I feel like I’m constantly waiting for something to happen. That perhaps my present life is just a build-up for something better. It feels like I’ve been living for the future since forever. Since college became a goal when I was still years away from attending it, and my career seemed like an impending do or doom.

Now that I’m out of that chasing mentality and lead a calmer life, that nagging feeling still seeps into my mind every once in a while. Do I not like my life? What am I waiting for?

I feel a need to run away from my current life and re-invent myself completely. Whenever I move away, I feel it’s necessary to leave the past behind to fully devote myself to this new environment. But I also do it because I want to spare myself from seeing the friendships that will fade away.

But I think this trauma-triggered response has also reinforced my main life goal: to live the world. To learn a new language, struggle with the cultural shock, and become as close as I can to living like a local. Complete, then repeat. This process of learning, struggling, and adjusting is what makes my life meaningful. And I like to do it by myself. I guess I fear that if I hold on to my past life too much, it will prevent me from fully living in the present.

I preach living in the present, yet I am constantly planning for that to come. To live in the present is to acknowledge that your current lifetime will go by faster than you can say “I need more time.” To truly live life as you know best, because there are no second chances for time.

As a young person still, I guess I am still reinventing myself because it’s a palpable reminder of my mortality. I’ve been here in Taiwan for over 14 months now, and even if I stay here for another year or so, I will be gone faster than I can say “I came here to escape COVID” (too late, anyway). It’s been easier to consider what matters to me knowing that I will be gone soon. It’s really simple, actually: my hobbies, family, work. Everything else is secondary. Once I formed this hierarchical pyramid in my mind, I stopped obsessing over the secondary factors. There’s no time for them.

I’m happily holed up in my cocoon. I live in a small loft studio, with the full-size windows giving the illusion of a grand space. Since the soft lockdown started, I have gotten lost in my little moments of happiness. I’ve kept up my promise to love myself more this year. I turned 25 Lunar years on February 12th; perhaps that’s why quarter life crisis thoughts have been hitting me like what’s up.

I recently bought the cheapest piano keyboard i could find, and I’ve been playing away like a child playing with her new toy. I love starting something new. Most of the time I stick with it for a bit, and half the time I stay with it long enough to get what I want out of it. I’ve never been good at doing one thing for a long period of time; any aspirations of reaching Juilliard-level proficiency have been laughable. My mind can’t live in one world forever. But that doesn’t stop me from dabbling in many worlds and experiencing the little joys and frustrations that help me appreciate the truly talented a better.

I’m glad I lived in this COVID-free island for a year, but I’m afraid we’ve let our guard down. While the US seems to be going back to normal, our inhabitants are growing more restless. Still, we are better off than other harder hit areas, where border control is not as easy. I have been at home 98% of the time in the past 2 weeks. I’m prepared to make that 100% for the coming weeks or months, if I give up in-person grocery shopping.

Perhaps a thing to note is that Taipei gets extremely hot, humid, and insufferable for half the year. We have entered this stage in May, and I must say I’m relieved to stay at home during this time. The long, leisurely walks that I took during the colder months of the year are now but distant memories.

Some parts of Taiwan have also been hit by droughts and blackouts. I started taking shorter showers and whispering words of gratitude for my working AC and charged laptop. I’ve experienced water shortages in every country I’ve lived in; never where I lived, but always close. I don’t read the news much, but when I do, it’s just a reminder to stay humble in my lifestyle. How can I live extravagantly, if my consumption takes away from those who need it more? It’s not even a question of doing good. It’s like committing a crime knowing that people will get hurt. I could be on the receiving end any day myself.

  1. Alone time has become more enjoyable as the judgemental voice inside has dimmed. As the instabilities in my life settled and my life became simpler, my mental state improved. A stable, simple life, sprinkled with hints of exciting hobbies and wanderlust plans. A life planned by no other than myself.
  2. Life always seems greener on the other side. Even my past seems greener, even though the stress I endured materialized into physical pains. The other side always has more time. The present time is just the here, the now, the mundane. It can be wonderful, if you truly spend time with it.
  3. Time. That’s the thing everyone older than you will always be envious of, my dad said. It had never occurred to me, even though I subsconsciously look at people (younger than me) enviously. By the time they’re my age, they would have achieved more than I have at this point… It’s baseless comparison, goddamnit I know it. Isn’t time relative?

Find a book that makes you want to wake up in the morning.

One that makes you rush through your morning rituals – just so you can get back to those sweet, crisp pages.

Find a book that starts slow, but draws you right in when you’re about to give up.

One that you can’t put down because you just have to know how the story unfolds.

Find a book that makes you swoon over the protagonist – the sharp male lead, that stubborn girl that reminds you of… well, you.

One that makes you feel despondent once the pages end, abruptly, because how can reality ever begin to understand the ordeal that you just went through?

Find a book that makes your heart ache in understanding.

One that destroys you and rebuilds you into someone you didn’t realize you could be.

Find a book that keeps you awake until you see the sky dim bright again, because that’s the world you will seek to build.

Loving myself feels like a long lost love I once had, a blossoming spark that has lost its appeal.

In my relatively young life, I have internalized some really harmful things about myself, things that we do everything to keep the young ones from ever learning about.

My childhood and teenage years were by no means traumatic. I was loved, nurtured, and priviledged. I grew up as a third culture kid, raised by (formerly) tiger parents and the staunch belief that I am destined to do great things in this world. Big ambitions, high expectations, yaddi yaddi yadda.

My parents have taught me to be self-sufficient both at home and at work, but somehow I missed the memo when it came to… myself. It seemed like everything I was working for was for some higher purpose… for good grades, academic praise, prestigious college, a successful career. I felt like a I was always walking on the edge, because if I didn’t attain the next goal, that meant I had failed.

And then, it happened.

I got rejected by all my so-called dream colleges and found myself in a gap year, desperately paving the way back to myself.

Throughout these years, I have almost always had some physical ailment – crippling back pain in high school, a year-long cold my first year of college, and other pain points that moved up and down my body at different points in time.

There was always something wrong, to the extent that I started to believe I had manifested these pains. My sensitive self has always taken critical feedback a bit too much to the heart, and it seems like my body suffered the blow.

What started as external stress – teachers, friends and parents – trying to mold me into what they believed was best for me, became the own voices in my head telling who I should be.

I spent years doing things that I thought I should do, and not because I wanted to. Not truly. High school memories of feeling completely out of touch with myself in hours of Model United Nations conferences, getting heart palpitations to place a mere fifth in track, and dedicating sleepless nights and weekends on clubs and work that I believed would boost my resume; these only ended up with me feeling like I could never be good enough. I could be good, if I really tried, but I was never great, not even if I tried.

If you asked me who I was, I would list out all the things that I was doing and pride myself in those achievements. In those moments, I felt validated in my efforts to be that self. Don’t get me wrong – I cherish and hold my past self close to me. Though I may look back in disdain, they are nevertheless amazing learning experiences that have allowed me to make wiser decisions down the line.

At 22, I made leaps in my career. At 23, I want to love myself more.

All this rambling about my past is just a preamble to what this post is really about: learning to re-love myself.

Loving myself means forgiving my past for whatever she endured. It means learning to detach from that past, the people that hurt me, and the hurt that I caused on myself. I need not forget to forgive, as these memories are the reminders for the why that I live by now.

Something that has stayed constant throughout my life has been writing. The long-winded and cryptic diary entries remind me of who I once was, and who I no longer am.

I’ve written to remember precious memories, and I’ve written to lash out furious thoughts that I could never share with anyone. I wrote to comfort myself, to decrypt past entries with new perspectives. I wrote because it was a way to heal myself, even if I felt more at odds with myself afterwards.

I write because it pulls me away from that troubled identity, granting me the view of the omniscient reader watching from above, all-knowing and forgiving.

I want to write more. To write deeply and foolishly, and to look back on past entries with unabashed certainty that my naive thoughts are testament to the purity of my experiences. To give myself the self-assurance that I had been seeking elsewhere all my life. To be my friend, my comforter, my biggest supporter.

No more intrusive thoughts of not feeling good enough. No more thoughts of feeling undeserving, unworthy of this gracious life that I’ve been granted. No more insistent voices in my head whispering vile words of hatred whenever I fail to deliver.

At 22, I proved to myself that I was capable of becoming good at what I pour my heart into.

At 23, I want to nurture the soul that has bore that brunt.

-Michelle

I flew back to Taiwan from the US early on when the pandemic started and, amidst all the global chaos and confusion, I couldn’t be more grateful of being able to shelter here.

From taking classes online, living alone, doing my internship remotely and then in-person, getting a full-time job, going to the doctor, to truly settling down in Taiwan (for now, at least) – I have some things to say about how this country has handled the global pandemic.

It’s as if COVID-19 never really hit Taiwan.

It’s no secret that Taiwan has been one of the most successful countries in handling the pandemic ever since it started to spread in Asia back in January.

From issuing precautions, reinforcing the use of face masks and having a really transparent means of communication, Taiwan has showed its continuous dedication to maintaining the wellbeing of its citizens.

Yes – wearing face masks, hand sanitizing at every opportunity, and getting your temperature measured at the door – would have been abnormal prior to 2020, but that is just about as abnormal as it gets.

Being a small country, with most of its population clustered around Taipei, I am actually really relieved to have these precautions in place after months without a single local case. We’re not wearing face masks 24/7 nor are we avoiding crowds at all costs, but being cautious has prevented us from getting other viral infections like the flu, especially during this hot and humid summer.

Traveling back from California, it took me some time to get over the shock of how different things are handled in different parts of the world. It has been several months now, and I am still impressed by the safety and overall sense of ease that living in Taiwan has been for me.

There was never a lockdown.

The closest thing to a lockdown was delaying the start of classes by two weeks back in February. This allowed the country to both put the health of its citizens first, whilst maintaining the stability of the economy (I mean, as stable as it can be given the circumstances).

Aside from the initial precautions to work at home when there were still cases, I have been going out whenever I need or want to.

I work in-person for my full-time job, and eat out as much as I would like. It often feels like I’m in this bubble of normalcy, while fully aware of the ongoing war against COVID-19.

The country makes daily updates on COVID-19 and new cases.

This transparency means that everyone knows what is going on, every single day. Psychologically, this creates a sense of trust between the government and its people, and serves as a reminder that we should continue being cautious to maintain this calm.

Anyone who travels to Taiwan must go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Each person gets NT$1,000 per day in compensation. Violators of this mandatory self-quarantine are fined NT$1 million, and their names and details around their violation are made public on the news. It’s awesome.

Self-quarantine is mandatory and carefully monitored.

Before I boarded my flight in the US, there were Taiwanese attendants taking my temperature.

In the plane, they handed out water bottles to everyone and announced that the food being served had been carefully handled in light of the pandemic. 90% of the people were wearing masks, with some even wearing raincoats, gloves and goggles for extra protection.

When I arrived at the airport in Taiwan, I had to fill out a self-quarantine form to pledge that I wouldn’t go out for 14 days. I filled out my address, contact information. They redirected people with symptoms to another section.

I took a taxi to my place. A person disinfected me and my luggage before I got on the taxi, and the driver politely reminded me not to go out for 14 days.

Once I switched to my Taiwan phone number, I would get a reminder text message every few hours to stay in quarantine. I also got called daily to ensure that I was doing alright.

I got a care package with some instant porridge, cookies, and other snacks. I also had family members send food to me, so I didn’t have to worry about running out of groceries.

Wearing a face mask is not a political statement.

You typically wear face masks if you’re sick, to protect others from getting infected, and – to some extent – to prevent yourself from getting another infection while you’re vulnerable. It’s a preventative measure for yourself and others, because diseases spread fast and easily (gasp).

It is currently summer in Taiwan, and it is intolerably hot and humid here.

During clear days, as soon as you step out into the heat wave, you start to feel this body of heat enveloping you. During rainy days, you can’t walk more than 5 minutes with an umbrella without getting the front or back side of your body soaked. When it’s hot, it’s mega hot. When it rains, it pours.

The weather is absolutely intolerable for someone who has never lived in such weather before – and yet most people are spotted with face masks on at all times. I am amazed.

Face masks are highly recommended in crowded places, and required in the metro. People are fined up to NT$15,000 if they violate this rule.

This is an absolute contrast to when I was back in California, when I literally feared being yelled or stared at for being an Asian wearing a face mask. This fear was enough to prevent me – and many people – from wearing a face mask early on.

You never have to fear going to the doctor.

99% of the population is covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI). It covers almost any typical medical expense that you might need, from family doctors, dentists and chinese medicine doctors.

There are many clinics in Taiwan, mainly clustered in the city. This makes seeing a doctor really convenient at all times. You can make an appointment by calling beforehand, or just going in if it’s not during rush hour.

A visit to the doctor is NT$200, which is less than US$7. This includes both the doctor’s visit, as well as any prescribed medicine for ~3 days. If you don’t have NHI, out-of-pocket costs are at least twice as much, I believe – which isn’t too bad, compared to other developed countries.

A visit to a Chinese medicine doctor cost me NT$200 as well. Similarly, I paid a visit to the doctor, got acupuncture in my lower leg area, and received a take-home sticker pad for my pain. It was pretty great.

As for COVID-19 itself, I haven’t gotten tested nor do I know anyone who has. It is generally not recommended to go get tested unless you’re showing symptoms, as you risk getting infected (by other viruses) when you go to the clinic.

Life is as normal as it can be.

Everywhere you go, you see people wearing face masks, hand sanitizers at the door of many stores, workers ensuring that people are wearing face masks in public transport, and just an overall sense of… normalcy.

We may have COVID-19 under control, but we’re not blind to the catastrophic effects it has had in other countries. It is not over until every country has it under control.

Taiwan is also considered an “aged society,” which may have been a contributing factor in the country coming together to prevent the virus from claiming the lives of many Taiwanese citizens.

All in all, we’re leading a normal life, but not without the precautions that saved the country from plunging into a pool of infections from a virus that we don’t yet know much about.

-Michelle

Loneliness is difficult to confess because it preys on you during your weakest moments.

It distorts your view of reality and isolates you from everyone else. The lonelier you feel, the easier it is to continue feeling that way. It makes you less prone to reach out to others, because how could anyone else truly understand how you’re feeling?

But what we need to internalize is that many others are also experiencing the same thing right now, at varying degrees – and I need to emphasize the idea of experiencing this feeling together, because there is something healing about knowing that we are not alone in our aloneness.

We are naturally drawn to sharing the highlights of our lives, yet consuming this type of content often make us feel worse about ourselves. When we see others doing meaningful things, we question why we are not as happy ourselves. It makes us feel like we’re not doing enough, like something is… wrong with us. We all know that we hide behind filtered selves on social media – yet we fail to register that when we click on our friends’ highlights. We internalize their lives through those filtered lenses, despondent about why our lives are not as vibrant.

If we look at the happiest countries in the world, they also have some of the highest suicide rates. Why is that? We can hypothesize that when those who are “less happy” look around them and see everyone else “more happy,” they end up feeling even more alone and depressed in their feelings. Their surrounding environment becomes the filtered lens through which they compare themselves to, making it harder for them to get through their personal suffering. But when we break that barrier, when we acknowledge and share our negative feelings, we provide a kinship to those who feel the same, and actually make these feelings more bearable.

This is because the one cure to loneliness is connection, even if you’re as introverted as I am.

We need to feel a connection to others, even in our aloneness, so we feel reassured – or validated, even – in the tumult of our feelings. Forming relationships is part of being human and the key to our collective survival. Having just one person to listen, validate and empathize with us is all we need to get through your toughest times.

Personally, I find immense meaning in the few close relationships that I have. As much as I would love to be completely self-reliant, I would just be trying to defy nature. The few relationships that I have are crucial, necessary, for my continuous self-growth.

I also find the occasional interactions with other people surprisingly… rewarding. The freshness of having unattached conversations with strangers often leave me with a feeling of freshness, as if the interaction provided me a new way to perceive myself.


In times when you are truly alone, I encourage you to seek out connection in some way or another. During my lowest moments, I would go on sites like 7 cups and let out my cries of help to strangers. Fortunately, the strangers I encountered were kind, empathizing with my frustrations because they, too, were dealing with their own personal traumas. The connection that we made based on our shared pain for some trauma in our lives was enough to make those times a little bearable.

You can also sign up as a listener or volunteer for your local crisis text line, which I think can be incredibly humbling. When you become of service to others, the benefits that you reap from the experience surpass the benefits of those who receive it. We derive happiness not from how much we get, but from how much we give to others.

Putting yourself in a role where your energy is concentrated on what others are going through is oftentimes what we need to get out of our own heads.

So, if you’re feeling lonely, I encourage you to be a listener. You will not only help someone feel listened to and understood in their struggles. You will also be able to detach from the intensity of your emotions, and put them into perspective.

A more solitary but immensely healing thing to do is to lose yourself in a fiction book. It’s also called bibliotherapy, the art of using books to help you solve personal issues. It’s just like binge watching a TV show – except that you won’t feel crap about yourself afterwards. You will actually feel great – because since when isn’t finishing a book an accomplishment?

Reading forces you to not just empathize but also become the characters themselves, jubilant in the protagonist’s triumphs and crushed by their sorrows.

Books help you put your own life – and struggles – into perspective. They detach you from your own body, and reattach you back again with a different perspective on how to approach your own life.

Our imagination is also wilder than any film or TV show produced out there, and books allow us to unleash that world. Some of the books that completely destroyed me and built me back up again are the following:

  • Educated by Tara Westover, a must-read.
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, a soul-crushing, romantic tragedy.
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, the post-WWII historical fiction novel set in New York that feels oddly parallel to our current situation.
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, a monumental, star-crossed love story. Perhaps the greatest in history.
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, for when you don’t think you can continue any longer.

A few years ago, I got rejected from college and found myself in a gap year, feeling lost, crushed and directionless. I decided to find connection by creating an audience for myself. I started my blog during this time, because I needed an outlet to vent my frustrations, my loneliness. I was already writing daily on my journal, but I wanted to share some of those thoughts. I had virtually no audience, but imagining I had one in my mind somehow validated my conflicted thoughts.

The last thing I need you to do, which is also the hardest, is to embrace the discomfort of loneliness. Embrace the discomfort, so you can grow comfortable being alone without feeling lonely. No matter how many friends and connections we have, we will find ourselves alone at the end of the day. And when we do, I need you to know that loneliness is an impermanent feeling, just like all others. It need not define who we are.

If you can embrace the impermanence of life, you will start to rely less on those cravings and those uncomfortable feelings – because they are not part of you.

One of the reasons I am embracing minimalism so much is because it teaches you the impermanence of things. The loneliness you are experiencing now is nothing but a fleeting feeling, one that does not dictate the course of your life. So when you’re feeling lonely, use that energy and channel it towards honing your craft and building your passion.

I am with you in your struggles with loneliness. I know how isolating, how frustrating, how utterly debilitating it can feel, but I am with you in working towards acknowledging the fleetingness of our emotions and not letting that deter us from living our best life. Because, alone or not, life can be pretty freaking great.

-Michelle