I’ve spent my whole life wandering through a fun house full of mirrors. And each mirror I encountered would tell me a different story of me, project back an image that was slightly or vastly different from the last one. I remembered taking the images as truth, and feeling so torn apart because there was rarely a connection to them all. The distorted reflections would shrink, expand and pull me apart, until I could not discern what was truth and what was distortion. At the time, I tried to make sense of it all, to no avail. Internalizing it all, I could feel myself sinking down.

Every day, every single one of us have to journey through this fun house. People telling who they think we are, what we should be, what dreams we must have… it is like them taking our image, funneling it through their own distortions and spitting back a chewed-up version of who they want you to be. No one is exempt. ‘Tis the folly and limitation of human thinking. But with each day I grow older, the more restless I become. I always thought I had to listen to them all, but their words grew more and more incongruent with what was true inside my heart. The image would never show the real me, and a tiny part inside sighed in desperation.

Until I realized that none of the mirrors are truth. They are subjective, opinions, not meant to show me the truth, but others’ view of the truth. I have always wanted to be me, but in reality, nothing was holding me back. Because the images do not have to mean anything… unless I want them to.

in the waiting room

May 6th, 2011 was the second time in my life that I ever stepped into an emergency room. I was there for urgent care, because my heart had been beating rapidly for five days straight and it got worse the day before. I was jittery and couldn’t concentrate on anything. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me and was reasonably scared, so I decided to go into urgent care in case if it was life-threatening or serious.

As with any hospital visit, I waited for an indecent length of time where I twiddled my thumbs and tried to tell my already stimulated heart to calm down. When they finally called me in, they made me wait longer as they ran tests on me and analyzed the results. I lied on the hospital bed for over three hours, waiting for results on my blood test and EKG, with thoughts running a-muck in my head. I am not a morbid person of any sorts, quite the opposite, but I couldn’t help but think, “What if this is something serious? What if it turns out that my time here is shorter than I expected it would be?” Of course thinking like that did not help me to stay calm, but those thoughts helped me in another, unexpected way.

It got me thinking. Most of us have this expectation that we will live long lives. Not that that is bad, but by thinking that way, we start to put things off. We say, “I can do it tomorrow, or next month or next year.” We may think too that we and our family and friends will always be there, that perhaps we are the exceptions to the “no one can escape death” rule. Then we let life pass by, let words lie dead on our tongues, put things off until it’s too late and the time has already come and gone. By living, we sometimes forget to live. And it’s funny that it only takes a brush with death to give you that good shake, that kick in the butt, for you realize that. And that life will never turn out as you quite expect it to.

The first time I ever stepped into the emergency room was when I was fifteen. There was a waiting room there too, but I had gone to see someone in the emergency, so I bypassed the room and went straight through the swinging doors.  People were rushing all about me, doctors, nurses and the like, a deep contrast to the calm and seemingly non-urgent “urgent care” I went to. My family members were already there, and I was directed to the room where the person I had gone to see rested, and I still remember how dark that room was and how scared I felt. I reached out to hold his hand yet retreated upon feeling the cold. That was also a first. Death hit me (Or was it life?). It told me that it was capricious and ever so fickle. That it gives and it takes. But at the time I did not hear it, because all I could hear was, you don’t have a father anymore.

If I am lucky enough to have a whole lifetime, I do not want to spend it waiting. I do not want to regret putting things off, not saying or doing things I wish I had done before the time ran out. Life is meant to be grabbed, utilized for all its essence. Maybe there is something to the cliché, “live like you’re dying.” Because when you’re dying, you begin to see the great value of life more clearly. But I think we should cherish life every day of our lives regardless. I don’t want to die without having lived my dreams, creating new ones and telling the people I love and care for how much they mean to me. In both of my emergency room visits in my life, I was shown the same thing, that we can never expect what life will give or take from us, and it may be gone faster than we could have ever expected.

The waiting room taught me a valuable lesson. Life is truly too short to spend it waiting.


to love or not to love


When we love, we always risk hurting others and/or getting hurt. It’s an undeniable fact, a truth more universally acknowledged than a man with good fortune in want of a wife (as Austen would argue). It’s something that I see all my friends struggle with in some form. It is something that I’ve struggled with in my own way. It is somewhat embarrassing to bring my skeletons out, but by doing so, I can explain the realization that hit me today.

We’ve all been hurt by people in our lives. Family, friends, lovers… the earlier we experience the pain, the more it sticks to us, the more it forms our identity and shapes our beliefs. As humans we are pain-averse, and do our best to avoid getting hurt at all costs. Yet we may not realize that some of the habits we adapt as a result end up doing us much more harm than good. Instead of dealing with the pain properly, we’ll avoid, deny, reject, live out self-fulfilling prophecies at every opportunity. The scar becomes infected and taints us until it drives our thoughts and behaviors.

Although I already knew this, as I unearthed some of my grittier skeletons, I understood more why we want to avoid or run. Because that’s my M. O. I run. As of recent, I noticed how I was falling into a funk. Pep talk was growing increasingly hard and at the back of my head I did not understand why I was feeling this way. I even started thinking, “I will never risk doing that again. No way am I going to hurt myself again.” I wanted to protect myself, shield myself. I wanted to run far away, escape anywhere, even into my imagination, far from reality where no one could reach me. I did not realize why I was doing this, but I recognized that it was coming from a place of deep pain, rendered time and again by many whom I yielded my heart to, only to have it come back slashed to pieces.

But I assure you, this is not an “emo” post. I will not be singing “woe is me,” although I will admit, I was feeling that way for a while. Until I identified the pain, drew it out, and brought it to God. And a thought came to me… God does not call us to avoid pain. Because by avoiding, we are turning our backs on the biggest commandment that He has called us to do. To love deeply. A quote by C. S. Lewis came to me, one that essentially waxes poetic on how shutting out our hearts from the world will turn us into emotionless monsters… losing ability to feel and eventually to love. I’ve always wanted to run, but I realized at that moment that this is what life is about. To take these risks, to love, even if it means that we may give or get hurt. Because pain is not inherently evil like we think it is. It functions to let us know when something is wrong… or on occasion, when something is right. It is through pain that we learn what we could not in any other way. It is how God rouses us, challenges us, grows us.

Loving someone holds no guarantees that they will love us back. But we do it anyway, because it is not about them loving us back. It is simply about loving. Loving entails vulnerability, but that is what connects us to others. Loving spreads warmth, joy and peace, it gives hope even in times of darkness. By loving, we can become a light for others. We fulfill our nature. That is why loneliness hurts so much. Because we’re not meant to be forever alone, it is not built into our process. I’ve always been scared to let myself go, but I realize now that it’s okay. I am doing right by letting myself go. So instead of focusing on the pain, I see that if I push myself through it and have faith, the scars I have will eventually heal someday.