My Andie

In the last month, a couple people have proffered that I be theirs.

“I want you to be mine,” they said, despite not having the slightest clue as to how they’d steward me. We don’t even claim ownership over a pet without knowing how to properly steward them, yet some men seem to think women would require less commitment than a pet?

I think I would have found it more romantic if they were to have first asked me what it’d take for me to remotely consider being theirs. But I guess that would have ended up nowhere either, for I would’ve shared with them this quote from Jane Eyre:

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will

Jane Eyre

Right. At this point, you probably think I am impossible. But I am not! I was once upon a time someone’s ‘My Andie’; though, it was a long time ago now.

I remembered how he used to call me “My Andie”—more notably, how I allowed him to call me his. I retraced our story back to the beginning, to figure out what was different about him, about that relationship.

He wasn’t the first (or the only) person who tried to call me theirs, but why he was the only one to whom I surrendered my independence?

I remembered the very first time when I landed in LAX, he was already waiting for me, flowers in his hands. He teared up when he saw me—long distance had that effect on lovers. He gave me an American SIM that was already paid for, in case I didn’t have a roaming plan. When I arrived at his, there were snacks and drinks that I had briefly mentioned previously in our conversations, crisp linens and fresh towels, as well as a few other small gifts that he had collected whenever he had thought of me—nothing extravagant but all ever so thoughtful: travel size lotion, a book, resistance bands for working out (because I used to use them every day).

When I come across pictures he’s taken of me, I’d see how profoundly loved I was through his eyes. Although we no longer have the same love for each other, it was the best souvenir he could’ve given me.

At that time he was still consulting for a firm, so every now and then he would have to go into the office for meetings. While he worked, I used to wander the city alone. He gave me his credit card, insistent that he took care of all my Uber and other expenses. I never used the card; it was never about the money. How much could Uber rides have cost? It was his generosity in offering me the best of his resources—time, attention, energy, affection, money—instead of what was leftover of them.

He understood both the hopeless romantic, as well as the pragmatic logistician in me, and meticulously planned our adventures accordingly—remembering all my travel preferences and dietary sensitivities. He took care of me down to every quantum detail.

I think it was in those quantum details that he’d won me over. It was the first, and only time, I felt someone else was invested in taking better care of me than I did myself. So when he called me his Andie, I relaxed into it, without much, or any, protest.

For the best of my life, I refuse to belong to anyone, or even to anywhere. I am ardent about being free. Don’t get me wrong, I have been in a few committed relationships, just not one in which I felt that I belonged to them. Even in my readings, I often resonate with characters that are transient in nature:

Other people were destined to keep leaving, over and over again.—Alix Ohlin

Or,

I should have known even then that the sea was written in him, that there would be some sort of leaving.— Let the Great World Spin

In my heart and mind, I feel unmoored, unanchored. Though, I still am unsure of why.

I wonder if it is because I am never fully willing to relinquish my fierce independence and unfettered freedom? Or, perhaps it is because I struggle to entrust myself to someone else?

And this, is how we have arrived at: Andie Untamed.


The Light We Carry

These days my heart and mind are at war.

While my mind is vehemently trying to rid me of my romanticism, my heart is shrieking in painful protest. As I attempt to re-evaluate the axioms that have governed how I used to best live my life, I have been met with a grave sense of loss, of angst. I am no longer certain that—loving well—is how I want to be remembered by.


My mind wrestles with questions such as:

“To whom does it matter how I loved?”

“What if I choose selfishness this time around, and prioritize my own desires first?”

“What if monogamous romantic relationships are just manipulated social constructs that religions use to puppet their believers? And my obstinate resolve in achieving them is only yielding me endless heartbreak and disillusion?”

When is enough, enough?”

Struggling to find my footing, I haven’t been able to find a book that consoles and anchors my heart, until I came across Michelle Obama‘s The Light We Carry. Her voice has served as a soothing and gentle reminder of the person I aspired to be.

When we are able to recognize our own light, we become empowered to use it

–Michelle Obama

Through her words, I feel seen. I feel more at ease with how much my mind has been oscillating between “it’s all too much” and “I’ve got this”, between “I love LOVE” and “LOVE doesn’t pay bills”, so on and so forth.

I still have no concrete answer to my own questions, which means I am still standing at an impasse—the most psychologically excruciating place for my mind to be. But here I am, learning to sit in this discomfort once again, focusing on small things one day at a time.

So while the light within me may have been temporarily dimmed, I am on a quest to find the fire that will reignite my soul and set it alight once more.

Until then, THANK YOU for being a part of this journey with me. If you, too, are grappling between feeling overwhelmed and “I got this”, know that you are not alone! With one foot in front of the other, we are going to get there. Perhaps not at the timing that we would’ve liked, but we will get there. Keep shining❤️✨

How to Reassess Your Stagnant Beliefs and Make Your Life Extraordinary?

“This is how humans are: We question all our beliefs, except for the ones that we truly believe in, and those we never think to question.”

― Orson Scott Card

I recently came across this quote that has left my spirit rather restless.
When it comes to beliefs that I feel unapologetically convicted about, my confirmation bias tends to take over, rendering my judgements unreliable. How does one rectify one’s obstinate—and perhaps what ought to be obsolete—beliefs, to improve oneself?

Exhibit A of a Stagnant Belief of mine: My Romantic Ideologies.

I am a romantic, who pretends not to be. My personalities swing like pendulums between idealism and pragmatism. There are my hopes and dreams for people, for my relationships, for the future, and then there are my crude understanding of the reality. Whenever I hear stories about how relationships fail to work, I am reminded of the obsolescence of romanticism. Since I’ve read the quote above a few weeks ago, I have been seriously considering abandoning my romantic ideologies, I just haven’t quite figured out how yet.

And if I may be a hundred percent transparent, a huge part of me preemptively mourns and weeps for the loss of that romantic part of me. After all, if I am no longer a romantic, would I still be me?

Extraordinary accomplishments come from doing ordinary things for extraordinary periods of time.

– Alex Hormozi

This was another quote I came across recently that has really resonated with me. It has succinctly captured a powerful concept that I couldn’t quite articulate well myself; it is the notion that: both the quality AND quantity we invest into our goals define how successful we will be at it. Alex Hormozi said that doing 100 repetition of anything well, will result in noticeable improvements, however incremental it may be. It is not any one workout that we do is impressive, rather, the culmination of workouts that we day in and day out, devote ourselves to, that make a difference.

Have I devoted enough time and energy into the goals that I vehemently care about? Have you? If not, what we some of the accountability measures we can implement to ensure that we are doing our due diligence to be better, rather than waiting passively, praying and hoping that our desired goals would miraculously manifest themselves?

Showing up for myself💪

Temptations

Friday night—lights dimmed, music loud, slightly inebriated, you saw him walking towards you. “Hey” he leaned in, his voice a rich baritone. “Can I buy you a drink?”

You caught a whiff of his cologne, musky sandalwood. Your favourite. You can feel the tinge of excitement in your chest, the very first telltale sign of a thrilling love adventure. “Sure,” you said, fervently containing your wandering mind.

He put his hand on your waist as he ordered a drink from the bartender. You took a closer look at him: fresh haircut, smooth complexion, understated designer pieces, crisp blazer without so much as a hairline wrinkle. You smiled, attempting to mask how much you appreciated his attention to detail, and taste in the finer things. But most importantly, how he fixed his gaze on you, how attentively he listened, how enamored he seemed—how special he made you feel.

One, then two, then three drinks later, your friends have already gone home. But the conversation was so scintillating, you couldn’t bring yourself to leave. So you stayed. You talked about investment, about travel, about exercise, about books, about all the things that enchant your heart. Before you know it, the bar was about to close.

“Wanna come over to my place for a couple more drinks? I am just a few minutes away.” he asked unassumingly and earnestly.

Your heart skipped a beat, partially at how fondly you have grown of him, partially at the impasse you are now faced with. “Do I go? What will I tell my husband?” What up to then had only been a fleeting flirtatious encounter has suddenly developed into something with potential. “It’s just a couple more drinks. There’s nothing wrong with making new friends as long as I don’t cross the line,” you nonchalantly convinced yourself, muffling out the voice in your head that was screaming, “YOU ARE PLAYING WITH FIRE!”

Chocolate, Vanilla, Choose.

Recently I have learned an acronym “MBA”, which stands for Married But Available, that has unsettled me in unexpected ways. The concept in and of itself is repulsive to me. Being a hopeless romantic myself, raised in a family wherein my parents are engrossed (yes, engrossed, tunnel-visioned, head-over-heels, the whole nine yards) in each other, I am reluctant to imagine marital dynamic in any other fashion.

That said, I am not naive and oblivious to the realities of life. I understand that what my parents have is precious and rare, that in fact, most marriages are not like that. I also understand how easy it is to acquiesce to temptation. How, it is not about choosing to hurt the person you are married to, rather, it is just not choosing them. I’d like to believe that most people are not malicious nor cruel. If they cheat on their spouses, their intention was most likely to follow their heart, to indulge in the heat and to chase thrill of the moment.

What unsettled me was how easy it is to forgo these socially constructed moral guidelines, and how capable we are of unintentionally hurting the people that we care deeply about, just by chasing the desires of our heart.

Do you ever face temptations? Or are you unfazed by them?

What They Don’t Tell You About Death

“He passed peacefully in his sleep,” is what we tell our relatives when we inform them of Grandpa’s passing. It’s not not-true. Grandpa did pass away peacefully. But what was left out was the harrowing process of witnessing his life slowly diminish in front of our eyes. No one really talks about that aspect of death: the laboured breathing, the lips and extremities turning purple, the body cleansing itself of all its bowel contents, the vitals so weak that they cannot be measured by machines and therefore the families having to frequently hold a mirror underneath the nose of our loved one to detect their faint breath—or the lack thereof.

People also don’t talk about the intricate procedures that ensued immediately after the person passes. Who do you call to issue a death certificate? Where does the body go before it gets buried or cremated? What if you want a funeral with open-casket? Where do you find a respectful embalmer? Who will be writing the eulogies? What about religious rituals, if there were any?

How do grief-stricken families navigate all this?

And just when you finally made it through all the ceremonies, grief sets in—prodigiously and mercilessly. You start to notice the stark void that the people whom you loved had left behind.

She understood loss and how it leaves a hole in the soul that can never be filled.

Santa Montefiore

I wrote Grandpa’s eulogy on Saturday. As I recounted all the memories we shared, my brain was stuck in a loop. How can I effectively and succinctly encapsulate such love? How can anyone?

During the process of writing, I also reflected again on my own eulogy; as in, how do I want to be remembered? In teaching, we commonly employ Backward Design when we plan our units. (We take a look at all the curricular goals we want to achieve by the end of the year, and backward engineer our lessons to ensure we cover all necessary grounds.) So perhaps because it is already deeply steeped into my thinking process, I live my life by how I want to be remembered at the end of my life.

I want to be remembered as having love well.

What about you? What governs your behaviour and how you best live your life?

We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.

– Chuck Palahniuk

Briefly Gorgeous

Caution: You are about to enter a raw, unrefined, fragmented, still-being-processed post. It may induce great confusion and even frustration. Proceed at your own risk.
I am posting it this way because life is not neat and tidy, neither is how I feel right now.

Cheers, to vulnerability.

August 24, 2022

I retraced my footsteps back to exactly a year ago today, ordering the exact same drink, sitting on the exact same bench, and finished reading this book that I had started more than a year ago. Much has changed since then, though I am still fascinated by the idea of how one single act has the butterfly effect of changing the entire trajectory of one’s day, one’s year, and even one’s life.

I guess in the grand scheme of things, a year is short. But because life is what happens in the little moments, I am often caught in this paradoxical situation of focusing on the big picture while savouring the minute details.

A year ago today, I had recently broke up with my ex, to whom I was briefly engaged. I started dating casually and one of the people I was seeing suggested that we read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous together. So I did. I brought the book with me to other dates. Is it ironic that one of the dates that the book went on with me outlasted the person I was reading the book with?

While I am not a subscriber to “Everything Happens for a Reason”, I do think that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. Some action-reaction, cause-and-effect, and the general proclivity of the atoms and molecules render us here. Though, this would also mean that free-will, may or may not be, just an illusion? Like I said, this post is written raw and unrefined. I will continue to ruminate on it.

Thank you for reading my irresponsible, scattered thoughts. I’ll be back with more eloquence next time!

We all fall prey to nonsense at times,
and sometimes, we are fool enough to even love it.

To Love or Be Loved

Sometimes, in utter frustration and heartbreak, my ego shouts: WHY WOULDN’T HE JUST CHOOSE ME, CHOOSE US? WHICH FOOL DOESN’T WANT TO BE EMPHATICALLY LOVED AND UNCONDITIONALLY CHERISHED???

But that’s just my ego talking. I understand that the heart wants what it wants. It’s not always corroborated by logic. Besides, who says they’d want to be emphatically loved anyways? That is only my naive, simplistic assumption.

Most hypocritical of all: I, too, am guilty of letting the people who had emphatically loved me and cherished me go.

I am one of those said fools.

That is all. Just trying to hold the grief of my grandma, and ‘I Am Enough,’ in the same thought.

What would YOU choose? To love or be loved?

The sky became a screen, shot through with pinpricked stars. Beneath it, I felt small and lost.

—A House in the Sky

Rubicon, Point of No Return

Rubicon, also known as Point of No Return (PNR) was a reference dating way back to Julius Caesar, at River Rubicon, where he had reached a point from which he could only move forward and continue on with his current course.

Rubicon is a notion that is ubiquitous in our daily lives: from aviation, to investment strategies, to the biological markup of who we are (called R points, beyond which “cells are committed to DNA synthesis and they no longer require the extracellular growth factors during the remainder of the cell cycle”). Perhaps the only place where Rubicon does not concretely exist, is in our brain, due to the brain’s neuroplastic nature. However, in order to safeguard our sanity, it is not uncommon for people to set up arbitrary mental Rubicons. For instance, to avoid losing all of myself in a romantic relationship, I would implement Rubicons as a signal to my obstinate self to GIVE UP when things are too far gone, and my heart too far broken. Once I’ve arrived at my designated Rubicon, where I fully accepted and embraced a future without my partner in it, then the relationship would start its imminent countdown to the expiration date.

Oh and, let’s not forget, there is also:
Death—the ultimate Rubicon, the most irrevocable commitment to action.

alea iacta est (“the die is cast”)

Caesar

Safe Haven

Healing is not linear.

Perhaps what is not commonly talked about during grieving is: the intense, razor-sharp reminders of the trauma associated with the person you are grieving. Because, relationships are not black and white. You could deeply love someone that has deeply hurt you.

Healing is not linear.

Some days are harder than others. They require much more self-regulating strategies beyond a meditation or even a walk. On days as such, like today, I go to my imaginary safe haven until I have convalesced enough to soldier on again.

On a meadow of luscious green grass, overlooking the ocean and the city, I hide.
Eyes closed, warmed by the gentle morning sun, my heart slows to the cadence of waves ebbing and flowing.
I take some deep breathes, inviting the crisp, dewy smell of early summer to fill my lungs, to displace the anxiety that parks stiffly there.

Her sadness was ceaseless, but she kept it quarantined in a governable little quarter of her heart. It was the best she could do.

The Signature of All Things
Memories are also a good place to hide


Falling Out of Love

Sometimes, falling out of love feels like a gentle awakening from deep, sweet slumber. Bleary-eyed, the person you once fell in love with slowly emerges from reality. You rob your eyes to see them more clearly. Little by little, you realize they are no longer the person with whom you wish to co-create your life adventures. And you are okay with that. Sometimes, people grow apart. You still love them, just not in the same way.

Other times, falling out of love feels like sobering up from a night of heavy drinking. You wake up to your life in absolute disarray: food scraps all over the kitchen, empty bottles, scattered clothes. You look at yourself in the mirror: haggard, make-up smudged, hair unkempt. With a pounding headache you think to yourself, “What have I done?”

Whatever was left of the alcoholic “liquid magic” now only incite a metallic, repulsive aftertaste in your mouth. The thought of having another sip makes your stomach churn.

And that’s how you feel about the person you are in a relationship with, too.

The future you once imagined to be alluring now falls flat, unappealing, even daunting. “What have I done?” You think to yourself.

Some people come in our life as blessings. Some come in your life as lessons.

Mother Teresa