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I never thought about what my personal values and principles were, at least, not explicitly.

On that topic, after a deeper dive, I realized mine have varied a fair bit in the past 3.5 years since I got to Hong Kong.

Most of you know I grew up in a dual East Asian and Western environment. The East Asian influence coming from my parents and the Western influence coming from traditional Canadian values which include freedom, integrity, acceptance and diversity. There are more, but those were the ones that spoke to me.

Freedom

The only principle I follow at the moment.

But what does freedom mean to you? It’s quite subjective, isn’t it?

For me, freedom has many fronts.

I took this concept of freedom for granted prior to moving to Hong Kong. The only worry I had was financial freedom and sustainability, but that is another topic in itself.

Chalk it up to the loneliness of being here alone.
Chalk it up to self-doubt.
Chalk it up to fear.
Chalk it up to wanting to be accepted.

I didn’t realize I put myself in an imaginary cage trying to conform to everyone’s expectations. For the past three years, my values became engrained on being the perfect Asian girl and girlfriend.

Be the good Asian girl.
Don’t talk back.
Don’t think, just do.
Be the good girlfriend.
Be as stick skinny as possible.
Shut up, sit still and look pretty.
Being a trophy wife was the ultimate goal.

That combined with an inferiority complex and perfectionism nearly destroyed me, mentally and physically.

You see, I’ve had to earn respect from others throughout my youth, proving that my background did not, would not, and should not hinder me. And often, respect is earned by being at the top. So I strived to be the best, or in my mind, to be perfect.

I was the girl who would never go to class yet ace the exams, making top grades look easy.
I was the girl who earned a coveted Investment Banking internship in first year without the help of family connections.
I was the girl who was in all the best parties and events.
I was the girl who would party nights on end, while looking fresh as a daisy come Monday.
I was the girl who took the maximum course load while balancing writing for a magazine, being in the business school fashion show, and teaching underprivileged students.
I was the girl who lived in the posh neighborhood in Downtown Toronto.
I was the girl who hosted house parties.
I was the girl who downed half a large Pepperoni pizza and still wore size 00.
I was the girl who made life look easy and effortless.

Life was good, I was supposed to be happy.

Behind the scenes, I always felt inferior.
I was never good enough.
And that manifested itself into a cycle of continually striving to do more, be more, make it look even more effortless.

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And then I came to Hong Kong.

I quickly realized the values people held here were vastly different than the ones in Canada.

Naively, I conformed to fit in.

I became obsessed with being the perfect everything. And I quickly realized it was unsustainable, and more importantly, unrealistic.

Prior to coming to Hong Kong, I never had a problem with my previous relationship in Canada, there was respect, mutual understanding and acceptance. It ended when our future goals no longer aligned with each other, mine being to move to Asia whereas he wanted to stay in Canada.

There were multiple red flags I purposely chose to ignore when I entered my previous relationship in Hong Kong.

There was respect in the beginning, which quickly dissipated and I was pushed to being the Perfect Asian Girlfriend.

Shut up, sit still and look pretty.
I say, you do.

The friendships I made in Hong Kong deteriorated.
I was no longer part of the tech startup scene that I was a fan of.

The worst part, I was fully in control of the situation.
I could have left at any moment.
But I didn’t.
I put myself in that cage.

And when I finally found the courage to leave, I opened the flood gates.
I went 150% into everything, from overbooking social events to attending every tech meet-up to mentoring multiple students to traveling solo.

It was too much, too soon.

And that’s when my body rebelled against me, hard.
My digestive system shut down completely.
I was out of commission for three months, on traditional Chinese medicine and attending weekly acupuncture sessions to stimulate the muscles to function again.

I learned a very valuable lesson.

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So what does freedom mean to me?

To be free from the trap of perfectionism.
To be free from harsh self-judgement.
To be free from self-doubt.
To be free from unnecessary guilt.
To be free from forced conformity.
To be free from feeling inferior.

To be at peace with myself.

-b.

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This post is going to be on many tangents as I try to understand the information highway and overload that is my brain.

Yesterday, I was asked if my decision was firm.

I said yes.

In search of Atlantis.

Raise a cup for my day ones.
We owe it all to each other.
Straight up from nothing.

People say its unhealthy to be stuck in the past.
In some ways, it is a reminder to myself on how far I have come.

Having grown up so quickly has its drawbacks. A missed childhood manifests itself into adulthood and naturally, a part of me works to protect that inner child. In a way, there is no longer a whole person per-say, just two vastly separate entities trying to co-exist.

One is hyper-rational while the other is vulnerable.
One protects so the other can retain its innocence.
One shields so the other can see the good in the world.
In return, the other provides beauty and solace to the soldier.

Sometimes I wonder, when they can finally become whole, if they can be whole.

This distinction is clear in my home, where the majority is in a minimalistic design of Blacks and Whites. In its pockets, you will find comic books, figurines and plush toys, a form of self-love of a childhood I wish I had, of which I can provide now to myself.

The vast majority of my friends are a decade older than me.
On those days when I am beating myself up, they remind me how far I’ve come and not to compare my chapter 20 to their chapter 30.

Does it affect me when I see people my age getting handouts?
Of course.

But I’ve come to accept our paths are different, we can only work with the cards we are dealt.
My journey may have been tougher, but I was never truly alone.
Others walk with me, facing a similar situation.
Others support me in their own way.

Every girl I’ve met dreams of true love, prince charming and upon meeting that person, everything becomes rainbows, unicorns and flowers.

To that end, I say love is a chemical reaction, a mixture of serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline; altering our thoughts and nervous system.

That’s not to say I don’t believe in relationships or marriage.

Though, that chemical reaction is necessary for the initial attraction and continual interest to learn more about and support each other.

True love does not exist in the fairy tale form.

I truly believe love is a matter of choice. A choice we make to put aside our individual needs and wants in support of a greater partnership. A choice to go from solo to duo.

I admit, I entered a relationship three years ago that I should not have.
There was only a perceived obligation to fulfill the Asian requirement, to conform to the standards of this city and to be a “good” Asian girl.

Instead of support, I found myself caged.
Instead of growth, I found myself suppressed.
Instead of respect, I found myself looked down upon.
Instead of encouragement, I found myself lectured upon.
Instead of happiness, I found myself stressed out

The good news is I’ve learned and I will never put myself through that again.

If you ask me if I am happy, I would say yes.

The past is in the past.
The lessons were learned.

A lot of people comment telling me my posts are often quite depressing and wonder if I am in state of despair.

Read between the lines.

I use my writing to articulate the thoughts in my head, to help others understand me better. Though the tone of voice seems to portray darkness; if you can read between the lines, the underlying message is clear.

Yes, for those who don’t know me well enough, you will have to re-read my posts at least three times to understand the underlying message.

I got through difficult parts of life.
Reflections help me make sense of the lessons.
And these are reminders to myself the strength and resilience I hold within me to get through new obstacles.
There are new things to learn, new ideas to be shared, new opportunities to explore.

And the journey begins again.

-b.

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Back in the day, I opened a blog on Xanga to document my weight loss progress.

Little did I know, I slowly grew a following of a few hundred girls and a handful of boys. When one of my followers reached out to me about her own insecurities regarding her physical appearance, it hit me hard.

When I was a kid, I was dubbed the ugliest girl in school.
I was short.
I was overweight.
I wore thick nerd glasses.
I had pimples all over my face.
I had slits for eyes because my face was so fat.
I had greasy hair that looked unwashed for days.
I had to wear hand-me-downs that were so worn because I was poor.

I remember the pain.
I remember the tears.
I remember the darkness.
I remember the loneliness.

And I don’t want another person to feel that same way I did.

Instead of merely documenting my daily food intake and exercise regime, I decided to use the platform to share my own insecurities so that other girls could relate and feel that they weren’t fighting the battle alone.

Because everyone deserves to feel beautiful.
Because everyone has good and bad days.

Because no one deserves to go through this alone.

-b.

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On the notion of happiness, what does it mean to you?

As we close off 2017, I find myself taking steps back to reflect on the decisions I’ve made in the last year and how I can make 2018 better.

This year has definitely been one of the most rewarding yet challenging years of my life.

Career-wise, this has definitely been a year where I am proud to say I have finally accomplished all the milestones and goals I have set for myself. And it has given me a new direction of where I want to take my career next year. Being connected with students on a more personal level, understanding their insecurities about the job market has allowed me to share some of my own experiences from my youth to quell some of their fears.

It also took me back to when I first arrived to Hong Kong with nothing more than two suitcases and a backpack.

Conformity.

Two years.

This year, I took a major step back and took a close look at the sacrifices I’ve made and the person I became. I realized I did not like my reflection in the mirror. In the name of conformity, I lost my sense of self.

Silver linings.

Self-growth and reflection is difficult and painful to say the least.

But it also opens closed doors.

I left an unhealthy relationship but I learned self love.
I lost acquaintances but I gained close friends.

In the latter part of the year, I’ve learned to step away from being a perfectionist, alleviating that unnecessary stress to be 100% one-hundred-percent of the time.

And now we focus on well-being, mindfulness and inner peace.

That’s all for now.

-b.

Kawasaki Warehouse

Sorry for being MIA, I was in Tokyo for the past week and am slowly uploading my ventures both on Instagram and on here.

One of the most interesting places I went to was not a temple or one of the busy shopping streets or an owl cafe, but a warehouse in the outskirts of Tokyo.

So why was this warehouse so enticing?

Because it had a small replica of the Kowloon Walled City, a dystopian slum with no laws within Hong Kong.

Think of dense, dark underworld of Blade Runner, Dredd, Total Recall, and Neo Seoul from Cloud Atlas. Basically, all things cyberpunk would have found some form of inspiration to build that dystopian future setting we know and love.

The original Kowloon Walled City was demolished in the 90s and a park was built in its place. There were stories about life inside the city and photos, however, to really be in that atmosphere is an entirely different experience.

The Kawasaki Warehouse is actually a 4-storey arcade with the first 2 floors dedicated to a recreation of the Kowloon Walled City.

They even have a broadcast of Chinese aunties talking about visiting it to buy some necessities. If you play the video, you can hear it in the background.

Like the original KWC, there is hardly any light in the corridors.

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The entrance to KWC through the parking lot.

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The doors slide open and you enter this eerie walkway. You have to walk across the stones while an ominous music plays in the background and green liquid spills from both walls.

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The backdrop of the arcade in KWC.

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They say the buildings were so close to each other that no sunlight entered the city.

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Meat in the market.

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On the second floor, there are narrow walkways you walk along to peek into some of the building windows.

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One such window.

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True to culture, clothes dangling precariously outside windows.

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It reads 1 bedroom and 1 living room, 395 sq. ft. for rent at 3800HKD/mo.

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A prostitute’s home.

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In KWC, it was not uncommon to find such small rooms and people living in them. Crime was rampant inside.

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Upon exiting – photo from the video.

If you were in the Yokohama area, it is worth checking out. I wouldn’t make it a day trip as you only need to spend 1 hour there.

Here is the map:

 

-b.

Cloud Atlas

Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future. Sonmi-451:Cloud Atlas

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Last night, I took a friend to a speakeasy, a getaway of sorts.

Not many people know about my past, and those who do, only know tidbits.

It’s not the immediate past I am concerned about.

Every person has their own belief system. Some call it religion, others call it a soul.

Do you believe in karma?

I do.

The first time I watched Cloud Atlas, I was fascinated with the storyline, how, through the actions of the characters, the decisions they made in every lifetime, shaped their next life.

To me, it was a masterpiece. Critics dubbed it an impossible to film book. But they did it anyways. Some criticized the film as “yellow-facing”, making Caucasians look Asian so they don’t have to hire Asians. But what they missed was that, the characters spanned through ages, genders and race. What they missed was that the Asian actresses were also made to look like other races in the different timelines.

Karma does not discriminate.

There are moments of redemption, just as there are moments of deterioration.

And that’s what the book and film tries to illustrate.

We move through our lifetimes. Each time, we are dealt a different hand. How we choose to live our lives determines the next hand. And with every hand, do we choose to be a better self or do we choose to live a life of pure consumption and excess?

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People ask me why certain things only seem to happen to me or why I seem to attract an alarming amount of bad luck.

I joke, saying in my past life, I must’ve done some pretty bad deeds.

On the other hand, I would love to know who or what I was in a previous life.

-b.

Steampunk

Growing up, I loved Steampunk because it was a fantasy of living both in the past and in the future.

I was lucky enough to have a close relationship to my maternal grandfather who shared with me the stories of his youth and his time in the service during World War II. And that led me to have a healthy appetite for history.

I remember the first time I went to Disneyland in Orlando, Florida, being in awe of Tomorrowland and Main Street USA, bringing back some retro elements from the 1950s.

There was always a sense of adventure.

I guess that’s why I keep re-watching cult classics like:

20,000 Leagues under the Sea
Cloud Atlas
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The Mummy I and II
Sky Captain and the Land of Tomorrow
Suckerpunch

And yes, I do imagine what life would be like if we actually did live in a steampunk world, it seems pretty awesome.

I’m also lucky enough to be in Hong Kong, where we have both Ocean Park and Disneyland, two large theme parks.

My favourite is (hands-down) Disneyland even though it is much smaller with more vanilla rides. It is due to the ambience and their strict attention to detail on the most minute things. When you’re in Disney, you do feel like you’re transported to another world.

Over the weekend, I decided to hit up their newest hotel, Explorer’s Lodge. At first, I tried to pinpoint the era, but it had both elements of the late 1890s and 1950s. It reminds me of the opening scene of UP, when Carl and Ellie talk about Paradise Falls when they were kids. It’s also an extension of the Mystic Manor ride in Mystic Point, a dark ride in the park.

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-b.