feel good. Because you want to be healthy. Then it’s more likely to work out. For some people, it makes them feel more confident. I can attest to that. I feel worlds more confident than when I was younger.

Now, at some point, I need to talk about the “thigh gap” phenomenon — might as well insert it here.

Ahem.

WHO. THE FUCK. CARES. whether you have one or not? Girls who are naturally skinny with wide hip bones will have a thigh gap. It’s normal for them. Some skinny girls don’t have one. Not all fit girls have one, either. It is not a deciding factor of beauty. Shaming girls because they do or don’t have one is pretty stupid. And if you don’t have one naturally, you won’t ever have one — not while you’re healthy — and it can only be achieved by starving yourself. And then you’ll be malnourished, and your muscle will waste away.

Also, guys don’t care about thigh gaps — they really don’t. You have one? Cool. You don’t? Cool. Seriously, that is the last thing on any guy’s mind.

No. No. No. NO. NO. NO. NO! See this picture? It’s shaming. This is called shaming.

(Side Note: While searching for images for this, I stumbled upon Thinspo. Oh my god…. That is seriously the scariest shit. If I had seen those images when I was between the ages of 12 and 17? Damn. I would have spiraled down a really, really dark path. Type “thigh gap thinspo” into Google images to see what I mean. Those people are seriously disturbed.)

And, here’s where my unpopular opinion comes in.

I don’t think the fat acceptance movement is wholly a good thing. Loving ourselves is a start, yes. But we already have the media saying, “Skinny is Pretty,” which is not a good thing. From that sprouted the attitude of, “Well why do I have to be skinny to be pretty? Fat’s pretty, too!” And so now we’re back at the beginning of this post.

“Fat girls are pretty. Fuck skinny bitches” versus “Skinny is the beauty standard. Therefore fat = ugly.”

Both sides seriously need to stop that. Like, right now. “Fat acceptance” should be “self-acceptance.” I know that’s what some people mean when they say it, but the phrase “fat-acceptance” insinuates that we should just overlook the health issues that come with it. I feel that for some people, it means to be complicit to the possible harm you’re doing to your body. But look at the plus-sized girl on the cover of Women’s Running magazine. That’s what I would call “self-acceptance.”

Little known fact, some of the same health issues an anorexic body suffers also apply to obese bodies, such as heart problems. We shouldn’t be encouraging people to be skinny or fat. We should be encouraging them to be healthy.

Yes, healthy is pretty, but healthy also keeps your body functioning the way it should.

P.S.

I’m not saying anything new or revolutionary. I just felt like contributing my opinion to the conversation. Anyway, you can’t judge someone’s health by simply looking at them (again, look at the running girl), but you know your own habits. That’s why you should be healthy for you. At the same time, saying, “HEY YOU. BE HEALTHY” alone isn’t going to help. It mostly depends on you. It’s a struggle. But you can do it. You’re worth it. You’re worthy of living an awesome life. But I know it’s hard sometimes.
Especially if you have an eating disorder. You are not alone. I had an eating disorder… If you do, please get help. Whether it’s binging, purging, starving — please. get. help. If you need, call these hotlines.

It took me eleven years to get where I am now, to love and accept myself, and to treat my body the way it deserves to be treated.

You are strong. You can do the thing. ❤

Whip Your Hair

Until recently, I’ve always struggled with my hair. When I was a kid, when my hair was still all natural and uncut (it stayed that way until 6th grade), I would always compare it to my cousin’s, whose hair was long and wavy and pretty. Even my own sister’s hair was longer than mine. I couldn’t even put my hair into a proper afro puff (actually, I just didn’t know how to do it properly. Thinking back, my hair was a nice length – I just didn’t know how to deal with it back then).

I was soon made aware that guys didn’t like girls like me – not that it was much of a concern when I was kid, but you know, I had little crushes, too. It made me sad that any little boy I liked would overlook me for the girl with the light skin and long, “good” hair. One of those girls went to school with me from 1st grade all the way to 8th. I forgot what she was mixed with, but she was quite pretty, and it wasn’t until 8th grade that she figured out she could have flippable, whippable, commercial-worthy hair. She said all she did was put oil in it.

I thought that wasn’t fair. I put oil in my hair, too, and it never did that! By this time, my hair was relaxed – a.k.a. burned straight by chemicals, often with added damage by a flat iron or curling iron. So, the next day, I drenched my hair with oil. But no matter how much oil I put in it, it was still stiff and most definitely would not flip. Straight as all hell, but unnaturally stiff, like most cases of relaxed hair. So, at school, someone told me that there was oil dripping from my hair, and there was no way for me to stop it. (sigh)

Jump to high school, freshman or sophomore year, I was doing a photoshoot with some of my friends (another friend of mine was working on a book series and using us as models). Being the only one without flippable hair, I was left out of one particular shot, which, in the grand scheme of things, matters very little, and I know they didn’t hurt my feelings on purpose. It probably hadn’t even occurred to them that I had on-going hair issues. So, you know, I hid it. But man did that hurt.

About three years ago, I decided to go natural again. I knew that if I wanted long, healthy hair, then the first step would be getting rid of that relaxed shit. I transitioned, little by little, until my hair was completely natural……

And then I didn’t know what the hell to do with it.

So. I straightened it. Damaged it with the flat iron. I didn’t know what else to do for quite a long time. Eventually, I just grabbed some weave and wore braids all the time. And between braids, I would just let my hair be, before I knew how to pick it out properly. My poor, poor locks. I used combs with seams! Now I know better. I know waaay better.

Eventually, I grew to love my afro and learned, over time, how to take care of it. And, what do you know, my hair actually grew! It’s growing! I haven’t used heat on my hair in a long time. I haven’t worn fake hair in a while, either. I get so many compliments on my darling ‘fro, which I’ve decided to name Yaya (lol). My hair has never felt healthier – I love the way it feels between my fingers.

I used to look at the hair of my mixed, Asian, and Indian friends with envy and brood over why my hair couldn’t be more like theirs. Now I’ve learned to appreciate my hair as much as I appreciate theirs.

In fact, my first year dancing ballroom, we had a showcase and banquet at the end of the year, with superlatives, and I won Best Hair (and Best Dressed). It was glorious!

I look at my friends, and I look at myself, and it’s so refreshing to realize that there is way more than one kind of beauty. There isn’t only one kind of desirable hair type. And damn it, my hair can do some amazing things.

I don’t care much about having flippable hair now. The next time I’m in the mood for having long, whippable braids, I’ll get them, but for the time being, I’m enjoying Yaya.

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Me with my brother at a New Years party a year and a half ago.

Me at a ballroom showcase with World Rhythm Champion Emmanuel  Pierre-Antoine.

Me at a ballroom showcase last month with World Rhythm Champion Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine.

Me, a month ago.

Me, a month ago.

Don’t let the curls fool you. My hair is longer than it looks. 😉