Fantasy vs. Authenticity

Tell me about yourself.

I hate that sentence. But here’s what I’d usually do: I’m going to tell you five personal facts, followed by a bunch of counteractive statements in fear of you herding my likes and dislikes into a pen. My fear of being pigeonholed already tells you a lot about my insecurities.

Can I just show you my Instagram account? It’s everything I want someone to know about me: a person with a fascination with art by female illustrators, a weakness for Asian food and disorganized tablescapes, a tendency to overshare about my loved ones and friends and a gravitation towards the color of sunsets and sunrises. It’s a reflection of my fantasy self and authentic self.

Who is my fantasy self, you ask?

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Let’s define the fantasy self, first. It’s who you want to be. It could be Astrid from Crazy Rich Asians or Samantha from Sex and the City. It could be someone who wears high heels for all occasions or a self-proclaimed life coach with tons of credibility. Either way, there’s something a little false about what you put forward.

My fantasy self isn’t tooooo far from my authentic self. She’s a writer and a creative. She blends visuals and words to convey something meaningful. She’s a sometimes-Catholic with an unconventional, bohemian outlook on life. A smart, funny and loveable person whose life at home revolves around her plant babies and photographing homemade brunches. She reads, travels often, and has funny, sarcastic exchanges with bae on social media.  What’s the fake part, you ask? Keep reading…

What is my authentic self like?

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You’re authentic self is simple. It’s who are when no one is around.

My authentic self is a woman who travels when she can, but in the meantime, she’s out eating ramen or staying at home because she’s not as sociable in her 30s as she was in her 20s. She travels deep into her mind, revisiting memories that conjure feelings of happiness and occasionally stumble into memories of experiences that she never had the chance to digest and heal when she was living through it at the time. She finds it difficult to focus on a task like laundry, vacuuming or responding to texts about mundane things like how many eggs to purchase tomorrow or explain why she’s been tinkering around all day. She entertains herself by taking photos of meals she cooks, reading self-growth books, watching horror films and going to crossfit primarily to hang out with the people there. Although her favorite color is sunset, she wears black most days because it makes her look slimmer and she’s so lazy to do laundry, it’s easier to throw everything into the same washload. She lives to please her family, which can be a good and bad thing.

You must think I’m a fake, lazy, depressed hag right? You’re half right.

{Cue self-affirmation-esque inspirational music} I actually do experience lots of joy. I feel joy when I’m able to save more than $300 from each paycheck, get invited to get-togethers, give someone a gift or a hug and during the few times I actually make Sunday mass. I love art and I spend hours searching for female illustrators that depict real bodied, brown women like me. I love my job and what I do for work, it’s a place where I feel powerful and confident in my ability to produce good things and strengthen my skills. I love when I make my family happy with something I did or cooked on my own. I try my best to be the good child. I try to surround myself with compassionate individuals who treat people like people.

I value my selective choices in friends and I know when to be level-headed just as much as I know when I can allow myself to be an emotional mess.

The reality is…it’s a struggle to live between both worlds. So I try to blur the line as much as I can and allow my authenticity to take over as much as possible, no matter how ugly she looks.

Balancing fantasy and authenticity

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said “bae” lol

In dating, I realized that my fantasy self only took my relationships so far. I was quick to put F self on and hooked quite a few good-looking ones that would only boost F self’s ego. I tried my best to be skinnier and outgoing, wear nice clothes and make as many surface level friends As I could…all to trap a God-fearing Latin man-unicorn with money. It wasn’t until I started dating a guy that didn’t care about social media, saw through my F self, slept through my snoring and reminded me how beautiful I was bare-faced, wearing a stained Saipan t-shirt, stuffing Takis and hot Cheetos into my mouth. He didn’t add value to my social clout, impress others with his multiple jobs or have a manly truck to overcompensate for anything. He’s real, deep and one-dimensional all at the same time, completely devoid of a fantasy self. His honesty and realness is the best thing to come home to.

My single friends often talk about losing weight before they find Mr. Right. I tell them that first of all, you don’t need a man to feel complete (something they already know, but I repeat anyway). Second, you’re better off finding Mr. Right in your current state, because you’re not stressing you’re A self out trying to live up to your F self. You deserve to be loved at your skinniest AND fattest. I can’t even tell you the freedom I felt the day my A self started to become beautiful to ME and started to let a little A bleed into the F.

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@hawaiibusinessmagazine

In my career, surprisingly, I was quite the opposite for years. I was too focused on proving I could do something that I never really conjured up the F self often enough. I was known in the office as the girl who wears black and doesn’t even bother to wear makeup most days. I believed that my brain was enough for the job and then get upset when board members and sales reps forget my name. I just wasn’t memorable and I chalked it up to not being good enough to be noticed. I still struggle with this to be honest. Today I try my best to put on a light, natural face-full of makeup, do my hair a little nicer and incorporate some of my artistic and colorful personality into what I do at work. Now people are slowly remembering my name and what I do. I’m still invisible but not as invisible as I used to be. This month, I magically made it onto the cover of a business magazine, so I suppose it’s progress.

Change the fantasy, develop your authenticity

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@islandbohemian

One thing is for sure. The fantasy will always change. One day, I’ll tire of being the “islandbohemian” and maybe switch to the “wordygypsy” or the “artsychamorrita.” You never know what I’ll be into next. However, my authenticity will never change as dynamically as my fantasy. I’ll always be myself whether I like it or not. I may improve upon a few things like being healthier (not necessarily skinnier) or being more responsible with money, but I will never, ever give up my food-stained Saipan shirts, snoring (it’s like, not that easy to control, quite honestly) or quality time spent with family.

I felt compelled to write this because I see a lot of women my age and younger fighting a battle between their fantasy and authentic selves. It’s totally okay to have both, but don’t ever be ashamed of your A self, she’s in there and the longer you repress her, the more she forgets what truly makes her happy and next thing you know, she’s a full-blown seeker of validation. Maintain that balance, know yourself and what brings you so much joy that you can’t help but smile. Be authentically you.

(Note: I am not a certified life coach nor do I have a background in psychology. I share my own thoughts based on my experiences in hopes that I have the pleasure of meeting more authentic beings out there.)

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Top 10 Places to Eat on Guam

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While I was vacationing in Guam last month, a Hawaii friend stationed on the Navy base had asked if I could provide a list of my fave places to eat on the island. I couldn’t possibly list all my go-to’s, so I’ve compiled a list of my top places. You’ll find good food anywhere on the island, really. But I tried to list all the places that locals frequent because of the food quality, excellent dishes or authenticity.

CROWN BAKERY – Located in Mangilao. I usually don’t eat donuts, but I LOVE their plain glazed donuts! They’re better than Krispy Kreme. I promise. Go early in the morning after the kids go to school or in the afternoon. They make a fresh batch around 5 a.m. and at 4 p.m. daily. You won’t regret it.

MESKLA – a bit pricey (for Guam), but it’s authentic Chamorro cooking with a nice dining atmosphere. Order the tinala katne (it’s just like pipikaula) with red rice and chicken kelaguen (like ceviche). Don’t be afraid to order the “fiesta platter” because it comes with a lot of authentic Chamorro dishes (fried parrotfish, chicken kelaguen, bbq ribs and tinala katne). Explore the menu when you can. Don’t waste your time on the desserts unless the staff recommends a special dessert. $$

IZAKAYA KATSU / GREEN DOOR (locally known as Green Door – because, well, the entrance is a green door) – this is one of my fave hole in the wall restaurants on the island. Mostly locals go there because it’s hidden on the third floor of a parking garage in the Central Plaza building next to the Tumon Police Station. It’s a Japanese restaurant known for their tofu steak (you wouldn’t believe how tasty it is, it’s such a unique dish), chicken katsu, grilled saba and curry. $$

PROA – this is a friendlier, more American approach to island food. I like all the dishes on the menu. I can’t pick just one. You’ll find this in Tumon. $$

CHAMORRO VILLAGE – Best time to go is around 5:30 p.m. when the Wednesday Night Market begins. There are all sorts of food vendors (thai, Vietnamese, Chamorro, filipino, etc.). They’re all great, but I prefer to dine in at the little Chamorro restaurant with A/C. They have the best bbq ribs and chicken. Spacing is tight so try to get there early. $

LEMAI CAFE RESTAURANTI just found out this place has closed! I’ll still include it since it deserves some recognition for being one of my fave places to eat on the island. Lemai Cafe is a mom and pop restaurant located on a breadfruit farm. I order their fried porkchops (I just realized this list has a lot of heavy, comfort dishes, but that’s really, the best part of Guam – comfort food!). I felt most at home in this restaurant. Only locals really go here, so enjoy the good, authentic food. It’s in between Barrigada and Tiyan. $

SAKURA KITCHEN – This is the cheapest place to get good Japanese food. They have so many yummy dishes. I love their fried garlic appetizer served with lemon and miso, miso salmon, shrimp tempura, sushi, udon, curry, chicken or pork katsu, and sashimi). Located in Tamuning. $

BAN THAI– Best thai food on the island. Best to go for lunch, since it’s only $13 per person all you can eat thai buffet. I love their tom yum soup, pad thai, fried chicken and fried banana lumpia (call ahead for banana lumpia – they only make it on certain days). Located in Tumon. $

PIKA’S CAFÉ – This café/restaurant is perfect if you’re craving something lighter but still maintaining a local flair. They have typical deli style sandwiches and salads but you can order some great unique and affordable local-ish dishes. Definitely one of my fave lunch spots. Located in Tamuning. $

PALM CAFÉ – Located in Tumon at the Outrigger Hotel. This is a higher-end place to go for Sunday brunch. Locals compete with tourists for a table on Sundays because the food is worth your money. My family comes here for special occasions. $$$

MICHELLE’S COFFEE SHOP – This is where I took my boyfriend for a local breakfast the first day he arrived in Guam. You’ll only see locals around here. It’s near a high school and just down the road from the university. It’s also in the heart of Guam, so residents stop by to read the paper while they chomp away at their Chamorro sausage scramble with garlic fried rice. It’s far from fancy, yet so comforting. $

I’m pretty sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the great things Guam has to offer. But definitely pay attention to the events listing in the local paper or online. They have great events like the Mango Festival in Agat and other local festivals with various food vendors and activities for families.

Is there a good Guam restaurant or eatery I’ve missed? Feel free to share it in the comments.

My 2018 Goal: A Book Per Month

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One of my goals this year is to read at least one book every month. I realized I haven’t read anything great in a while and I’ve been out of touch with what’s new and profound in the literary realm. Knowing I’d be really indecisive on selecting books, I reached out to my Facebook friends for recommended titles. Naturally, everyone responded with titles close to their heart! I specifically asked for some diversity, everything from science fiction to self help. My network of old friends, colleagues, past professors, and relatives served up a very diverse list. I’ve combed through the titles that seemed interesting and are somewhat relevant to me.

Here are the top 12 that made my list:

  1. La Sombra del Viento / The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – This is the first one that I bought. Recommended by my grad school professor, this is really great so far. I bought the Spanish version, thinking I’m up for a challenge, but it’s taking me longer than usual to get through a book. I highly recommend this book (it was suggested to me three times) because I’m only on page 50 and I feel like I’m in a magical world.
  2. Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco – I’m not going to lie, I peeked through the first ten pages of this once I received it in the mail. The writing style is honest and witty, but I’m forcing myself to finish La Sombra del Viento before I finish this.
  3. Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller – Naturally, my boss gifted me an awesome book that would help me develop my branding and message strategy at work. This was an easy read and Donald puts things into perspective.
  4. Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown – A crossfit friend recommended this to me. We’re on the same level. I need to learn how to adult!
  5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – A former classmate recommended this one and I saw that it was highly rated on Amazon. It’s on my list of next books to purchase (or find a copy of at the library).
  6. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – This title was recommended to me three times! The synopsis and eager recommendations sealed it’s place on my list.
  7. Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline – I asked for diversity and my crossfit friend served it up. This isn’t a title I’d pick up immediately, but I hear the movie comes out sometime next year. Plus, it looks exciting!
  8. A Tale for the Time Being: A Novel by Ruth Ozeki – I read the reviews on this one and they are phenomenal. I can tell every person was affected by this book, even the poor ratings have quality feedback. On the list it goes…
  9. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō – Ali Wong was onto something. A fellow AIGA board member recommended this title and I remembered Ali’s standup.
  10. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – A former grad school classmate warned me this is a sad read, but it makes you think about life and death.
  11. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey – Recommended by a former colleague who is always trying to be better at what he does. Such an appropriate title.
  12. Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health by Dr. Caroline Leaf – My younger cousin recommended this, which I am in complete shock that she did. She’s a wildly bold free-thinker and to see her recommend a book that helps center your thoughts and incorporates a spiritual or biblical element shows me how much she’s grown. Perhaps it will help me grow as well.

This list is definitely a great start. I think my Facebook post helped some folks discover new genres and books. A couple of old classmates have even reached out saying they wanted to start a book club. We’ll see how it goes. Feel free to leave your fave titles (and why you recommend them) in the comments!

Tropical Tuesday

I’m a bit late in admitting I’m on the Fabletics train. I wanted to try out their clothes and see how they held up after months of wearing. The verdict? The workout pants/legging quality is meh, but the sports bras…they’re amazing! I first subscribed earlier this year and of course I gravitated towards everything BLACK. Black leggings. Black sports bras. Black is safe and matches with everything and it hides all of my vulnerabilities.

Well I’m over that. Not that I don’t have vulnerabilities anymore, but I’m tired of sifting through a mass of black on laundry days. So two months ago, I ordered my first real funky colored and printed workout clothes. They had tropical prints! Green on pink has been trending and I’m so glad they had something that matched the one trend I’ve been fangirling about. When my order arrived, the pigment on the fabric was decent, you can tell it was digitally printed or something. I washed it about five times because it’s so comfy and the print hasn’t faded…yet. It’s a perfect pop of color when you are wearing a low-cut button-down shirt or a flowy workout top.

I’m officially a fan and regret all those times I settled for black. The print makes me happy and I look forward to buying more fun prints and brighter colors. Take a chance this week! Wear something out of the ordinary.

 

#Goals


When was the last time you took the time to set some goals or revisit the ones you set earlier this year? 

The best way to do things is with the right goals in mind. Always revisit your goals, whether it be finishing a long-term project at work, saving for a big trip, or losing weight, you have to be motivated to do it.

Set deadlines for yourself! Nothing will get done if you spend time perfecting every aspect or waiting around until “the perfect time” comes. Also don’t spend too much time obsessing about a certain task. Think of the end result and weigh the impact of the accomplishment against the gritty details that may not matter. But also don’t execute with haste and carelessness. 

Your goals are your own and it feels great to know you worked hard to get there! Now I’ll return to my goal-setting session…

Dim Sum Sundays

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This year, I’ve made it a point to reserve Sundays for mass and a little downtime with Kev. We’ve become that subtly annoying couple that snicker when the choir hits an off note, or when the priest dozes off during the first reading. It has become some sort of entertainment for us, yet we enjoy taking an hour of our day to thank God for what we have and ask him to inspire the other to treat the next meal. Thankfully my requests to be treated to brunch or lunch at a restaurant of my choice are always answered…which is why I choose dim sum most Sundays. I suppose it’s the variety of dumplings, char siu bao, puffs, and dipping sauces that convince me it’s the more exciting, yet affordable type of meal we can get on a lazy Sunday. Plus, the wait is never out the door at Chinese restaurants.

We usually hit up the dim sum at Happy Days along Waialae Avenue because it’s consistent and affordable. We don’t feel guilty ordering more than our fair share of shrimp dumplings or taro puffs. This is our go-to in town because it’s close to the gelato shoppe, you know, just in case we’re craving a sweet treat after our crispy, hot jin dui.

When we feel like splurging, we head towards the dim sum restaurant near my house, Harbor Village Cuisine. The dim sum is nicely presented on a menu. No loud, sizzling or steamy carts around here. I fancy the spinach and shrimp dumplings and the mochi rice here because it feels like they put a little more love into making it.

It’s rare that we wake up early enough to hit up the early mass. But when we do, we end early and crave some of the “local” dim sum at Char Hung Sut in Downtown Honolulu. My extended family owns the take-out dim sum shop. They learned the recipes from my great grandmother and are best known for their manapua, mai tai tsu, and half moon. I can’t stress how tasty they make these dishes. If I had to choose a meal that described my childhood, it’d be this type of dim sum because it was like a treat to have each summer. It’s a comforting type of meal that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yes, in my family, dim sum can be eaten around the clock.

Granny

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My grandmother passed away shortly after my last post. She was a true warrior and it was extremely hard to accept that she’s gone. I went back and forth about writing about her on here because well, it’s so personal. She raised me most of my life and has been a constant, comforting presence.

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As much as I’d like to tell my readers about her legacy, I’ll keep this post limited to what I designed for her celebration of life event. I wanted to do something that was clean, iconic, and had her favorite colors: pink and lavender. Some design elements that went into making her celebration of life extra special were custom Mahalo cards, a sleek photo slideshow of her best moments, and her printed program. I provided the graphics, of course, and my good friends at Service Printers Hawaii had provided the printing services. My family wanted her celebration of life to be as clean, classy, and professional as possible, so we made sure of that.

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We will definitely miss her vibrant spirit and laughs. It was an honor to give her the celebration of life she deserved.