Much to the chagrin of my slightly younger self, I have started using TikTok. Yes, the app that I have widely deemed as the most vile for consuming social media has charmed me into creating short form video content.

Earlier today, I opened up the app and found the “Suggested accounts” pop-up. There was a single name on the list, and after a bit of googling, I found out it was a friend from college. I had ensured that my account, just like on all other social media apps, was not connected to anything that could be traced back to people I know. But, alas.

I think it’s common to feel embarrassed when someone you know finds out about your “content creation” platform. To an extent, it feels like stripping down in front of a partner for the first time—except it’s in front of an X number of people that you know (but not really) and with whom you have no desire of sharing an intimate facet of yourself. It’s common to feel this at first, yet I have felt this way for years.

There’s something about others witnessing some part of my identity—whether it’s from attending the same school or simply knowing them on a personal level—that immediately makes their opinion of myself weigh more than a rando online.

I’ve gone to the extent of deactivating personal accounts to prevent them from being further traced back my content creation platforms. It’s as if I’ve had to remove parts of my personal footprints online in order to make space for my online persona.

At one point, l quit all social media platforms but YouTube (which has never impeached on my anonymity, for that matter) because it felt like I was working towards becoming a walking ad for companies. I was convinced that I was doing it for the ethics, but it was mostly just a very personal matter of anonymity.

With the boom of the Web3, we can already see social media transforming into something more autonomous for the individual content creator. There will come a time where creators can monetize their content without depending on ads or middlemen, and I’m excited for that. It won’t be anonymous as all online activity is traceable, but at least I won’t have to worry about the platform spreading informing across my online selves.

I think it’s fine to want to stay anonymous. Lots of people do it for reasons beyond that of just embarrassment. But I think it’s something else when I freak out over a minor incident that causes me exactly zero harm. I still cringe at any of my old content; some days it’s fine, some days I wish I could start all over.

I am inclined to end this post on a high note, but evidently this is not something that I can resolve over the course of a few paragraphs.

I just watched this film about a young woman navigating adulthood through relationships and career transitions. It’s one of those comfort films that makes you feel validated about being an adult without having any of the adult things figured out.

Julie is a top medical student who ends up switching to psychology, and then photography. She ends up working at a bookstore for a few years as she tries to grapple with what she wants in life. She has an estranged relationship with her dad, who has another family of his own, but is unable to confront him about it. She has many flings, and ends up in 2 serious relationships where she wonders Is This It. Her insecurities about her career and her indecisivenes about her future are among the few issues that keep her from moving forward.

We can see that Julie is trying to figure out her life, but nothing seems to really fit. Her relationships are merely hedonistic pursuits where she always ends up feeling like the supporting character. It’s not that she can’t be who she wants to be, it’s that she doesn’t know who that is, or if it’s even worth the pursuit. The film is genius at letting things flow; Julie’s trajectory is unpredictable, with her decisions being neither wrong or right—they just are.

Watching others go through problems that I can identify with helps me see my own issues from the same point of view: as a non-judging, neutral viewer. It’s easy for me to punish myself for not appreciating the life I have; in reality, my problems are relative, far more common that I think, and not that big a deal in the grand scheme of life. Freeing myself from the isolation of my thoughts is what allows me to stop dwelling on them, and look for ways to move forward.

Once I was at a restaurant with my parents. I slipped away to the bathroom and, as I washed my hands, two girls in their 20s came in giddily. I glanced at them applying eye makeup; they wore going-out clothes, clearly anticipating a night of fun. They noticed me and asked how old I was; then they said 10 was the best age ever. I stared at my reflection in the mirror and wondered what part the constraints of my age they referred to.

They say your brain doesn’t become fully developed until 25. I deem this to be the stage where I become an independent entity; where I can distinguish between my thoughts and those influenced by others; my desires, and that of those closest to me. I’ve always been of the sensitive kind, desperate to obey and to please, so maybe I’m just wistful that this milestone will cement this resolution.

At 25, you also become more set in your ways. Your brain’s neuroplasticity is in decline, and you have a life to which you can’t bid goodbye and start fresh. I’ve always wondered why so much attention is placed on children’s learning. Parents fervently watch their children at music recitals and monitor their homework progress at home. Children ask uninhibited questions about life and beyond. Yet when this same child enters the so-called “real world”, both parties lose interest in the child’s learning potentials in favor of their now adulting responsibilities.

As I age each year, I fear losing that youthful curiosity for life. I fear losing my desire to live the world, to learn their languages and cultures, to pursue hobby after hobby like a free-spirited person. I fear losing that, because that seems to be what the world is telling me to do. Settle, work, save.

But if I’m really, really honest with myself, I am just complaining because I feel lost. I’m still getting used to the blank roadmap. My life has always been dictated on pen and paper, and I always knew where I would be years from now–until I graduated college, at least. Now that no one is holding my hand and infinite possibilities present before me, I turn bitterly to the world, asking back my childhood.

As I think about my plans for this year, my mind keeps asking me: What do you want?

A year ago, I had just graduated from college. I had already been away from the college environment and working full-time for a few months, so this marker was just a formality. I spent most of my time working from home, carving out time to read Chinese, figure skate, read, journal, among other hobbies. I moved into another place where I now live with my needy cat. Most recently, I lost my job.

It’s been just a minute, and I’m feeling the career burnout that I expected to feel in my 30s. When I see myself in five years, I imagine the languages I would have learned, the places I would have lived, and the skills I would have garnered. I imagine my career as a set of life experiences that contribute to my overall growth, but it is never the shining star. I am even more sure of this given my (albeit limited) “experience” in the real world.

I wish I were going into this year filled with the hope and ambition I used to have, but as of now, I’m a bit drained on that front. I know what my personal goals are, but they seem pointless when I feel like I’m back to square one with my career. The thing is, I firmly believed I had carved out the perfect and only career path I saw for myself. So how am I supposed to come to terms that it’s not what I see myself doing, years from now?

Then again, I’m not having a good day today. My fears are amplified by a recent string of uncertainties, creating a feeling of unease that I just can’t shake off. It’s January and the weather is chilly; I’ll take a walk outside.

In my search for a new place, I found myself obsessing over the smallest details. Too ugly. Ceramic floors. Outdated furniture. Not enough sunlight. Too ugly. Just totally, stubbornly obsessing over the things that wouldn’t bother me in an item I purchase.

Almost 2 years ago ago, when I left my college home to escape covid, I had to come to terms with leaving my stuff behind. A whole bunch of sentimental items I collected over the years, donated and dumped. The move was a catalyst to my minimalist journey. It’s been 2 years of living in furnished, temporary homes that would allow me to not attach myself to things, and I’m feeling confused.

I regularly discard the things I no longer use to make room for the things that fit better into my life. Yet as I’m finding myself moving into the 5th place in less than 2 years, I feel all but settled. Yes, it’s exciting. It’s a new place, a new chance for new beginnings. A new neighborhood to explore, a new home. But on the other hand, it’s not my home. It’s not my apartment, not my room, not my kitchen not my couch, not my nothing. Even the things I do own, they’re not really mine.

I pretend to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, yet I am deeply attached with the idea of finding the perfect environment for myself, without committing to the time or effort that is typically required. I’m stuck in a contradiction I created for myself. If I want the former, I need to embrace the imperfections and instability of my surroundings. If I want the latter, I need to forsake the ability to just pick up and move.

I want both, and that’s the story of my life.

I feel like I’ve been stuck in this in-between stage for a while now. For the latter half of 2021, actually.

I usually get unstuck by having a realization about myself that helps me feel okay with what I’m going through. This can come in the form of getting advice from others, or from reflecting about it over time. I’ve had some small realizations these past few weeks, and yesterday was one of them.

I’ve been watching this psychiatrist who streams his therapy sessions, and I stumbled upon a video where he explains why we are unhappy and having mid-life crisis earlier in life. It’s because our reality is different now. There’s an abundance of information that didn’t exist for prior generations, so comparing our trajectories to theirs doesn’t make sense. Our life is no longer composed of our immediate surroundings, but from an online network encompassing unlimited number of communities. Also, we’re biologically programmed for survival, not happiness.

The answer is obvious, but sometimes you just need someone to spell it out. He himself went through a years-long early life crisis (dropped out of college, of becoming a monk, of Harvard—to become a Twitch streamer), which forced him to solidify who he was. As someone who isn’t ready to attend therapy, watching his therapy sessions and relating them to my own life was like finding a gold mine. I’ve always been interested in psychology (hello, psych major), so hearing him synthesize ideas into digestible anecdotes was just what I needed.

It feels like it was just 6 years ago (wtf) when I had just started this blog, trying to my find my voice. In some ways, I have. But in others, I feel even more jaded by my past. I seem to keep storing the negative experiences in the front row of my mental library, readily accessible for when I want to make myself miserable.

I think the whole point of me journaling is to use my logical, present mind to revisit and tend to the emotional, teenage mind that still lives within me. I obviously have a lot of unresolved emotions that cause me to be fear-driven today. Understanding that my turmoil may come from uncared for experienced is great; not because it’s the solution to my problems, but because it’s a way to start dissociating from my past self.

I’ve been having vivid dreams every night. I would say 2-3 of them, and I always remember the last 2 upon awakening. It’s often the last dream that jolts me awake, leaving me feeling restless yet unable to go back to sleep peacefully.

It wasn’t until I started vlogging daily that I realized how persistent my sleep problems were. They’re debilitating. They partially have to do with my inability to maintain a consistent sleep-wake schedule, and partially because I’m an overthinking wreck.

Many a time I’ve thought about drinking coffee, which would treat the foggy morning hours in the morning—at the expense of a normal bedtime. I do not wish for my sleep schedule to become regulated by a substance either. This leaves me with treating the real issues that are keeping my mind awake even during those supposed REM hours.

This move was harder than I could have imagined. I think we all romanticize the idea of moving, as if the act of doing a 360 of your physical surroundings will bless you with a new start.

As minimal as I have become with my stuff, it was a headache wrapping my mind around all the things I had to pack. It made me really uncomfortable seeing that I needed packing boxes in addition to the suitcase, carry-on and other small bags/boxes that I already had. This is after I had already given away a few of my things, namely my futon.

I forgot how attuned to my environment I am. Once I arrived at the apartment, I spent about 24 hours moving in, a good part of that bleaching, moping and wiping the years of evidence from previous tenants. Putting my stuff in was a small chore in comparison. 

My mind was wholly consumed by this move until I felt like it was my home. My mood was erratic, frustrated at the landlord’s lack of responsiveness to the myriads of issues that arose in the days leading up to my move. Mind you, I didn’t move to a pristine apartment. I ate and drank only when I could no longer ignore the hunger pangs and my dried up throat. I refused to shower until I was physically exhausted.

I still see the markings on the wall, the imprints left from my uneven mopping on the marble floor, and the dusty surfaces reflected by the sunlight. These are the signs that I haven’t adjusted yet, because when I do, these common small problems become part of the backdrop of my regular environment. That’s why we react strongly to people’s idiosyncratic places, but are entirely oblivious to our own. 

My space is bigger. The white round table I got at my old place now pales in comparison to the dinner table. The apartment is one floor, yet the distance from my room to the bathroom takes more steps. The lighting in the bathroom makes me feel good when I look at myself in the mirror. The windows are soundproof, letting in only the constant hum of the traffic and the garbage trucks announcing their arrival with a mechanical A Maiden’s Prayer.

I’ve slept three nights here, and I’m back to my regular, moody, nightmare-infested self again. It still feels eerie to have a kitchen and a bigger everything: bigger bed, bathroom, floors, sofa. The many windows lighting the apartment make me feel more exposed, no longer in a cocoon looking out the one and only window facing a quiet street.

I don’t miss my old home at all, which I had worried about. I guess this means I’m adjusting well.

Of course, now I have a very important mission to accomplish. And it’s surely going to make the apartment feel less empty with the litter, toys, bed, food, and scratching pad lying around.

I was raised to believe that outside was a dangerous world, especially as a female. Both my parents are very skeptical, sometimes cynical, people. They tend to assume the worst in every situation, so predictably that I often leave a conversation wondering why I asked for their opinion already knowing what they would say.

But I’m not the best at reading people’s characters. I can easily believe anything a stranger says, only to question my judgment hours later when I’m by myself. It’s safe to say that I’m not good at forming my own thoughts under social pressure.

Perhaps it’s simply because I like to fit in. I modify my attire and behavior based on the community around me. I don’t like to stand out, at least not externally. I find my thoughts molded by those around me, only to reconvene with myself when no one’s watching.

I now understand that this behavior was a way for me to adapt to my changing environment, to fit in, and to keep what I liked. Adaptation is key to survival, after all.

For most of my life, I believed my parents held the word of god. I grew up thinking that they spoke Our truth. Not necessarily The truth, but Our truth. I have always resorted to my parents for the final say in every major decision I’ve made; to move forward without their consent felt like I was jinxing my own future.

When I graduated college, I realized that my thoughts could differ from that of my parents, and that it was okay. It’s an obvious statement, but one I was blinded from for most of my life. For anything that was unfamiliar, my parents were my source of truth.

For the first time since last year, I have been living outside the confines of home and school. Though I have been working full-time, I have a lot of time that I didn’t have before. This time has become precious in allowing me to sit with and formulate my own thoughts.

My goal is to continue developing my identity, all the while knowing that my current beliefs may very well change with time. I tend to feel conflicted when my beliefs and actions don’t concur. I can accept differing opinions, but I have yet to be able to empathize with those who hold them. The remedy is to broaden my field of acceptance, thereby minimizing any dissonance I might feel towards differing views.

When I was four, I often dreamed about death. In it, I would witness someone close to me getting shot, and I would wake up crying and begging my dad to not leave me. 

On a daily basis, I would feel a sense of dread when the night came upon us, as if the end was near. When we went to the movies, I felt deeply every word of “the beginning of the end”. My surroundings would darken, the screen would brighten, and the sounds would boom, but I knew that two hours later we would walk out into the darkness of the night.

I was hyper aware of the oddity of my existence and how the world that I knew would cease to exist the moment I died. I was aware of all of this before I knew how to put it into words. I didn’t understand why I existed in this world, in this moment in time, in this body, in this state of being.

I guess I just wasn’t used to being alive yet.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve never fully shrugged away the hyper awareness of my existence. It becomes more pronounced when I find myself misplaced in a social setting. Why am I here? Why am I alive, in this body, in this moment in time? Yet at this age my mind is calmer, as if tamed by the experiences of aging.

I think back to when I was younger and I remember a mind that lived in fantasy land. Worlds I created with my imagination, because the real world was still foreign to me. My mind entered dimensions that are now inaccessible to me. I did not know I was stepping into them when I did, but that was the magic of being four and not knowing a whole lot about the world.

The older I get, the more defined by my past I become. I fear that this will only exacerbate as time goes on, leading my preconceived fears to determine my next step. So I must forget. With conscious effort, I must forget all that is confining me to who I believe I am, so I can be free to become who I want. 

Perhaps my desire to live a slow nomadic life is a wish to regain my chance to live unfettered by my past. The constant need to reinvent myself, as if my life depended on it, is a struggle to regain the innocent self I once was. I do not know what resolutionI intend to achieve with this pursuit, only that my identity insofar as I know, depends on it.