Virtues from Motherhood: A promise for 2018

With 2018 just two weeks away I want to devote my last blog of the semester to a promise. A promise to smile more and laugh louder, a promise to stop and breathe life in a little longer and a promise to be a little kinder to ourselves in 2018. The last two years have been ones of great change and endurance and reshaping who I want to be as a woman. I have learned that the relationship I have with myself is by far the most important one there is and I need to protect and preserve that before I can do for others. Here are the promises I am making to myself for 2018….

  • Learn your limits: Sometimes you just need to say no and put yourself first, and that’s okay. You can’t please everyone all the time and you can’t neglect your own well-being for the benefit of others. Take a minute to take stock of your limits and don’t be afraid to put your foot down and protect them, people who can’t respect your limits, don’t respect you.
  • Be kinder to yourself: Everyone fails sometimes, everyone has a bad day and everyone is going to make a mistake. Don’t beat yourself up over this, own up to it, clean up the mess and keep going with your head held high. Your mistakes don’t define you, how you handle it does. Be kinder to yourself when you have a bad day, take a breather and do better tomorrow.
  • Aim high: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Set goals for yourself and go for them, anyone who tries to stop you is threatened by your ambitions. If you want to go back to school, go, if you want to double major, go for it, if you want to change careers and start over, do it. Remember this is your life and you hold the reins.
  • Ask for help: Nobody likes to admit they can’t do something but every now and then we need a helping hand. It might be with a work project or it might just be a shoulder to cry on, either way know when to ask. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak or inferior it means you knew yourself well enough to know you were starting to sink.

As I look back on 2017 I think of all the goals I set last year. While some of them have collected dust this year other ones have blossomed. I think the goal I most achieved this year is self-care. I was finally able to admit I needed help and I got it; and I’m on the mend, yesterday, today and going forward. I still have so much time to grow and meet my goals but my main one right now, is making sure I live my best life, every single day.

I wish all my readers a happy and health holiday season, I’ll see you in the New Year!

Virtues from Motherhood: The road ahead

‘Where you’ve been is nothing compared to where you’re going.”

I repeat this to myself on those days I feel the weight of my past slowing me down. Some days, it’s hard not to count up the times things didn’t go your way, or the times you wish you could’ve done things different. On occasion, I find myself lost in thought, or missing priceless moments with people who are no longer a part of my journey. I miss the “good ole’ days” and the simplicity of those moments where the short comings didn’t matter; but then I remember what’s to come.

I still have so many memories to make and so many laughs to be had that those lost moments seem less heavy. I used to think the future would never come, and like many kids I couldn’t wait to grow up and live life. Now that it’s here I wonder why on earth I rushed this phenomenon we call life and why I didn’t look at the bigger picture sooner. Too often we get lost in the little things, the small stuff and don’t remember that we still have a great big world out in front of us. Someone once told me that what matters for 5 minutes today won’t even be remembered 5 years from now, and they were right. Things that I lost sleep over even three years ago are totally irrelevant to me today, and I’m sure the things that I toss and turn over tonight will be a distant memory in a years’ time.

I guess what I’m trying to say is take today with a grain of salt, dust yourself and keep moving. Try not to stress over the things that are out of your hands and accept what was, and look forward to what will be. Forgive yourself when you fail and applaud yourself when you succeed, you are your biggest fan. The love you have for yourself will radiate to others and only you can set the tone for tomorrow and beyond, make that tone as positive as it can be.

Virtues from Motherhood: What I’ve learned from a decade in college

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know I’ve been in college for a bit, ten years to be exact. In 2008, I began my college journey and in June 2018 I will walk across that stage to complete it. In that time, my life has gone through several transformations and seen some trying moments, as well as triumphant ones. I have learned so much about myself as well, what I’m good at, and what I’m not, and most of all how to love myself. I started college as a naive 18-year-old with little to no humility but I will finish it as a woman with grace and self-assurance.

For the earlier part of my college career I had no idea who I was or where I was going; I didn’t believe in myself or my dreams. I had been told “no” so many times and been shot down for things I thought I was good at that I stopped caring. I slowly learned however, that all things happen in due time and some things can only come with age. You can’t rush the process and you can’t skip steps and sometimes, you’ll even have to repeat them. Repeating a step was something I was venomously against for years, often dodging things I needed to do or complete out of fear or immaturity, avoiding taking responsibility for my short comings.

It’s not all bad, though; I have these experiences to share with my readers, my friends and most importantly my daughter. I have the wisdom and the personal experience to guide others and hopefully make a difference in their lives. This ample time spent in college has helped shape who I am and what I want to do with my life and it has reaffirmed my love of writing.

  • I have learned that I am destined to help others, if not by any other means than with my words.
  • I have learned to be patient and trust that everything happens for a reason.
  • I have learned not to take on the burdens of others and that it’s okay to say no sometimes.
  • I have learned to be selfish, with my time and energy because other people’s negativity can poison my peace of mind.
  • I have learned that not everyone has the same mentality I do and that’s okay.
  • I have learned to be sure of myself and stand for what I believe in.
  • I have learned that there isn’t always a right answer, sometimes there are shades of grey.
  • I have learned that it’s okay to not be okay and to ask for help when you need it.
  • Most of all, I have learned that life goes on.

In the past decade, I have endured things I never thought I’d have to. I had to navigate life roles that usually happen consecutively; all at the same time. I juggled being a mother, being a student and holding a full-time job. I had to raise a little girl as a single mother and make choices for her education when I was still making choices for myself. Some days I felt like quitting, like giving up and just walking away, but I kept pressing forward. If I had to sum up my journey in just one word I would say, invaluable. This journey has been invaluable in more ways than one, but the main one is experience and that is something I could never trade or replace, and I am glad that I have that experience to shape my future.

Virtues from Motherhood: Everyone makes mistakes

Have you ever said or done something and then a second later wished you could take it back? I have, and I’m sure everyone can share my dislike of “putting your foot in your mouth” and the embarrassment that follows. The reality is everyone is going to make mistakes, have a lapse in judgment or just do something innocently foolish without meaning any harm. It’s human nature to mess up, to break things or to say something you didn’t really mean in the heat of the moment. It’s how you handle these moments though, that really define them. Do you make the mess worse? Or do you clean it up with dignity and own up to your shortfall and move on?

When you slip up or make a mistake the first thing you need to do is own up to it, don’t pass the blame, don’t make excuses, just own up and admit you’re wrongs. People see responsibility, humility and responsibility as signs of maturity. Additionally, why complicate an already uncomfortable situation by skirting the truth or omitting things? Even when you don’t understand how you messed up or why you’re in the wrong, ask for help rather than get defensive or hostile. Learning from your mistakes will help you avoid them in the future and it shows the other person, or people, you’re willing to learn and grow.

Why do we do these silly things? Well, psychology would give you some deep-rooted meaning into our mind and patterns of behavior, but in the short I believe that we’re all just trying to be the best versions of ourselves. In that quest though, we sometimes ignore better judgement to keep the thing we’re focused on at the moment afloat. For example, say you’re really behind on your homework and your friend keeps asking you to help her find an outfit for a date. In the heat of the moment while you’re stressed out with this work, you snap at her and tell her the date probably won’t go well anyway. Now your friend is upset with you, your work isn’t getting done because you’re trying to apologize to her, and you’re just in an overall bad mood. You didn’t really mean it– you were just under a lot of pressure. So, what are you to do? Well, apologize, admit you were wrong, and then explain to her what you’re dealing with at school.

These silly little mishaps can be avoided most of the time, with honesty. Instead of one wording your friend or getting frustrated, she’d probably have understood if you’d just said “hey, look I’m really swamped with work, anything you wear looks great” and got back to work. Similarly, instead of just calling in sick at work, be honest with your boss when you have an outside commitment or need to come in later, rather than just blowing off an entire day. At the end of the day we’re all human and when we’re sympathetic with ourselves we can better empathize when it comes to other people.

Virtues from Motherhood: Breathe it in

A couple of weekends ago I took a trip up to Cold Spring, NY to visit my cousins. Just about two hours north of NYC, the town is a hidden gem along the Hudson River. Neighboring Cold Spring is Beacon, NY which is an up and coming mini city with the cutest shops and cafes. 

I needed a weekend away to clear my head, get out of my usual environment to take a breather and my cousins were kind enough to invite me up. We walked Main Street, got some brunch and we even walked to Beacon falls, which is just a simple waterfall along some old railroad tracks. Regardless of its simplicity it was still calming and welcoming to admire. In the middle of Brooklyn such a sight would be rare and it struck me that removing yourself from the “norm” is a positive experience. 

As hard as it may be, taking even five minutes to just be somewhere you normally wouldn’t be is a way to relax your mind. Constantly being in your element and being tasked with day to day roles and responsibilities can be tiresome. I took an entire weekend to myself, but just taking 10 minutes, to sit outside my college, or walk a block out of my way on my walk home puts me in a space where I’m looking at what’s around me instead of just anticipating it. I’ve picked up some of these techniques after finding myself to be so anxious I couldn’t function at all, and despite my hesitation I’ve found it works. 

Even when you can’t just up and leave for two days you can take yourself on a mental vacation. Spend 10 minutes thinking of something you love to do, hiking, painting, dancing or whatever it is that you love because it takes your mind away from whatever is stressing you out. At the end of the day nobody is invincible and we all need a break, a day off and a few minutes to ourselves. Don’t feel bad for needing it and even more, don’t feel bad for taking it. 

Virtues from Motherhood: Intersecting roads; different destinations

In life we’re bound to cross paths with many people, some stay with us, others pass through briefly. Although our paths have crossed, where we’re going might be entirely different. I had this thought a few days ago when I was walking towards campus and watched a NYC Corrections bus leave the neighboring courthouse. In the sun, I was able to see the silhouette of the individuals on the bus, and I wondered to myself, “how did they get there?” What had happened in their lives for them to end up ensnared in the criminal justice system?

I thought about the various choices they did or did not make, and where they’d eventually end up. Would they get a second chance? Would they change and be rehabilitated or would they end up in a revolving door of arrests and court dates? I realized that the two buildings, the courthouse and the college, represented two very different life paths, yet they sat side by side. This is the case with people we cross paths with daily, strangers on the train, acquaintances at work or even people who live down the street from us; we live side by side but represent so many different lifestyles.

We see people every day on the street and briefly assume or make up their life story in our heads. We see a well-polished man in a suit and think, “is he a big shot CEO?” or “he probably has a lot of money”. In reality though we know nothing about that man or where he comes from; for all we know he could be a recovering addict on his way to a job interview at Macy’s. Choices shape our lives and too often we make these choices based on what other people think not realizing people will never really know what you did to get there; unless you tell them.

The roads we travel need to be the best road for us, for our goals and for our future. Looping back to my original sentiment about the corrections bus, I truly wonder how many of the people on that bus ended up there because they made choices that led them down a path someone else chose for them. I think about my teenage years and the shenanigans I often found myself caught up in; cutting class or sneaking around and I realize how much of it wasn’t me. Well, it was me, but I wasn’t choosing those things for me. I was choosing those things to fit in with or cater to a crowd or to fit a mold someone else had for me; one I probably knew I didn’t fit.

I wish I had done a lot differently in my adolescence but I can’t change the past. I can however pass these lessons onto my own daughter and to the peers I mentor with the First Year Learning Program. I can turn my negative experiences into tools to help others and I can try to make a difference and at the end of the day we should all, always try to make the world a better place.

Virtues from Motherhood: The five year plan

I’m sure we’ve all heard it mentioned before, the five year plan, the map to our future and achieving our goals; but what does it mean? For me that plan has changed, and changed again over the years but nonetheless I kept persisting, and now I’m almost at the finish line to earning my Bachelors degree. When I started college I wanted to be a detective and go into criminal justice, but that goal changed when I had my daughter. I wasn’t sure what else I was passionate about and I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to stake mine and my daughter’s future on so I just focused on earning a living.

At 23, I decided I wanted more and I set my sights on going back to school to earn at least my Associates Degree. I earned my A.A.S in Business but I wasn’t done, I knew I could achieve more, so again I changed the plan. I came to City Tech where I discovered a major that was geared to my original love, writing, and things took off from there. Now I’m a senior blogger with The Buzz and I’m involved in various programs across campus, and I’m proud of myself for it. Despite having changed my plans over and over, I still managed to find success.

I used to be so hung up on numbers, deadlines and ages when certain things had to be completed by, and it ended up hindering my progress and making me stressed out to the point where I got nothing done. I’ve learned as time goes on that everyone has a different path and a different timeline to getting to where they need to be. Some people finish college in four years but take another three to land a job, some graduate in 6 years but jump right into a career. It’s all relative and everything happens in due time. It’s a difficult concept to embrace, I know, but the sooner you do the better you’ll feel.

By the time I walk across the stage at graduation, I will have started college a decade ago, ten years, and for a long time that embarrassed me beyond belief. I was mortified that it took me so long to get it done and that I couldn’t just stick to it. It took me a while to realize it took me so long because in between all those years of college I was living a life, raising my daughter and working full time, and that’s okay. I’m slowly learning to trust the process, because it’s better to do it, and do it right, than rush through it or force it and fail.

It’s hard to imagine my adult life without college in it because all of my 20s have been spent in college and juggling multiple responsibilities at once. I’m excited though, to finally start building and focusing on a career I’ve worked hard for. I’m nervous about finding the right job and spreading my wings but I’m confident that everything will fall into place when it’s meant to. If I could give one bit of advice to myself back when I was 17 I’d say “take a deep breath and swim.” Swim through the rough seas, and the doubt and trust that the currents are taking you where you need to be.

Virtues from Motherhood: Who does this belong to?

A few weeks ago a fellow Buzz Blogger, Neffi, wrote a post about protecting your own energy and how we don’t realize how the people and the environment around us can greatly impact our own energies. After I read her post it reminded me of a question my counselor told me to ask myself “who does this belong to?” meaning, are these my woes or someone else’s that I was taking on? And if the troubles weren’t mine I should give them back. Now, this isn’t to say that I should be throwing people’s problem’s back at them but it simply means that I can’t be carrying other people’s burdens for them.

Having anxiety makes my own problems and worries amplified as it is, so taking on the problems or responsibilities of others doesn’t help me any. I have a history of internalizing the things other people are experiencing and somehow letting it affect my life and my own happiness. For example, if someone was moving or changing jobs and was a little stressed out over it, suddenly I was stressed out too, and my anxiety would run wild making it somehow affect me. I’d wonder if their moving would change our friendship, would we still be friends? Would they still want to hang out? Did they ever really want to?? You can see how quickly that can escalate when you take on other people’s situations as your own.

So the “who does this belong to?” rule is monumentally helpful in stopping that spiral before it starts, I even say it out loud to myself at times because it makes it more valid to me. Before I start to worry I ask myself that question and if I can’t legitimately pinpoint how this will affect me, my life, my daughter or my well-being, I force myself to leave it alone.

I still give my friend’s advice and listen to their problems or what’s bothering them and I still make every effort to be there for them. However, I focus more on helping them and being there than worrying for them. I also learned this year that sometimes you need to return the energy people give to you; if they aren’t there in your hour of need, why should you rush to theirs at your own expense. Learning balance is key, and people earn the place they wish to have in your life.

At the end of every day as you lay your head down and run through your final list of “to-do’s” and lingering worries you should keep stock of the things that need to get done, for you. Worry about what you can do for others needs after your own needs are met, think of that demonstration at the begin of every airplane flight; the one where the flight attendant tells you to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. The moral of the story there is, you can’t help others if you’re not okay. So next time you worry if someone else is okay, ask who’s worry that really is and if you’re doing okay today first.

Virtues from Motherhood: A worn heart is a warm heart

I hear the lyrics to one of my favorite songs as I type this post “Cause’ when a heart breaks no it don’t break even..” a song called Breakeven by The Script. The song reminds me of a time in my life where I was dealing with the loss of my first real love and feeling like my life would never be the same, it wasn’t but I came to find that was okay. After your heart breaks you look at the world a little different and a little more cautious. Not all heartbreak is romantic, sometimes our heart will break at the passing of a loved one, or because we’re watching them struggle. Sometimes heartbreak is realizing you have to leave a job, or a place that you really love. Whatever the heartbreak is it wears your heart strings just a little bit.

A worn heart might sound like a tired heart but I’ve come to find that people with hearts that are just a little more worn are also a little warmer. I’ve invited friends, family, peers and anyone else who’d like to share what heartbreak is to them to write a small excerpt for this blog post. Their stories are below.


Joshua-

I am not new to the feelings that you drown in when you are dealing with a loss of a someone special in your life, I’ve lost my uncle to street violence, my stepfather to unforeseen circumstances and my unborn son. But, the one that stays with me the most is the loss of my mother, I was on my way home after a weekend of getting away from my problems that I had with my mother earlier that weekend.

That day I walked in to our 2 bedroom apartment and it was silent, and I wasn’t ready for what I was about to see, but who is ever ready for that… I walked in to my mothers room and there she was in praying position, kneeling I called out to her and she didn’t respond. I thought it was one of her episodes she would have where she would pass out because of her blood pressure issues, but it quickly became clear that this wasn’t the case. I was about to come to terms with the fact that I just found my mother dead in the apartment I grew up in
I’ve tried everything to hold my self together since then, and it’s been a long road dealing with that one day for the past 7 years and the only way I’ve learned to deal with that is by burying those emotions, one day I’ll face my emotions but right now I can’t – since her passing I’ve felt empty and incomplete and I’m still trying to fill that hole in my heart that was taken by her but till then I’m not sure how to reverse the numbness.

Jessica Deng– In Memory of My Grandma

I’ve lost three grandparents, an uncle and an aunt in the span of 2011 – 2013 and that’s less time to recover from the losses than I had anticipated. The truth is that there’s one loss in my family that hit me hard the most and that’s my paternal grandma: Wai Yuen Chen Ong. I remember that around Mid-January 2013 she had difficulty with phlegm in her throat and therefore was admitted to New York Methodist Hospital. It was the first time a doctor had a conversation with me that my grandma requested DNR, no life support or tubes attached to her prior to her passing. I remember Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 it was just a regular weekday and that I had class. When I found out through a phone call with my mom and that my grandma passed away at her retirement home, I just completely fell apart. It took me many months to accept this loss in my heart and family because my grandma was my last grandparent that was alive at that point and she was such a sweet woman.  The honest truth Is this paternal grandma my sisters, cousins, and I grew up knowing wasn’t our biological grandma because our biological one passed away just as my Dad was about eleven years old. Although, the grandma I grew up with wasn’t my blood-related grandma I still was able to learn the true meaning of family and love. A lot of people say I’m very lucky to have had grandparents that all lived past 90 years old and I am, but losing them so suddenly was painful. I hope to carry on the good heart and kindness that my grandma and grandpa have passed along. R.I.P Grandma Deng – 02.06.2013 – You are forever missed!


Mariah- 

Heartbreak huh? I think I could write a book about it, but the one that keeps me up at night is the one with my parents. You see from a young age they kinda shattered me. They fought so much I was invisible, and before I was smart enough to realize that I was the issue they had shipped me off to another country. Years passed and well I grew a little tougher a little stronger but always fell to their stone throwing. My mom left me again when I was 18 and it broke my heart into the tiniest pieces. I never felt good enough for anything I mean if my own parents couldn’t really stand me and seemed to leave every chance they got then why would anyone else. So yeah I know about heartbreak, it’s all I’ve ever known.


I thank Joshua, Jessica and Mariah for sharing their stories with me. I had permission from each of the participants to post their stories. 

Virtues from Motherhood: Why I write

Happy National Day on Writing everyone!

In case you didn’t know today, October 20th is a day devoted to writing and the importance, evolution and impact of it. The National Council of Teachers of English promote the event with the hashtag #WhyIWrite. So, in honor of this day I thought I’d share my reason for writing.

My reason for writing has always been driven by a love of words, of books, and of reading, but it wasn’t until I had my daughter that I really fell in love with writing again. I have always known the importance of words and the weight they carry but to me, they carry even more weight because I know someday my daughter may read the words I have written. Words are powerful and inspirational and they can change your life, but they can never be taken back once they’re out there. I write to share my experiences, I write to connect with people, I write to let people know that they’re not alone in their struggles and that they can  get through whatever it is they’re facing. I write because it helps me make sense of what’s going on in my head and it helps me feel at peace with whatever choices I’ve had to make. Ultimately, writing is a type of therapy, an out and something I am passionate about and hope to pass onto my daughter one day.