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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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!

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.

Ozoni in my belly

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In my family, we call this The Good Luck Soup. It’s a Japanese ozoni soup that we eat on New Year’s Day every year. The ingredients are simple, yet so different. My aunty makes the broth from scratch, boiling kombu, clams and dried shrimp until the water turns a dark, clear brown color. Then she puts taro, shiitake mushroom, a fat piece of stretchy mochi for longevity and mizuna for wealth. She says the soup is supposed to bring good health for the entire year ahead…so you bet I had a second bowl.

 

Late afternoons in Mānoa

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It has been oh so chilly here in Honolulu and seeing the clouds hang low, covering the mountain tops behind my office remind me to take a moment to breathe through the holiday rush. Can we all just sleep in for once and enjoy this cool weather?

Hawaiʻi Island

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I flew to Kona this past weekend to meet my boyfriend’s parents for the first time. I was about six-years-old the last time I went there. My grams brought me one summer to visit her brother in Hilo and he took us around the island. I remember the drive to Kona was so green and lush, we didn’t see any buildings or manicured residential areas anywhere. Hawai’i Island residents used to be spread out, mom and pop stores were the norm and fresh Hawaiian food was the best you’ve ever tasted. Those were the days!

Back to this weekend…we went hunting for the best açaí bowls on the island. The bf’s niece suggested that we head over to Big Island Juice Co. in Hilo. We took the new Saddle Road and passed chilly Mauna Kea to get there. Upon arriving at our destination, we found it was next to a hookah shop and other local businesses. We walked into Big Island Juice Co. and they suggested their signature Dragonfruit Bowl, which they served in a real pineapple bowl, topped with granola, honey, kiwi, and pineapple. It was glorious and oh so melty. The dragonfruit was a bit tart, but the honey and toppings made it the perfect light meal. It was a humid day in Hilo and we needed the refreshment.

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Look at how big it was! Served on top of their branded cutting board. It was actually so melty that my hands were stained pink the rest of the day.

While in Hilo, we also hit up one of my favorite places…Two Ladies Kitchen! I died. They had so many varieties of mochi. I’m usually very picky about mochi, my preference is either traditional plain mochi or with azuki beans. Two Ladies is so good…they stuff full strawberries, grapes, poha berries, and other seasonal fruits into their mochi and it’s even more delicious. I tried to be good and eat only one of each. My bestie in Honolulu requested some so I planned to eat the rest with her…only to realize I left it back in Kona on our way back. #epicfailure

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Here’s a better picture of the mochi that we bought but left back in Kona. I get sad every time I think of it. The box on the left is the strawberry mochi. The plastic container on the right had a variety of manju, blueberry mochi, ube manju, shiso mochi, chi chi dango, and peanut butter mochi.

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Who goes to Kona and doesn’t order Kona coffee? We drank AND ate it later that day. Kona coffee ice cream was so refreshing in the Kona heat. I can’t forget how yummy it was.

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One of the other things on my list was to visit the farmer’s market in Kona. We picked up a fresh Maui gold pineapple, which is super sweet and less acidic than most, a fan for the humidity and lack of decent air conditioning in our car, and I needed a hat (from Cookies Clothing) to hide the messy hair from the long drive.

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I’d like to go back soon and hike down Waipiʻo Valley. We drove through Waimea and Honokaʻa to get there, only to see that you have to hike to get down to the black sand beach below. Shucks. I should have done more research. Oh well, next time!

Eating Pretty

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There’s something attractive about a colorful sort of clutter, especially when it comes to food. I grew up in a predominantly Asian household in Honolulu. We mainly ate Chinese and Korean food for lunch and dinner, so there were always lots of little dishes around your main entrees. Dishes such as pickled radish, umeboshi, choy sum in oyster sauce, fermented soy and chili pastes…you name it, they were on the table.

No meal was complete without a sauce to dip your protein in, a crunchy vegetable element, or some fruit to clean your palate.

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Lately, I’ve been posting some of my own cluttered meals on Instagram. They’re really simple things like a breakfast bowl with granola and an egg on the side. I dress things up a bit with fresh fruit from the market or from our backyard.

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This summer, our mango tree is producing fruit like no one’s business. We have mangos falling off the trees because we can’t keep up with the picking. To switch things up in the morning, I incorporate other fruits that make their way onto our kitchen counter (thanks to my uncle) and some savory breakfast items such as rice with furikake and tsukemono.

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I also have a ton of scarves and fabric laying around the house. I used to have a scarf fetish (yes, I live in Hawaii) back in the day. I’d use them to dress up small tables, hold my hair in place, or function as a pareo at the beach. They definitely brighten up an early breakfast.