I knew I was pregnant the moment it happened. The pregnancy test was just a formality for me. Even still — when I saw those two pink lines, I could not believe it. I was going to be a mother. It is true that we had wanted a baby, that we had planned for this baby, but the fact that there was actually a baby growing inside my body was a concept that I could not wrap my brain around. Nothing and no one could have prepared me for the experience that is pregnancy.
In 2013, I flew to Chicago, Illinois to spend Thanksgiving with my mother over a long weekend. It would be my first time visiting and I was absolutely overcome with excitement. Chicago had been on my bucket list for quite some time primarily due to The Oprah Show. I had also just started dating Dan Kim who happened to be a big Chicago Bears fan.
For us California girls, it was a strikingly cold weekend despite the lack of snow (to my dismay). Despite the uncomfortable temperature, we tried to hit the major tourist destinations: The Chicago Bean, the Willis Tower and the Skydeck, and Millennium Park.
Here I am, in my entirety.
65 inches and 120 pounds of stardust taking the form of a fragile package made up of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus. I occupy a tiny space, on a tiny blue rock, in an enormously wide and vast universe. A couple of hundred years from now, everyone I have ever known will be gone, and with them, the knowledge of me ever existing.
I am simply a drop of water in the cosmos. The universe blinks and my entire life will have been lived. All of my memories. My thoughts. My worries. My fears. My jokes. My adventures. My relationships. My children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Poof.
I am no more significant than a cow or a leaf or a pebble skipping across the surface of a lake. Like my buddy Eckhardt Tolle once said, I am just the Universe expressing itself as a human for a little while. And that is just fine with me.
Here is a little secret of mine:
I love to write, just like my mother. It allows me to express the emotions that would otherwise be buried within me, layer after layer.
But why create a blog?
Sometimes I think I am certifiably insane for sharing the embarrassing, self-deprecating, and vulnerable thoughts and experiences that I do on this platform. I might as well publish my 4th grade diary at this rate. I surprise myself — post after post — about how much I am willing to share. Because if you truly know me, you know that I am not share-er. That old lass Rose Dawson was right when she said a woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets. 9-year-old me took that shit pretty seriously! 💁🏽♀️
But all that has changed — I have a son now.
I am a work in progress and I hope to always be. Being content with my character would only mean I have become complacent. I genuinely enjoy self-improvement, even the hard parts!
In honor of a new year here are 3 things I would like to improve about myself:
1. Being Kind to Myself
I am really hard on myself — especially recently after becoming a mom and all the newfound *mom guilt*. Even the smallest and most insignificant mistake can set me off on a self-loathing tangent for hours. It is almost as if I expect myself to perfect at everything, everywhere, all the time. But this does not serve me in any way. I would never speak to Dan Kim, my son, or anyone I loved like that — so why is it okay to say these things to myself?
Telling myself I am stupid or untalented or ugly or worthless does not make me a better partner, mother, or friend.
I have decided to start small with a self-affirmation in the mirror each morning.
2. Exercise 4-5 Times A Week
When it comes to being active, I am either all or nothing. I have either not exercised for months at a time or am practicing martial arts and yoga or running religiously. Since giving birth and breastfeeding, I have not regained my normal energy levels. Never mind that raising a baby is exhausting! But no more excuses — exercise has always been a stress reliever for me and getting my mojo back has been long overdue. I may be the lightest I have ever been in terms of weight but I am the weakest I have ever been physically (except for my mom biceps — those are no joke!).
3. Be More Selfish
Don’t get me wrong — there are several aspects of my life that I need to be less selfish in but my time is not one of them. Because of the previously mentioned mom guilt and my endless responsibilities piling up on me, I have not taken enough time for myself to feel like me again. That includes alone time, girl time, and date night time, and just rest and relaxation overall.
Life is about balance. I am slowly accepting that being the best mom does not necessarily mean being a mom who is there every second of every day. That being the best partner does not mean having all the chores done, the meals cooked, or all of my relationship’s needs met before my own. I am working on giving to myself because the old adage is true: you can not pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.
I never had a good example of a healthy relationship.
My relationship “toolbox” was not only empty — it had some rust and dents to it. Over the years, I have added a few wrenches and screwdrivers here and there by reading books, going to counseling, and enduring one or two broken hearts.
Even when I was absolutely clueless as to what constituted a healthy relationship, I was certain that I never wanted to settle for anything less than love and mutual respect. Not even for a split second have I stepped foot into today’s casual hook-up culture nor have I ever entered into a relationship that I did not truly value and envision going places. I was not always right about the men I have dated — as a matter of fact, I was wrong every single time until 2013 — the year I met Dan Kim.
I am an only child. My father is also an only child and my mother was raised as an only child — which also made me an only grandchild. Not only that, but I am an only child raised by divorced parents. Parents who separated when I was not even a year old. This has shaped, influenced, and decorated my personality, my relationships and overall — my entire life.
There was a brief time during early childhood that I wanted a sibling. Okay…but you would have to share all your toys and attention, my mom had explained to me when I asked her to give me a brother or sister. Apparently, I never brought it up again. This story makes me laugh for two reasons: one, because my mother is and has always been incredibly clever and two, because it is clear what my priorities were at a young age.
Growing up, it was difficult for me to relate to my peers. I had no siblings to play with and annoy, no cousins at Thanksgiving, and my parents’ friends were in their early 20’s and nowhere near having children of their own. Children were as abstract to me as Mandarin Chinese — I did not know what to say to them nor did I understand a word they said. Neighborhood kids would come to my front door asking me to “play outside” which at the time, might as well have been a death sentence. Typical of an only child, I had spent most of my time around adults having adult conversations. You would think this would have accelerated me developmentally but it actually slowed me down.
Every human being needs peers, if not friends, that are their own age. Because I had such a challenging experience in making friends, it would be years before I developed the tools to create trusting and enjoyable friendships. It is not a coincidence that even today, my friends are on average 4-6 years older than me. Sure, being an only child allowed me to easily communicate with teachers, strangers, authority figures, and later on — potential employers. But it prevented me from “fitting in” when I was little and I personally believe that that was what I needed most.
Throughout adolescence when I was surrounded by a solid circle of friends, I hardly noticed my being an only child. Relatives and family friends no longer expressed their pity towards me or proclaimed me as putting the “only” in “lonely”. I no longer ached for that empty role in my life. Especially when all I saw at my friends’ houses were sibling screaming marathons at worst and complete avoidance at best. I was even perhaps — grateful — to go home to my own room and not fight over the remote or my clothes with anyone.
The reality of being an only child hit hardest in my late teens and early 20’s. Grandparents started aging and becoming ill. Family relationships became estranged. Babies were born. I became a mother. My friendships were no longer as close-knit as they were before due to the natural process of growing up and apart. It was around this time that I noticed that a lot of my friends were strengthening their bonds with their siblings. Without the interruption of teenage hormones and Barbie real estate wars, they were now able to see each other as friends and pillars of support. Age gaps became negligible. Their differences became endearing rather than isolating. When a parent became ill or they got their heart broken or their apartment became mold infested– they called each other first. They slept on each other’s couches. They became each others “person”. That empty space in my life was never more noticeable.
I have no aunts or uncles to give to my son. No cousins. I have no sister to make my maid of honor. No brother to tease. No siblings to seek solace in when one of my parents or grandparents inevitably passes away. No one to share stories of childhood with. There is nothing that I can do about this nor will there ever be. I am now able to accept this because although these realities are tough pills to swallow — being an only child gave me many gifts. The gift of bonding with my parents in a way I never would have had I been forced to share them. Of cherishing one-on-one relationships. Of embracing alone time happily. And most importantly — the gift of owning my entire generation… it is completely up to me how my family’s legacy continues (which is both empowering and terrifying).
Before I chose to start a family, I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to make sure my child would never put the “only in lonely”. I would give them a brother to wrestle with or a sister to giggle with late into the night. These are absolute dreams of mine. Yes, I understand that not all siblings like each other. That not all siblings get along, or even stay in touch. That some brothers are assholes and some sisters are a shame to the term “sisterhood”. Although this makes me sad at a lost opportunity for a once in a lifetime bond, it inspires me to teach my children the importance of holding onto each other in life. Because, at least from an outside perspective, there is truly no better friend than the one you have had from the start.