Everything I’ve Ever Known

If the test results came back positive, I don’t think I would live through it.

If you’ve been along on my journey these past three years, you’ll know how I experienced some of the most amazing things and met incredible people but you might have also seen how I grappled with many unexpected and unexplainable health challenges.

Today, I questioned everything. My whole existence, my purpose, and what the meaning of my life was. Was I just a puppet to fate? Was I meant to be condemned to a life of physical and emotional suffering? I didn’t know. As I was asked to change into a gown and wait on a hospital bed, the previous six months work towards recovery was swiped away within a few minutes.

I hate to delve too much into what I went through but it was really hard. There were so many times when I just wanted to close my eyes and never wake up because the pain was unbearable. They had maxed out many times on my pain medications from fentanyl, morphine, hydromorphol, T3, you name it, I was on it. And the hardest part was that I knew I wasn’t the only one suffering, the people around me were inevitably affected by it. I’ll be truly honest, during those minutes I wish I would just have disappeared because I was such a burden to those around me. What really got me through it was the never failing support of family and friends but also just that faith that things would work out and that I would have an opportunity to chase my dreams again.

No joke, September 20th, 2017 was the day that I had finally healed in the sense of emotionally letting things go to be able to find purpose and meaning in my life. This past summer was a big learning experience for me. I grew so much and learned so many life lessons. But through it all even though I was happy and moved on, I hadn’t found my spark again. I was doing the things I knew I should because the old Cecilia would have wanted me to but I didn’t feel the conviction to do the work I was doing. It was only until a few days ago when I found my spark and began working towards my purpose again: empowering others. During the past week, I outlined plans for this website, my book, and my NGO… I had things worked out and ready to go…But today the smallest sensation in my lung threw everything out the window. I was so paranoid and anxious I couldn’t finish my classes. I had to cancel all my meetings and plans and then plop myself in the waiting room of the ER. Let me be honest, if you complain about the wait in the hospital you’re lucky. If you don’t to have wait, that’s when shit goes down. If I could back to the days when I would wait hours in the ER, I would trade it in a heartbeat because when they whisk you right in past the whole crowded room into the trauma room, get ready for some excruciating pain. Anyhow, it’s hard not to compare my life with others. I think about morally how I try to treat everyone with love and respect, and then I think about how hard I try to be healthy. It’s like why? Why me? What did I ever do to you life?

So the main point of all this rambling (at this point I would have failed if this was an essay) is seriously ask yourself what are you doing in your life? I asked myself today because as I was reflecting on my life because I thought I could die, I realized how much time I spent thinking about the most meaningless crap. The crap was: OMG if I did this, people would judge me! Or what do people think of me when I do this? Or why do these people not like me, what did I do wrong? ETC ETC ETC I’m not downplaying my experiences of being bullied, but what the hell was I thinking? When I could have been going out in my life doing the things I love and caring about the people who matter, I was screwing myself over for caring what people thought about me. I wasted so much time and energy trying to bend my life to fit others and these were people who didn’t give a crap. Okay. Like honestly they did not. Are you living your life bound by the fears of judgement? Are you acting a certain way to please others? Are you buying things you don’t need to impress people you don’t know? OK I know you get the point. It’s hard and i know it. I lived with this problem for the past 19 years of my life and from this day on, never again. When you realize that you might not have much time, you’ll begin to wonder how you spent most of your time thinking. If you’re having trouble with living your life to fit others’ expectations, learn from my mistakes. Last year on Christmas, I had my fourth and then fifth lung collapse. When I got back home, you know why I was crying? I wasn’t crying for myself, I was crying because I knew people would judge me and ask me why I wasn’t in school. I was scared of being perceived as a failure. And you know what it’s true. People do judge me and there’s many that treat me differently or aren’t my friends anymore. While I still respect them, I don’t care about what they think anymore. Because New York taught me that there’s so much possibility out there. Don’t waste your time in fear of others when there are so many other people who will be ready to support you wholeheartedly.

So moving on the second point, are you doing what you love or are you doing things to please people? If you’re reading this you’re probably a young person. I’m sorry but you’re not invincible just because you’re young. You might think you have your life ahead of you (which is arguably true) but don’t forget that life is fragile. Literally. Life changes within fractions of a second. I agree with YOLO but remember that your actions always have consequences.

Bringing this together is that don’t look for other people’s approval, just do you! And I mean seriously do what makes you happy and what brings joy into your life. Today, I regretted so much of the things I did because I wanted to please people or not hurt their feelings or not have them judge me. But there’s saying “when you stop chasing the unimportant things, you’ll give the right things an opportunity to catch you.” And this goes for people as well. For the longest time, I tried to be friends with everybody. I would agonize over things I might have done wrong, apologized when I didn’t do anything wrong, and always tried to be the bigger person but it was so exhausting. To be blunt, who cares if they don’t like me anymore or the things I do. You do not want to be in a position where you’re looking back at your life and realize heck I spent most of it living for others.

If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you really like me and I appreciate that a lot ❤ I can’t even begin to fathom how much support my friends have given me through this time, so thank you ❤ I am in the process of editing my book and I hope to be able to share it with all of you in the upcoming year!

*Shoutouts Clara, thank you for always being there no matter what time of day. I know that we’re so many miles away but even though this past year has been especially rough, I’m glad I met you through it. Noubahar, thank you for helping me find my self confidence. I can now accept who I am and look in the mirror without having negative thoughts about myself.

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Youth Delegate at the United Nations

This past week I had the opportunity and privilege to attend the Youth Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. I had heard about the YA from my friend Nivatha a few years ago but never remembered to apply until I came across cleaning my bookmarks manager.

Each year the Friendship Ambassadors Organization hosts the YA twice a year at the Headquarters for youth all around the world to interact in international affairs and policy making and contribute in process of getting youth involved in the decision making processes for global affairs. http://www.youthassembly.nyc/

I believe the application process for the summer session (August) begins February or March. They also hold a session in February as well. But keep checking the website for information to apply or to learn more about the YA. I luckily applied right before the deadline June 15th! The application process isn’t super difficult but there are a lot of questions but definitely put aside time to complete it.

This summer, YA held it’s 20th session and the conference was focused on #SocietyForAll #leavingnoonebehind with the main theme of implementing the SDGs by 2030 (as the UN has also focused on this year). As for the conference logistics, there were around 700 delegates from over 110 countries during the duration of August 9-12th. Registration begins August 8th with the organization recommending you to arrive a day earlier. August 9 was the opening ceremony and the 12th was the closing ceremony. The 10th and 11th were filled with different workshops and keynote speakers that tailored around three different tracks: economic, youth, and social.

 

A few examples of workshops that I attended or wanted to attend circulated around:

*The workshops I attended are bolded 

  • Building a Global Movement to End Violence Against Children
  • Empowering Youth to Take Action on the Global Refugee Crisis (UNHCR, IDLO, OIC): discovered the problems that needed to be tackled in the largest refugee crisis, importance of integrating refugees into society, looked into statistical evidence of the benefits of refugees, tackled the varying opposing opinions against refugees, and explored the misconceptions regarding refugees
  • STEM as a key to achieving SDGs (Microsoft)
  • Using Values-Based Communications for Social Inclusion: narratives are crucial in our goals to create sustainable and effective change but often times we need to tackle the constructed narratives that are put forth by society (by profit seekers, exploiters of power etc), we learned effective media strategies to set forth a message that is informative, based in truth, and powerful
  • World Bank Presentation
  • Power Differentials: How to Reach the Most Vulnerable
  • Op.s in Technovation to Create the World We Want and Achieve Gender Equality
  • Wikimedia: Health, Science, and Inclusion Through Wikipedia
  • The Power of Youth: Making a Difference Through Sustainable Tourism: understanding the important contributions of tourism as the world’s largest employer, hoping to use the creation of jobs in the tourism sector to solve the world’s largest youth unemployment crisis in history, pinpointing the need for sustainable tourism, voluntourism, and the impacts of tourism on the labour field
  • Shaping the Narrative of an Inclusive Society (Instagram, Dear World, Great Big Story): learning about the impact of media and journalism in impacting social change or inflicting powerful and meaningful messages through our personal brand or initiatives
  • Youth, Peace, and Security (SDSN, Duke University, Code Red, Peacebuilding UN Office)

This past week was overwhelming in a good way! I heard people speak who have done great work in their fields but also passionate youth from so many countries that are pioneering change. Many came from countries I did not know about but one thing for sure was that everyone there was passionate about what they were doing. Talking to anyone, you could see their faces light up with joy from the love they had from doing their work, research, or volunteering.

I met so many individuals (many surprisingly from Canada) but also from the United States, countries I can’t even pronounce, Japan, Uganda, South Korea, China, Haiti, Nigeria, India, etc etc etc. Each day was filled with new information, practical skill development, speaking to panelist speakers from various global development organizations, and working together with other delegates to help with the implementation of the SDGs.

I remember giving feedback on the 2017 Sustainable Tourism Guide (that was actually released at that session that day) to the Permanent Mission of Hungary and just talking to her about the independent research I was doing related to policy and economics. Though the speakers were super accomplished they were always willing to answer questions, give advice, and be open to conversations.

Another big aspect to this conference experience is that there are many door openers to getting involved either after the conference or during the conference. At the conference there is the Resolution Challenge which is a competition based on implementing the SDGs and helps the winners of the competition implement their entrepreneurship venture through mentorship and resources. The second opportunity is Ideas4Action which is what I got involved with and spent a lot of my time doing independent research for. Ideas4Action and Resolution Challenge are both organizations that strongly believe in the power of youth and provide tangible methods to connect passionate youth to funding and mentorship for the creations of projects stemmed in the SDGs. I believe that both organizations have been involved with YA for a while now and so I do believe that you will see them at future sessions.

To be completely honest, though this experience was eye opening to what it would be like to work for the UN or be a part of UN operations, I did not learn as much as I thought I would in the workshops. I attended very insightful workshops where I learned things I did not know but I also attended workshops that weren’t so great. With every experience there’s bound to be the good and the bad, but I would recommend this experience for someone who wants to pursue a career in global development, would like to get a taste of what the public sector looks like, or just wants to have an international network of amazing leaders.

I took down a lot of notes and am in the process of putting them together but in the meanwhile if you have any questions about my experience, do not hesitate to pop a comment below or contact me!

 

 

 

It’s Not Just About Love

Dear Readers,

It has been a while since I have last posted as I have been busy with finishing my first year of university due to my sick leave and in the process of putting together/writing for my book.

Today I wanted to post a blog about a very important lesson I have learned through hindsight and burnout.

Since we all are shaped by our communities, our society, the time and place we live in, and how we are brought up… it isn’t too big of a mystery that a lot of my attitudes and beliefs come from things I’ve learned from my parents.

As an obedient kid growing up, I still think I am for the most part, I feared consequences. I did things not fully controlled by fear, but it was what pushed me to complete homework or become disciplined to practice piano and clean the house when my friends were playing outside. I was scared of the “what ifs.” So I always gave my 110% in the things I knew that would matter in the future (academics, work, extracurriculars) due to a fear that I would regret not working hard when I look back on it. It still plagues me today. I think one of my greatest fears is regret. But the ironic reality is that like most people I don’t usually regret anything that I’ve done, it’s mostly what I did not do.

For the most part, I did what my parents, teachers, and society expected me to do. And I can say that I did decent or above average in most of it. I was lucky though. From a young age, I was conditioned to do things I don’t like to do (be a mom to my sister, cook, clean, etc). I also loved to read which inevitably helped me a lot in school. I had the skill of loving to do things that I didn’t like, and genuinely loving things that I did like (volunteering, doing internships, studying for school to get good grades).

So, life worked for me in the sense that I knew what I wanted, loved what I did, and I could see myself and fulfill that potential I put forth for myself. I lived by “work hard, chase dreams,” with the naive sense that if I just loved something and worked hard enough, that I would achieve all my dreams.

That happened for most of my life. I was able to achieve all but one of my dreams that I had set forth from the age of seven to the age of seventeen (hint: if you know me well and follow my blogs, you might figure it out)! In a decade of time, I was successful in terms that I  had achieved my goals and grown as a person.

I never knew what it was like to be thrown on a detour. Time and time again, these random lung collapses that doctor’s didn’t know why happened, kept happening to me. Despite, sleeping, eating, and exercising to maintain a healthy body. The unexpected propelled me into a completely new journey I did not want to go on. For the first time, I had to make decisions in my life that I could not comprehend or want to comprehend. I had to make decisions that were stunted by the limitations of my health; things I did not choose or want.

It finally occurred to me the huge amount of privilege I had as a healthy teenager. I could pursue whatever I wanted without too much thought. Even though I am still healthy, what has happened has placed me in an area where I cannot pursue just what I want anymore.

Over 18 years ago, my parents arrived in Canada leaving their comfortable and successful lives back in China with the hopes of giving me a better future. My dad had one year left in his schooling for a PhD (Doctorate in Physics) when the visa came through. Due to other family circumstances, my parents both decided that the best time to leave would be 1998. In 1999, they brought me over to Canada and they started their lives again. They worked labour extensive jobs: my dad lifting logs in factories and working the night shift at a gas store while redoing his degree while my mom washed floors in restaurants. You see, my dad loves physics. But he gave up that dream of his to pursue physics in Canada because he knew he would be unable to pursue higher degree jobs (with Canada not recognizing his degrees from China). He started over with studying Computer Science and now works as a Computer Scientist but he doesn’t love it. He goes in day in and day out to support his family.

When I think about that, I not only understand the sacrifice my parent’s made for me to access a better future, but I also understand that sometimes having an undeniable love for something is not enough. Circumstances will prevent you from achieving your dreams. And even though it’s never too late to achieve your dreams, sometimes timing just really sucks and some people just don’t have the privilege of taking risks to get to their unfilled potential.

I was super idealistic before the fifth collapse. I planned everything out, knew exactly where I was going and what kind of person I wanted to be. Right now, I’m just treading between the person I am and who I want to be with no sense of direction. My life has altered in ways that are permanent and unchangeable and I’m still trying to swim in a sort of direction. But I’m still treading aimlessly and for the first time in my life, I’m so clueless about my future and it’s so scary. I’ve realized that perhaps love for something isn’t enough. It’s also about your circumstances and so with that being said all I know is that I want to empower people so that they have the privilege of achieving their dreams and unfilled potential. So it’s not just the 1% getting richer and more successful. So it’s not just the construction of society benefiting the super privileged of able bodied, white, male, heterosexual, and the list goes on. As Mark Zuckerburg said, it’s not enough for us to find our own purpose, our generation needs to create purpose and provide opportunities for EVERYONE.

For the first time in my life now, I’m understanding what it’s like to not be able to pursue what I love. The first time that I need to suck it up and do what I need to do, whether I like it or not. It definitely wasn’t anything what I wanted but it’s giving me the experience that life goes to keep moving on and I can’t let it pass me by.

So I’m trekking on, launching myself into a completely new career path and a new school. I am so scared and I am so sad about my previous dreams, but life has changed me and I have changed. The world around me might still be the same in certain ways, but I can’t live the life I previously wanted to have and that’s okay. It’s all just a learning process

 

xx Cecilia

Stay Determined

Hey everyone,

It’s definitely been a while since my last post and I promise that I haven’t forgotten our journey together.

 

I’ve currently been contemplating, reading, doing research, and writing for a book I have always wanted to write. While pursuing that dream of mine, I realized that I’ve also been ignorant for your journeys. If you’re working towards a goal of yours or if you haven’t found the courage yet to take that step, know that it’s super hard. Life is generally quite difficult. In this way, I’ve learned to not just try and understand others but to actually understand them. I’ve done this by fully putting away my personal biases and judgements or the hurt I might have felt towards certain actions. Then I try to piece together what caused them to do what they are doing. I guess what I’m saying is that even though difficulties cannot excuse certain behaviours, it’s the least we can do to understanding others and the difficult lives that we do not know around us.

On this tangent from hard work, this is a small excerpt of the book I’m working on and it’s actually a memoir of my personal experiences, my new insights, and how I tackle with privilege as I go about aspiring to leave a positive change in this world.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”-The Great Gatsby

I was really bitter to accept and let go of things that meant very much to me these past few months. Super challenging and I must admit that I felt disappointment when I really counted on some people to be there for me. But Gatsby’s quote really rings true. Honestly, I was mad that I lost things that I couldn’t get back and in the process of self pity, I neglected people who might really need someone to ask if they’re okay. I was so caught up with myself that I didn’t bother to look around me. Obviously it’s easier said then done to count your blessings in times of difficulty. I found it hard to praise God. But now as I’ve come out of a difficult time, I haven’t stopped counting my blessings. Breathing without pain, getting out of bed without difficulty, having eyes to see the weather, and onwards. Even having an appetite and going to the washroom yourself is a tremendous blessing. If you’re struggling or anything, I know that feeling. It’s something that’s continually plunging within your being and you feel like you’re gasping for relief and for air. Obviously I don’t know what you’re going through, but I definitely mean it if you need someone to listen. I will listen and I will be there. You matter and sometimes the people around you will be busy but there are others who will step up.
*this is facebook and super informal but i can’t stress it enough, there’s bound to be someone out there among my circle of friends who is struggling so please reach out.

On another note, if you have the capability to chase your dreams then chase them as hard as you can. Three years ago, living beside young children with terminal illnesses, I realized that without a doubt I wanted to live and pursue my passions and extend a legacy for people who can’t chase their dreams.

If you have a healthy body, relish in that beautiful blessing. And don’t ever give up chasing that dream, remember that yes hard work does not = success but at least you have that opportunity to try.

This past week, I’ve connected with many people who went through what I went through and like me they had to give up their dreams of becoming a doctor, being in the army, or becoming a pilot. Sometimes success in a certain area does not soley depend on hard work, it can come from luck too. So if you have the luck within your favour, play as hard as you can.

 

Refer to J.K. Rowling’s best advice for anyone determined to succeed if you are looking for extra inspiration:)

12 Things To Give Up If You Want To Transform Your Life

The process of transformation is a difficult one.

“There’s no need to apologize all the time. Be confident and know that you have value to share.

This man had a lot of value, yet he was giving it away for free by thinking that he didn’t deserve to have people respond to him. Only apologize if you have done something wrong.”

Source: 12 Things To Give Up If You Want To Transform Your Life

Understanding Judgement

For as long as I could remember, as a child I was a clean slate. I saw people by their smiles, their reactions to the world around them. But throughout the tail end of elementary as I transitioned to a wealthier part of town, I began to be teased for the lack of branding on my clothes. I began to feel less worthy and could understand that there was something like class that distinguished me from my peers. Before, people were either nice or rude and I had very few lenses with which to view people. However with time and more knowledge, the characteristics of others were always in my face. More specifically physical characteristics screamed at me.

Being subjected to bullying and cyber bullying, I was called fat, really fat, ugly, worthless, friendless, and other personal attacks. I couldn’t stop seeing myself as a standard or a ruler with which I used to measure others. Every time I went about in my daily life, I was first consumed by fear. Were those eyes taking in how ugly I looked? Were those lips smirking at my physical insecurities? Were those people judging me of not being worthy of their time or attention? And so I went about my day without making eye contact, in fear of really being able to see into their soul that was judging me. At the same time, I felt terrible but when I did see someone I couldn’t help but automatically compare themselves with me. Time does heal all wounds but in their place are scars. Those scars are the remnants of judgement that still fleets through me sometimes. The voices are a lot smaller and more silent these days but I’m not proud that they still occur. Perhaps that’s why I was so scared before… that no matter what I did, people would be looking, judging, and calculating. I realized that even though I strive to be a good person, I still judge. No matter how hard I try to push it out, I still do. And from then on I realized I couldn’t change people from judging me or me from judging others. I could only change my reactions towards their judgement and myself, work on not judging others before I get to know who they are.

If someone judges you without getting to know your story or who you are, then they don’t deserve to be worthy or your time or affection. And if I don’t take the time to get to know someone without formulating thoughts then I’m a hypocrite.

Going through some months in university was one of the greatest experiences for me. I got to learn mind shattering things but most importantly, I got to understand what it’s like to be open minded and understanding. I used to throw around “walk in somebody else’s shoes” without knowing what it really meant. But from meeting people from all around the world at university and talking to people of different ages from the city, I have been introduced to so many different views that have sprouted from unique people and backgrounds. Now, instead of getting angry when someone is rude to me, I think of why they might be feeling that way. Maybe they’ve had a long day or they’re physically/emotionally drained. Or when someone angrily denounces my faith, I realize that they were brought up with certain beliefs and values. I look past the what people do and instead dive into the why they do the things they do. Focusing on the “why” can bridge the divide by connecting us through our actions and thoughts. I can’t expect people to behave the way I do because they’re not me! They have completely different thought process, have gone through completely different experiences, and were brought up by completely different people.

 

Understanding Escape

Dear Readers,

It’s been a while hasn’t it? These past few months have been so incredibly difficult for me; A lot more difficult then I had thought it would be. Having my lung collapse for the fifth time without any medical explanations or possible reasoning from doctor’s, my family and I have been muddled by anxiety and fear. Anxiety each day of when it will happen again and fear for the inevitable.

These past weeks, I’ve been doing a lot better and feeling a lot more normal. It will take another month before I can go back to my complete routine and despite feeling very disappointed for all the lost opportunities, I am working to be grateful for all that I have.

I must admit that it was so easy to be caught up in my hurt and a cycle of self pity each day I woke up. As my eyes would open, I would take a very long time before I got the courage to try to get up because of the pain that would seize me if I did. Each thing I did involved breathing or moving my intercostal muscles that had been punctured around eleven times. Even now, I get extremely scared of the pain when I sneeze or yawn. Life is different again and I know all it takes is acceptance to move on.

This post is a beginning of a series I’m hoping to explore: Understanding ___. I hope to describe negative emotions that I have experienced and how I have overcome them:) *I’m also hoping to stick to a posting schedule now that I’m working to tackle escaping. Most of my energy is going to be towards the book I’m writing however!*

As I got caught up in a cycle of negativity, I couldn’t face the things I loved to do with much hope in fear of failing. I knew I didn’t have the physical ability to run, I wasn’t really up to read some of my favourite books, and I was already tired of putting my feelings into words. So with my friends’ suggestions, I downloaded Netflix and began watching shows. Now with time on my hands, I finally began to actually watch things. I never had the time to watch TV shows in the past and our family didn’t have cable. I began waking up each morning so ashamed of what I was going to do but not caring anymore. You see I had lived with a routine where I spent each moment everyday doing something productive. Even when I went to the movies with friends, I would be scrutinizing each scene to find what I could learn from the characters so that my time would be made worthwhile. In hindsight, I realize how stingy I was with my time: always living for the future never enjoying the present. But to be fair, I was raised to value time and to live each day as my last. However, with all my plans for uni, research, and EC’s wiped away, I felt discouraged. I had enough of being knocked down and working twice as hard as my peers just to catch up with school.

I began the day watching Netflix and I ended the day watching it. I spent so many days doing this because I couldn’t–didn’t want to face my reality. By immersing myself in these fictional character’s lives, I could escape into another world. I could forget about my worries and not take action to face the inevitable. While I was doing this, I knew I was a coward. I knew that I was not courageous enough to stop and get on with life. I validated that it was okay because I was a patient and needed some rest. I mean there’s nothing wrong with that but secretly I knew that I was escaping from reality.

That’s when I realized why some people have addictions. From a position of being fortunate, I had never understood why people could have addictions. But I began to see that they’re an escape: alcohol, partying, sex, food, shopping, gambling, gaming, drugs, etc. It can be a comfortable illusion that temporarily blinds us from the truth. I felt so down and fearful of the things I needed to face that I hid myself in TV shows. Even though I had the restraint from being addicted, I then began to understand how hard it is to conquer addiction. Even now as I write this, I’m scared to have to tackle what is to come, which is so different from the future I had imagined. I’ll need to reconsider my majors and my future career goal as my spontaneous lung collapses will prevent me from the career I have always dreamed of. I’ll need to accept that I can’t always be ahead and I’ll have to swallow down my pride to be a year behind despite always working to be a year ahead through AP courses in high school. There’s a lot to reconsider and I’m already confused about the choices I have to make but I’m willing to step out of the haziness and focus on the reality now.

Right now you could be going through something so much more difficult and I know for a fact that I’ll never truly understand what you’re going through, I can only try. But I do know for a fact that you always have a choice. You have a choice to look far within yourself for that strength. The strength to say enough is enough. The strength to say that who you are doesn’t have to be who you will be; that your past doesn’t define your future. The strength to move past the pain and hold onto faith that things will work out for the better. The strength to get back up and hand life some lemonade again. I believe you, I really do. I’ll be waiting for that cup of lemonade.

 

xoxo,Cecilia

 

Live well and prosper