How to be an adult
When visiting my place for the first time, my dear little friend blurted out: “When I grow up, I want to be like you.” This has since become an inside joke between us. But at some point, it made me think more seriously if I’ve ever grown up, or if I’m a real adult after all.
I am a walking paradox with as much fluctuation between the two poles as you can imagine. Full of (seemingly) contradictions, both logical and intuitional, intellectual and sentimental, with a happy personality and a sad soul, a gentle but stern outlook to the world and a vivid inner life that is possibly far richer than most people can fathom, I am very afraid that there is close to none who can truly understand and love me as I am. Most of the time, they just like the concept of me but very often lack the maturity to handle the real me. And just like that, I struggle through life, trying to find the balance between what I am expected to be and what I really am. At the age of 32, I have matured to some certain extent, but each year has been a brand new journey of discovering and rediscovering myself, of figuring out how the whole system in which we are living works and how to continue to thrive against all odds. Some years have been wonderful, some have not. But never have I regretted having lived every moment to the fullest and not taken this breathtakingly beautiful life for granted.
In short, 2017 was a very hard year, with a few moments of delights here and there. I’ve learned so much, though, about both myself and the world outside my cocooning nest. I’ve always been a child at heart. In order to survive, before, I had made believe that the world was a beautiful place. I put on the rosy spectacles and looked away from the harsh, wounded dark sides. But this willful pretence is obviously not enough to prepare myself when facing the cruelty of the real adults’ world. I was horrified at the stupidity, the bias, the anger porn, the ignorance and arrogance of people. I was broken-hearted.
Throughout the fights, I came to realise my own strengths and limits, my unappeasable conviction to step up for the righteousness and justice, and to defend relentlessly for the ones I love even when my voice is shaking as hell. I’ve been more than ever aware of my restrained resources of attention, time and energy. And to my own astonishment, when pushed to the edge of the cliff, I turned out to be cold-blooded, heartless and unforgiving to the extreme. My genuine empathy and deep care for humans and humanity cannot overpower my ardent sense of justice, of virtue and of integrity.
This is also the year where I realised how lonely I am, how lonely I’ve been. How I long for mutual understanding, not just me being everyone’s personal therapist anymore. How times and again I’ve had to run after others explaining why I did this or said that. What I can see clearly and do restlessly through the years can be unrecognized, unappreciated and misunderstood by even the closest ones.
All those self understanding and self knowledge, hard to swallow as they are, become my secret weapon, to get up again and face the real world with clear eyes and ears. I had a rough patch of depression but at the very end of it, there was no other way than to continue to live fully and love deeply, only a bit more wisely and prudently. After all, this is the fruit of growing up, isn’t it?
Self care and self love
It’s hard to accept the fact that you need love. Or at least it’s like that in my case. As an adult, we are expected to be selflessly giving and serving others. Think about the world, think about those who are less fortunate. Have some responsiblity and stop whining. I got all that. As a people pleaser, I love making it most comfortable for those around me. That’s why one of my dream jobs is to be a waitress, not as a life-long career but for a good while, which I managed to make it come true in 2016, and that’s why I can adapt to the service sector as one of those account people very fast. I work best at the interpersonal level. But while trying to care for others and giving without asking anything back, finally I forgot about myself, I became one with the cause I was fighting for, without realising that I am actually not. I lost my voice and identity, and consequently, I became depleted, deprived of time and space necessary to recharge my battery.
Some time at the end of December, I woke up and thought, ‘This is enough. I need to let go. I cannot live other people’s life and take that as my own accomplishment.’ Like a colleague of mine has said, ‘You have to take care of yourself first, just like advised on the plane at time of emergency. Put on your own mask and make sure you are secured and safe first, only then can you and should you take care of others.’ I wrote on a piece of Post-it note and stuck on the mirror a saying that goes, ‘you need to be full and florishing.’ In order to give, I need to be full first.
Yes, it is difficult and embarrassing to say that I am not loving myself enough. Sounds like one of those spoiled kids. But that’s the truth I need to keep in mind.
Self-care is not just about candles and tea before bed, about listening to music and taking a walk, about doing yoga or watching your favourite TV shows or going get that icecream. It’s a mentality to stay strong and focused to our core values and worths. To be responsible for ourselves first and foremost, physically, mentally and spiritually. To listen to our own voice with all senses and find out what we truly need. To be resilient, kind and loving towards our inner child. All of this takes time and hard work. All of this takes as much love and gentleness as courage and determination.
I started by cleansing my mind, letting go of the burden heavily loaded on my shoulders, the responsibilites and the commitments that tore my life into fragments. I learned to understand that I am flawed, and no matter however much of a perfectionist I am, it doesn’t mean that I can be perfect. I have my strengths and weaknesses, and due to limited time and energy, I might never live up to my own standards. Sometimes, I just need to quit beating myself up for that. I learned to forgive myself, and by that, forgive others. It’s not that what they did were ok and morally acceptable, and the wounds are still bleeding, but I have to shake off the negative emotions and toxique people to live on. The rest is all about building boundaries, refocusing and reprioritizing, with sound understanding that I can be happy in a long run only if I can grow and develop to my better self.
Let home be homey
As an INFJ, I’m a true minimalist, detesting superficial materials and vanity, but at the same time I adore beautifully, well made works of art. I have huge appreciation for artisanat, craftsmanship and those ‘finer things in life’, the textures, colours, forms, quality, labour and intelligence behind it all attract me like a magnet. Trying to navigate myself both spiritually and physically through consumerism and frugality is a heavy task, especially when it comes to building a personal space.
It took me some time to figure out what I really am, what I want to be, and what I want to incorporate in my daily life. I wanted to have a real, welcoming, snug space of my own where I can always return to after a hectic day, leaving the crazy, noisy world outside the door. A place that reflects my own character and personality. A haven that shelters and replenishes and frees my soul. I started slowly, juggling between a mindset of ‘keeping what sparks joy’ and the formula of ‘one in, one out’, mentally trying on different styles of minimalism, industrial functionality, scandinavian cozy ‘hygge’, country shabby chic, bohemian Parisian, and even Japanese Zen. Each style has its own charm and beauty, but still I couldn’t really situate myself anywhere fixed among them. Until I came across “Wabi-Sabi Welcome”.
The book is a refreshing wind that enlightened my saturated view of diverse furniture trends and styles. It reminds me of going back to the real meaning of ‘home’, of intimacy and and calmness, embracing the tiny spills, rips, nicks and nacks and focusing on comfort and ease instead of overly polished design or luxurious grandeur. Things started to take in their own space. Books, art supplies, flowers, vases, personal items, cooking tools and kitchen appliants. But I made sure that each was carefully chosen, well curated and fully appreciated for its function, beauty and coordination with the rest. “Keep it to the essentials but do not leave out the poetry.” After a year and a half, with so much thoughts and time invested in, my tiny little studio became my sanctuary, that envelops me in warmth, serenity and plenty of fresh air, it is my refuge to be entirely myself. My soul feels that it has found its proper physical container, where, everyday, the objects I live amongst quietly remind me of my most authentic commitments and loves. At the same time, I developed a conscience that stuff would remain stuff whatever meaning and memory behind them, and that my own identity should be robust and evident enough when material things wear out and perish. The tangible plays a part but the mental is the most important factor that counts.
Letting your home be homey means that it’s lived and loved, that things are used for their purpose. A perfectly imperfect space to be filled with personality and the remnants of real life.”
One more thing about living in a place where you feel good is the joy of being able to accommodate others to your personal space. 2017 was the year when I started to receive friends coming over, for school work, for a dinner, a movie night, a short coffee break or a several-day stay-over in Paris. We cooked, ate, talked, laughed, entertained and enjoyed each other’s company. It is pure friendship happiness. Here’s a piece of my heart, offered to you through the open door.
Best of 2017
- The Help
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
- The Gifts from the Sea
- Ways of Seeing
- Saki Obata: Records of the Seasons
- Art Deco, MCM, the Bauhaus
- In this Corner of the World
- Red Turtle
- Chief Kim
- Because this is My First Life
- From 5 to 9
First times in 2017
- Having my studio broken into, and consequently having to deal with legal and insurance procedures
- One whole year of not going/travelling/moving outside the city
- Internship as a designer
- Japanese architecture, art and philosophy on self-cultivation (already started)
- Korean courses (already started)
- Creative workshop (3D Popup atelier already started)
- French vocabs (already restarted ^^)
- Projects to finish: The Thinker of Tender Thoughts
- Projects to start (and finish T_T? ): Sadness Comes to Stay, Ngậm, Little Prince
- Technical training: composition, anatomy, gesture and movement
- Stay open, gentle, empty and young at heart