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living alone as an introvert

For the past 3 months this summer, I have lived in a studio apartment by myself. My roommate recently moved in with me, and I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned from my first taste of adulthood. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to have a place to myself for the summer, as renting around this area is ridiculously expensive (but still cheaper than living in the dorms). Living alone has forced me to be more aware of how I cook, use my space, and spend my time all by myself. Waking up to myself every day has forced me to become more aware of how I truly behave when no one is watching. It’s been truly liberating at times, yet imprisoning in moments of insecurity. But all these experiences have naturally led to lessons that I am grateful to have learned:

To appreciate my parents’ support more. I was determined to stay in college and move into an apartment on my own with the hopes that it would allow me to not only learn to become more independent in all aspects of my life, but to also appreciate those that have made it possible for all this to happen. Ever since coming to college, I phone my parents at least once a week to update them on my life, as well as ask for their suggestions on issues that I’m dealing with.

Over the summer, I have come to rely on their mentorship even more. I would often phone my mom to ask her if it was still okay to cook a sprouted potato or what to do about the mini-slugs that kept appearing in my bathroom, and her answers always reassured me. I grew up watching her maintain the clean, beautiful and organized home that I was raised in, and I have naturally grown accustomed to living in such conditions when I came to college. Though not having her by my side made things more difficult, it forced me to tackle every issue on my own (after having googled it or asked my mom first, of course). I would phone my dad on issues about academics, health, and other issues of living alone. My dad has always guided me throughout my academic career, and though we certainly have differing views on education, his words never fail to comfort me. When I’m feeling frustrated about my classes or confused about what I’m supposed to do about anything, he gives me his take on the situation and lets me think about it myself.

My parents trust me enough to let me make my own decisions. Though I would like to believe that I am a very independent person, more often than not I’m very insecure about the choices that I make. But I notice that whenever I resort to my parents for their guidance and they give me a nod of approval (or disapproval), it eases my anxiety. It makes it easier to make a decision when I know that my parents support me. This has made me realize how similar I actually am to my parents, and how much I rely on their support and confidence that I have not yet fully developed on myself.

To listen to myself and nurture my needs. I don’t think I will ever stop surprising myself with newfound feelings and emotions. Living by myself meant that I was stuck with myself even when I didn’t want to. I did not truly put myself out there socially this summer, mainly because I wanted to spend a lot of my time cooking, reading, writing, and just seeing how much adulting I could do by myself. But as much of an introvert as I am, I think I may have secluded myself too much. It made me realize how bad I am at keeping in touch with people, at making plans with others, and simply initiating conversations.

This summer I also experienced some minor health issues; I started experiencing knee pain (on both knees, lucky me), an old injury in my left foot started up again, and I was also waking up in the middle of the night almost every night. I was working out more and pretty active most of the time, but beneath it I was and am not handling life as well as I could be. Though I had successfully moved into a very nice apartment, there were issues with the current tenants that intruded my thoughts almost daily. Unfortunately, I let my thoughts get to me, and I did not handle them as well as I could have. This showed me how intricately connected my mental and physical health are, and the dangers of dwelling over things for too long.

Understanding my relationship to food. I spent a lot of my time learning to cook, planning meals, and understanding how to feed myself balanced meals of protein, carbs and fats. I think this is a huge investment for anyone at any point in their lives, as you get to use it for the rest of your life. It’s one of the most essential survival skills, and one of the most healthy and helpful ones that you can cultivate. I learned to buy weekly groceries, plan meals, try out new (albeit simple) recipes, and mainly learned to not be afraid of cooking, which is a big victory for me! I experienced a few burns and small cuts here and there, made some disgusting and/or failed meals, but nothing that would deter me from learning more about cooking.

To be okay with not being clean all the time. Back when I was living in the dorms and sharing a room with two other girls, I only had to make sure that my desk, bed and closet space were clean enough for me. We vacuumed the carpeted floor one or twice a month, though it didn’t really matter because the carpet’s dark color masked any dirt on the floor. My dorm floor shared a co-ed bathroom on the floor and I ate at the dining hall, so cleaning the bathroom and kitchen were not an issue.

But now that I’ve moved into my own space where I have to clean my room, in addition to the kitchen and bathroom, I noticed that I had a slight obsession with keeping things a little too clean. The first few weeks of living here consisted of me cleaning and wiping every surface immediately after using. It seemed like a reasonable me-thing to do, but I gradually accepted the fact that not only was this unreasonable, it was also needlessly time-consuming. I had enslaved myself as a maid to myself. I gradually told myself to just stop it. Now I only clean my apartment about once or twice a week, and wipe the surfaces and vacuum whenever I think it’s necessary. A little mess doesn’t really bother me, as long as my bed and desk (my precious areas) are clean enough on the surface.

It’s absolutely liberating at times, imprisoning in others. Not having to close the door when going to the bathroom. Not putting on clothes immediately after showering. Playing soft background music all day long. Watching videos without ever having to put earphones on. Knowing that no one will ever walk through the front door, but me. Dressing up in different outfits and being able to walk around the apartment in them. Putting makeup on myself poorly, and laughing at myself about it.

But it also meant that I had to take extra precaution about my living environment, ensuring that I locked the door when I went out or came home, or making sure I hadn’t let anything turned on. Coming home and not having anyone to talk to. Not having anyone drag me out when I was stuck in my introverted shell. This led me to…

Dealing with solitude. As much time as you have to work on yourself when you’re living alone, solitude can be imprisoning at times. I feel that I am my best working self when I know that no one is watching me, judging me. But sometimes it was hard to keep up my motivation when I wasn’t feeling very perky myself. However, this feeling of solitude led me to reflect upon the type of solitude that I wanted for myself in the future. Somewhere not too busy, not smack in the middle of a city. Maybe in the suburbs, surrounded by parks and nature, where I can go to whenever I’m seeking some alone time in nature. Where I can drive or commute to convenience stores that are not too far away. Somewhere where my thoughts are not easily distracted by random external factors all the time.

This reflection on solitude also made me realize the type of company that I want in my life. Earlier, I talked about how much I have come to appreciate my parents’ presence and support in my life. I feel more appreciative of them now because there is now a palpable distance between us. The physical time that we spend together is limited, and they understand me enough to call me no more than a few times a week. Our relationship has become sustainable and satisfying, at least from my side. That’s the type of company that I want when I look for friendships and relationships.


During the academic year, I meet lots of people who easily become acquaintances and, some, even friends. But few of them will ever become close friends; not because they’re flawed in some way, but simply because. But their company will bring me a lot of memories and experiences, and that’s the beauty of meeting new people, regardless of how long they stay in my life. Though I certainly have a lot to learn about meeting people, making friends, and just putting myself out there, this reflective period has enabled me to see the value of company as what keeps us alive, inspired, and happy.

Living alone these past few months has also showed me how I’m not fully ready to live on my own – just yet. It has also made me realize a lot of things about myself (even if in a hard way), which are things that I can now work on. As much of an introvert as I think I am, I depend on the few important people in my lives to thrive. I still get FOMO when I see what others are doing on social media, I still let negative thoughts get me down, and I’m totally not fully comfortable in my own skin yet. All of these things have truly surfaced in these past months, so I guess that means that I’m still my parent’s little girl 🙂 Even though I’m almost 21!

-Michelle

 

dear insecure self,

I’m embarrassed to admit that you care more about your appearance and physique than you would like to admit. I’m particularly embarrassed that you gained at least 15 pounds during your first year of college. You have never gained more than a few pounds here and there ever, and you’re also realizing how hard it is to shed those pounds. You were never fat, and you’re not fat now, but it doesn’t change the fact that you gained 15 pounds in just one year. You can now see all that fat accumulating in your thighs and tummy, and it’s frustrating to see that in the mirror every day. Your old pants, shorts and skirts no longer fit you, and the new jeans that you got don’t always sit so well around your stomach either. You keep on thinking you’ll lose the pounds and go back to wearing them again – but it’s been a year. Who are you kidding?

I’m scared to reveal to anyone too much about yourself. I’m scared to tell people things they probably don’t even care about. I get anxious when college peers ask for your age. Would they judge you for only being a sophomore when you should be a junior and could even be a senior in college? I’m scared to tell people about this, your space on the internet, “mistyprose”. Would they judge you for making stupid videos and blogging about stuff that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things? I’m scared to let people on the internet know about you, too. What if they don’t like the way you sound or how you look? What if people from real life find out? What if they think you’re this spoiled, fake girl? What if…??

I don’t like how obsessive you get about doing things the right way. Getting exactly 8 or 9 hours of sleep every night; going to sleep at the right time. Eating at the same time every day; eating the right food, and the right amount. Working out at such time of the day; working out this many times a week. Don’t you see that being so uptight prevents you from enjoying life? Don’t you see that this obsessive attitude is actually making you gain weight and feel miserable?

I’m not sure how I feel about you spending time alone most of the time. It’s great when you’re at home and doing your own thing – you’re a great company, but when you walk out and are surrounded by people, something changes. It feels like people are watching you all the time. If you eat by yourself, you can’t help but feel eyes prying on you, wondering why you’re such a loner. Walking alone. Hanging out alone. These judgments come from past experiences, but now it feels like you’re just repeating them all over your head, again and again. When are the voices ever going to stop?

I don’t understand why you put so much on your plate. You want to do the things that you’ve done before coming to college, yet you still want to explore new things in college. But life is limited, and you seriously have to just choose. Or else you’ll end up so overwhelmed that you just end up doing… nothing. Except watch videos all day and bingeing on food, just to take your mind off from all your insecurities and unaccomplished goals. Which happens more often than you’ll admit to everyone.

I worry that you will not be successful in life. You are brave in choosing to study the subjects that you are passionate about, but sometimes you can’t help but wonder if you should have tried harder in other fields. If you should have given math or medical school a second thought before you decided on your path. Or maybe you shouldn’t have given up on your creative aspirations, and could be pursuing an art field instead. What do you even plan to do with your majors, huh?

dear self,

I am pleasantly surprised at how strong you have gotten ever since coming to college a year ago. Not just mentally stronger, but also physically stronger. You don’t fear the cold as much as before – heck, you wear more clothes that show skin and you feel great in them. You’ve started lifting weights, and you can actually see your thighs becoming more toned and defined. Most surprisingly, your immune system seems to become stronger each day. You still get the occasional cold-like symptoms – but they rarely blossom into a full-on cold or flu like before, and you rarely need medication. Your body is learning to fight back.

I am so proud of how much you have matured and how much you continue to do so. You may still feel conflicted about what you need to do in life, but you are progressively gaining control on the direction of your life. Your interests are no longer influenced by those around you; rather, they inspire you to learn more about the world that surrounds you, and have also helped you become more certain about what it is that you want to spend your time on. It’s okay to keep things to yourself. It’s not okay to feel like you have to hide them from people, or that you’re constantly being judged by the things that define you. This is something that you still need to work on, but that’s okay, too. You’ve got time.

I applaud you for your top-notch organization skills and mindset. Your thoughts may not always be in order, but you bet you keep your life in order with your calendar, sticky notes, and reminders. When you have to do something, you write it down and do it (most of the time, at least). You plan your weeks in advance to make sure that you’re working towards your goals – even if they are just baby steps. You make sure to eat right, sleep well, keep your space clean, and exercise consistently. Even though you most likely plan your ‘spontaneous outings’, you feel happier when you give yourself the time to do them.

I encourage you to love yourself more. Your insecurities will never leave you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the reins and still live your life. Even if it means doing them by yourself. You should go out, have fun, and meet people. You feel great when you do that occasionally. But you also feel awesome when you have the day to yourself, to do whatever your heart desires. I know it’s hard to always be comfortable when everyone around you seems so sociable all the time, but you shouldn’t let that guilt dictate your life. Your life is written by you and no one else, after all.

I love how ambitious and self-motivated you are. Whatever you’re doing, you always seem to find an intrinsic purpose for the things that you do. And if there’s no tangible end goal to what you do, you make sure that you’re doing it because you want to. Because you enjoy it. Because it aligns with the values that you strive to live by. You’re also realizing that it’s okay to find something that you really enjoy doing for a while, and then realize that it wasn’t meant for you.  You’re realizing that it’s okay to quit some things in order to make time for others.

I admire the choices you have made, even if they  don’t always provide you with a clear path ahead. You are not only studying the subjects that you’re passionate about in college, you’re also learning so much about the subjects that you didn’t know about before. You have learned the meaning of a liberal arts education, and are taking full advantage to explore the subjects that ignite sparks of joy in you. You know that your interests will change, and you know that it will be completely okay when that happens. College is not about studying that one thing that you’re set to do for the rest of your life; rather, it’s supposed to propel you towards different directions and provide you with options that you might not even know yet. So pursue knowledge with passion, and let go with satisfaction. This also applies for life after college too – nothing you do will ever ‘stay’ the same. And that’s the excitement of life. So fret not, because there will be a time and place for all that you wish to do in life.

dear loving self,

Llife is bittersweet. I’m not gonna deny that you’re full of flaws, because you are. You are flawed in many things, and flawed in seeing all those things as flaws in yourself. You pick fights with yourself, constantly. Every day. Your insecurities are persistent, but so are the strengths that come from them. You may look at yourself for the insecure person that you are, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have grown and blossomed because of these insecurities. Remember that both the flaws and strengths are what fill your life with meaning. And I know you will continue growing, slowly but surely, into the worthy person that you are and have always been.

the importance of taking time off

I am back home for winter break for a month, and it feels great. It’s allowing me to take a breather from school, wind down, prepare for the incoming year, and do the things that I personally love to do. My home is not as saturated as my college is. I’m not surrounded by multitudes of people everyday, I don’t have as many external demands, and I can sleep in without feeling guilty. My life at home doesn’t feel as fast-paced as it does when I’m in college, but this is what allows me to recharge for the incoming year.

To resume old hobbies. A lover of books, I realized a week into my winter break that I hadn’t touched my kindle once. I then consciously started reading, and the old habit kicked in. Other hobbies like playing the cello, taking pictures, learning about Photoshop, and catching up with films also followed suit. 

To reevaluate and set new goals. Winter break is a transitional moment, as it marks the end of a semester, a year – and the beginning of a new one. Reevaluating your goals allows you to see what changes need to be made for the coming year. Setting new goals allows you to be excited for the path ahead of you. The beginning of a new year always marks the start of a clean slate, and setting concrete goals allows you to not lose track of them as you go on with your life.

To plan ahead. As you go about your break from school, your thoughts might also drift towards where you see yourself in the incoming year. In addition to setting goals, you should have plans that will lessen your anxiety when the time comes around. I look at planning as the micro steps that I need to take to achieve my goals. Plans are not meant to cement your actions once and for all, as things are bound to change with time. But following through your plans will ensure that you’re going towards your desired path – progressively.

To reconnect with loved ones. For me, these are my family, friends from back home, and also keeping touch with new close friends I’ve made. I’m not the most sociable person by nature, but I value the few friendships and relationships that I have. While I had the excuse of being too busy while at school, there’s nothing standing in my way of spending more time with the people I care about at this time, especially my family.

To relax. This is necessary to restore calm and focus. I find that when I find myself free from demands, my mind starts creating new ideas, thinking of new things to do. I like to enjoy breaks by reading, learning and coming up with possible goals and things that I want to do, but I also have to remind myself that I can’t do them all at once. The world demands us to be in constant motion, but it’s also important to be patient with ourselves. Time is not unlimited, but neither are our abilities. Taking time to slow down is important in allowing us to see clearly what is most important to us – and to truly focus on those things.

Even with all the things that I’ve mentioned above, I reserve most of the time for myself. That means catching up on films that I personally want to watch, going shopping, sleeping in when I need to, catching up on reading, and simply enjoying my own company doing the things that I love.

-Michelle

blissful morning walks

I love when the sun rises early in the morning, and sets late at night, making the days seem longer and fuller. I enjoy walking out of my building and being greeted by the sunlight, even when it sometimes greets me too fiercely. I particularly relish my weekend morning walks around other parts of the neighborhood that I don’t normally pass by during the week. I love how the college dorms here are not inside campus, but rather in the areas surrounding it; it gives me the freedom to explore other parts of this town-like place, and it allows me to take these blissful morning walks. I am someone who believes in enjoying the small things in life, especially when nature is part of it. Taking a walk is the simplest way to wind down from the frenzy of life that surrounds us each day.

Taking a walk means challenging life’s demands. When I find that I’m overwhelmed by the demands of life, I make a conscious effort to walk in the places where nature is my surrounding company. It reminds me that I can choose to either rush my day to get as many things done as possible, or do a few things with thoughtful consideration without overstimulating myself. The world won’t end regardless of how much I squeeze into one day, so I might as well choose to spend it in the best way possible for me.

Taking a walk means doing something for yourself. By yourself. We easily spend so much time stimulating our senses artificially  that we deprive us of true alone time. We listen to music on our phones whilst we type away on our laptops, we watch videos or read articles online when we’re bored, we text people while we walk. Whenever we’re not interacting with others one-on-one, we fill our voids with the immediate stimulation that our devices can offer. But when we do this, we lose being in the company of ourselves. Taking a walk means listening to your footsteps, looking at the path in front of you, and noticing the details that surrounds you. Though I often feel like distracting myself with a good movie or burying my head in a book, it’s good to ground oneself back to reality at the end of the day.

Taking a walk means noticing our surroundings with a childlike curiosity. There are increasingly more places to see, cities to travel, and adventures to have. It’s always fascinating to go on a roadtrip adventure or visit an exotic place, as it’s literally an escape from our more mundane reality. It’s fun and important to travel somewhere where the culture and reality is different to that of your own, as it’s a valuable experience in itself. But it’s also important to remember that the things that surround us every day can be just as special. You don’t need to travel long distances to find novelty; you can find it exactly where you are right now, if you choose to do so.

I believe that it’s important to accept this before you decide to go out and explore more. It’s important to accept this because only then can you see everything that surrounds you with curiosity, not just the grand exotic places. It’s important to appreciate the richness in all the big and small things.

So, take a walk around your area, but take a different path this time. What story are behind the homes that you see? How do you feel, walking along a calm residential area as opposed to a busy city street? What sounds do you hear – are they human, animal or nature sounds? Welcome any thoughts that come into your mind as you walk along.

-Michelle

how to recover from a burnout

BURNOUT: physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

We are all familiar with this. That moment when… anything and everything seems to be too much all at once. When you just want to shut the world down, and make everything stop. When you’re no longer stressed, but on the verge of falling apart. When you lose that drive and sense of motivation that you used to have.

I have experienced my definition of high stress, social anxiety, and demotivation for short periods at a time. I don’t think I’ve actually experienced burnout to the point of being unable to go back to work, unless it was due to some external reason. However, I do have a few methods, that I have used myself, to help you recover from any form of short-term burnout (if you experience a heavy, long-term burnout, please consult a professional):

1. Schedule time for yourself.

Turn off the notifications in your phone, stop checking social media, and let the emails go. One cannot truly relax if one is constantly being interrupted by things as distracting as Facebook, Instagram, and emails. You live in the now, in the present moment, not in the pictures that random people post on Facebook, nor the chaos in the news nowadays.

Acknowledge it, value it, live it.

2. Do something creative

Whenever I delve into something fun, like practicing brush lettering, taking pictures, or even just journaling, it feels therapeutic. I put on some soothing music, and it becomes me and my art. It allows me to recharge creatively and lose myself in the beauty of it for a while.

Simply choose something that you consider fun, creative, simple and relaxing. For me, it usually has to do with some form of pen and/or paper. I love journaling, planning, brush lettering, doodling and painting in a coloring book. It’s easy and soothing, and it gets me going.

3. Get out.

This one never fails me. Whenever I feel stuck, stressed, and even on the verge of a breakdown, I force myself to go out if I can muster the energy to do so. I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood surrounded by parks, and that’s where I go. Not somewhere crowded with people talking; just nature, people walking with their doors, and cars passing by.

Nature, besides it being there to allow us to live, is the best natural form of therapy. It will allow you to breathe in the fresh, fresh air. Let you slow down for a bit, and enjoy your view as it is. Get you up and walking, without going anywhere in particular.

4. Get active.

Following #3, once you’re outside – take it to the next step! You could start by walking or jogging, or skating, or biking, or taking your pet for an afternoon together. Make it an event. Get your body moving and your blood pumping. You will have to focus on your task at hand and, consequently, get your mind off your work. Your body will also automatically release endorphins, which will inevitably relieve you of the stress you were experiencing, and make you feel much, much better overall.

You can get active by going out for a simple activity like the ones named before – walking, jogging, biking, etc. or by signing up for a class that you’ll have to go a few times a week. I do both, so I get my dose of endorphins pretty much everyday – whether I feel like it or not – and always end the day feeling sore, but refreshed.

5. Get your zzz’s.

I know, I know. There is not enough time to sleep. But there is if you make it a priority. I prioritize sleep because:

  • It allows me to perform hours of productive and concentrated work everyday; if I don’t, I end up spending twice as much time in each task and accomplishing half as much.
  • I maintain my body’s health and weight by doing so; if I don’t, I end up eating more than necessary, oftentimes caffeinated products or just food my body doesn’t need. Your body should not be dependent or coffee or any other food at all if you get your sleep.
  • I love to wake up early. I’m not an early bird, but I can wake up relatively early if I sleep at a proper time, and a consistent schedule is what allows me to be the best version of myself every day.

This is also key to prevent oversleeping, which will most likely depress you even more, as you’ll feel like you’re sleeping your life away. In order to take care of your body, maintain your health and recover from a day of work, is to sleep no more than necessary. Lie in bed for a while after waking up, but don’t fall asleep again if you’ve slept enough, or you’ll wake up more restless than before.


Lastly, forgive yourself if things don’t go your way. I cannot reiterate this enough. More often than not, your day will not go as planned. When that happens, acknowledge your mistakes, forgive yourself, and move on. It will all be alright at the end.

-Michelle