The Unofficial Wedding Vows

Dear Sayang,

Exactly one more month, we’ll be husband and wife.

I’m dedicating this writing in appreciation of what I’ve found out about you, me and us in the past two years and seven months together as boyfriend and girlfriend.

I love it that…

we didn’t begin as a couple at first, we were just schoolmates with no romantic sparks

we met again when the time was just right; at the airport, on your birthday, on our way back to hometown

our conversations just naturally flow from then on, taking our time to know each other better through movie date nights, cycle in the park, hike on various trails and shared meals in random places

your quirkiness and randomness are unimaginable yet adorable

you’re such a stickler for accuracy when doing your art hobby

you’re so patient with me even if my mood swing can get so bad sometimes

you’re always saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ politely

you’re giving the best back rub and foot massage after my volleyball game session

and most importantly, I love it that…

you’re just being you 🙂

So before we begin this whole new journey together,

Let’s promise each other that,

we will always listen carefully to what each other is saying

we will always agree to disagree; agree that we have different taste, hobby and character, yet we complement one another and laugh ourselves silly together

we will always care and hold each other in health and sickness, in happiness and sadness

Three simple vows. Will you promise me these?

IMG_0558[1]So, in response to this question? My answer is still a YES.

Kisses and hugs,

Sien

 

 

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Make Three Wishes

Hi all,

It’s that time of the year again. Time to write a post to reflect on my journey so far.

Obviously, a lot of things have happened since I celebrated my birthday last year. It feels like it was just yesterday that I wrote this “my 10220th day on earth is coming”.

Birthday is a time to celebrate, relax and reminisce. For this post, I’m going to put milestone markings in each month that has passed, the five elements that I always hold dear to my heart;

health, home, love, dreams, friendships

so here we go,

Sep 2014 [dreams]

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Blew these candles on the day itself. It’s a yummy durian cake from my dear sister and her boyfriend. It’s also the beginning of a year-long work and play, building up a hectic but enjoyable schedule of working, teaching, volleyball games, date nights, movie nights and everything else in between. It was the start of a slow transformation and meaningful baby steps towards a better work & life balance.

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Oct – Nov 2014 [health  & dreams]

These 2 months were filled with teaching schedule and volleyball games. Beside the classroom teaching job for Indonesian language, I started accepting some private tuition jobs teaching English to Primary school kids living near my place.

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Dec 2014 [home & friendships]

Organized and attended several gatherings with friends and colleagues every week. They were fun and dine activities. At the end of the month, I flew back home and celebrated the new year surrounded by my beloved parents and siblings.

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Jan 2015 [home & health]

Time to face the  real deal together as a family, we burnt a hole in our pockets but it was for the greater good. Health is always number 1 in my book. Every year, I’d wish for the health of all my family members and loved ones (friends and romantic partner), and for them to be protected from any harm, be safe and  sound wherever they are.

Feb 2015 [home & love & friendships]

It was the peak of uncertain moment in my love life. We were not together yet, I’ve almost given up any hope of ever being together.  It’s been almost a year of dating with no next-level commitment. The situation inspired me to write this post and also made the decision to join my friend on her trip this September.

After an additional confusion on Valentine’s day, I went home for the annual CNY celebration, had fun, met old friends and forgot about it for a while. Several girls’ talks & heart-to-heart later, I returned to SG and determined to (somehow) solve this uncertainty. I was afraid of rejection but still hopeful.

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Mar – Apr 2015 [love]

One fateful night after a usual movie date night, I decided to throw a “bait” at him and he caught it *and subsequently ate ‘it’. Hooray!*. We started talking about us, instead of some other random things. Several questions and phone calls in the next few days, we were finally together as a couple. I still remember that awkward conversation while slurping our noodles. It was one of my fondest memories from our date nights.

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May 2015 [home & love]

We were going steady and got better at discussing the relationship whenever it’s needed. Treating each other with respect, showing our love in various ways (we have the same love language *yay*), being honest to each other and committed to this relationship despite our busy schedules. It’s that kind of relationship that I described in “Respect, Love, Loyalty, Commitment”.

Two months on, inspiration came and I wrote this post,

In between those dates and my busy schedule, you were always around. Hike or bike on Sunday afternoons, little gifts every time we met or after your trips abroad, movie nights spent watching animations, had fun and laugh together on dates, just you and me. There were a lot of those small things that were impossible to ignore. I obviously noticed how you treated me differently. There were “something” more than we care to admit. We were probably afraid of being “friend-zoned” by each other. In those months, we’d talk about anything under the sky, except about love and relationship, EXCEPT about us. Anyway, long story short, you and I have finally overcome that barrier. (l5t, 15 May 2015, Connecting the Dots)

In between all that new-love-fluttering-heart syndrome, I got the notification to move out from my then-room. I searched for new rooms on the web, arranged some viewings and signed a tenancy agreement within 3 days. I was super-efficient. My parents were also in town at the end of May, so I was rushing to close a deal immediately. It was a fun and busy month.

Jun 2015 [home & love & health]

Moved to new place with the help of my sister and the boyfriends. Luckily, my new place was just a few blocks away. Moving my stuff and re-arranging them were a lot easier than expected. Watched some volleyball matches during SEA Games and cycled together with friends.

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Jul – Aug 2015 [home, love, dreams, friendships]

Working and teaching during weekdays; singing, dining and relaxing during weekends. Life went back to its normal pace, no hustle and bustle of finding new place or the crazy jitters of new love *though I believe in giving some surprises once in a while to spice things up* There were plenty of holidays in these two months and I spent my time dipping in and out of holiday and/or working mood; preparing for the long-awaited trip in September versus. re-arranging my teaching schedule for the rest of the year.

Anyway, as I typed this I looked back at what I wrote before and found the same wisdom as before, so I quote,

Life is too short to be spent on worries and regrets and forever going with the flow with no specific purpose in life. I believe in finding my purpose, making plans, executing them and then I’ll go with the flow after I’ve done my part. We should always strive to be a better person and choose what’s best for ourselves and our loved ones. For me, I want to live healthily and happily doing whatever I want in life with integrity. (l5t, 13 Aug 2014)

Now the difference is, I get to share my life with that special someone.

Most importantly, I know that I want to have this kind of relationship one day, with respect, love, loyalty, commitment; and put my heart on the sleeve more frequently, instead of hiding behind a huge wall. When I’ve chosen to be in a committed relationship, I’ll do the same as the 3 points above: be curious about my life (and his life too), re-arrange my priority and be a good person. Hopefully, we could also grow better as a person, walk towards a better future together, hand-in-hand (l5t, 11 Feb 2015, Is what I want the same as what I need?)

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As cliché as it might sound, I just have these simple wishes on my coming birthday:

Birthday wishes (H-5)

1. Stay healthy and away from danger/harm (also applicable to my family, lover & friends)

2. Be happy (refer here: connect the dots and here: prevent boredom)

3. Live life to the fullest (refer here: do what you love)

 

Cheers,

Sien

*Babe, the first time posting our ‘wefie’ publicly. It looks awesome:)

Connecting the Dots – You, Me and Us

Hey Folks,

How are you? It’s been a month. I’m doing great, busy like a bee and as happy as a clam.

Here’s my monthly reflection and update post.

But first, let me direct you to a post I wrote in March last year, “Connecting the dots – why you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be”. In that post, I elaborated on how certain life events were connected to each other and what I’ve learned from connecting all those dots. There was one thing that was not explained yet…so here I am, finally connecting the dots in this department:)

As for my love life, I haven’t found the way to connect the dots yet. I wish I could. Anyway, life must go on and it’s up to me, whether I choose to live it to the fullest or regret all those distant events and wrong people in the past.

In 1998, we were in the same school for 6 years. You’re in the class next door and we were in the same choir team. We were young and busy with school work. Besides, back then, my taste of boys had been restricted to only those with sporty-charm-part-of-school’s-team kind. I especially had a penchant for boys who play volleyball. I started playing this sport since Primary 5, so yeah…puppy crush. This trend continued throughout my first 2 years in junior high. You and I were probably not inside each other’s radar.

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From 1998 to 2001, we were classmates. Still nothing happened. Instead, I had this silly crushes on 2 volleyball seniors and then the longest one-sided crush on your best friend. You told me recently, that you knew about this back then, a long time ago. Nonetheless, I still have a very fond memory of this distant event and have even described it here, this post.

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In 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, I’ve had a few one-sided crushes and some suitors who came along but they didn’t come close to what we have now. Apparently, they were there to teach me some invaluable lessons on: how to respect and love myself, how to be comfortable and happy being on my own, how to be loyal and committed to my own self-improvement. I need to be happy alone before I’m able to share my happiness and love with someone else.

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In 2014, we met again on that fateful day. We were in the same city for the past 4 years but we’ve not seen each other for 2-3 years. The last time we met were at a mutual friend’s wedding, a reunion dinner gathering afterwards and that’s all. We’ve never talked to one another for long. We were still normal old school friends….until not so long ago *not in friend zone…phew, what a relief*

When I met you again early last year, I was a different person. Beside having my braces fixed in January, I was also more relaxed and happier after completing that one thing that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve also set new exciting career goals for myself by then. Building a relationship was not my main priority. Of course, the thought of having someone special whom I can share my life with, would hover in my mind once in a while, but I didn’t actively looking. I’ve tried dipping my toes into the online dating world and it was an eye-opening experience. Found out a few months later that it’s not for me and have since deleted all my profiles.

In between those dates and my busy schedule, you were always around. Hike or bike on Sunday afternoons, little gifts every time we met or after your trips abroad, movie nights spent watching animations, had fun and laugh together on dates, just you and me. There were a lot of those small things that were impossible to ignore. I obviously noticed how you treated me differently. There were “something” more than we care to admit. We were probably afraid of being “friend-zoned” by each other. In those months, we’d talk about anything under the sky, except about love and relationship, EXCEPT about us. Anyway, long story short, you and I have finally overcome that barrier.

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I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve now and having the courage and kindness to finally commit to this. I’m new, you’re new. We’re in this together. The dots are CONNECTED. We really shouldn’t be with each other back in those school years, 16 years ago. We were still too young, lack of self-identity, lack of direction, still finding our own ways.

Now that our paths have crossed, let’s enjoy every single step, be kind and generous! ^_^

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XOXO,

Sien

*I should change my topic next month:)*

Reading list:

Why People Who Feel Complete on Their Own Have Stronger Relationships

How to Love without Losing Yourself

7 Vital Choices for Happy Relationships

Filling the Blank Space

Dear      (blank space)       ,

I may not be the fairest of them all

I may not be the smartest and most elegant of all

I may not even show or talk about how I feel

I may be broken for too many times

But I have learned my love lessons and rest assure…

I am learning to let my heart lead the way

I am tearing down the protective wall, brick by brick

Eventually,

I will start giving my whole heart and trust that you won’t break it

So, please be patient

I am still a work-in-progress

But because you are around,

I might just jump over the wall and find you

Have courage and be kind, right? *and I quote:)*

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by C.S. Lewis

 

Is “what I want” the same as “what I need”?

Hey folks,

Fabulous February is here. Time for another post.

As we’re nearing the end of Horse Year and my 2015’s plans are beginning to shape up, let me share with you the upcoming projects that have been brewing in my over-active brain. I will share this in the form of my answers on the classic question: WANT versus NEED, including some examples of the things that I want and elaborate excuses/justifications to convince myself and finally take ACTIONS.

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2015-2017 Master Plan. Had to write them down, can’t help it:)

The results of a never-ending battle in my restless mind. Here we go!!!

I WANT

to live happily and peacefully everyday doing what I need to do to pay the bills, doing what I love to do after work and during weekends. While at the same time, I still have the time to relax and enjoy some me-time, be totally unproductive once in a while, e.g.: watching YouTube videos or Japanese & Korean dramas the whole night.

Do I NEED to live like this?

ABSOLUTELY YES. Perhaps for now until maybe the end of 2016.

I got really bored and felt unproductive if I just watch dramas/videos, read random articles day in and day out. My brain needs much more stimulation and I finally found it in the form of teaching:). My aim for this year is to arrange at least 3-4 times teaching session, either in classroom or private setting, weekdays night or weekend afternoon. I’ll take my own teaching assignment or replace other teacher whenever I can, as long as it fits into my schedule. I get to meet new students whenever I accept a new assignment. Good for my network expansion and my brain, 1 stone kills 2 birds.

As for the exercise I need, whenever I’m not teaching, I’ll squeeze in a gym session or Saturday morning hiking or Sunday afternoon cycling and have a weekly volleyball game with my regular buddies. Hopefully, if one day I get to be in a committed relationship with someone I like, I could still allocate 1-2 times a week to meet him. It’s all about priority and scheduling. Anyway, you’re never too busy to be with your loved one, aren’t you?

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I WANT

to go on vacation at least once a year.

Do I NEED to have this vacation?

YES and NO.

Yes, because for me, vacation is needed to refresh my mind, get away from the routine for a while, and experience new places. You might be ‘poorer’ in the wallet after the trip but you’ll be ‘richer’ in experience afterwards. It’s about one’s own priority/mindset and choosing a lifestyle that suits you.

No, if I don’t have the resources to do so. If I didn’t set my budget to include any expensive trip, then there won’t be any traveling this year. I thought that’s the case in 2015. But I saw the light at the end of the tunnel near the end of last month. As I looked at my budget again, after clearing the expected-and-necessary expenses incurred last month and including my future recurring expenses for the rest of the year, I feel safe to include just one trip this year, 18 days, still unknown total expenses. I join a friend for this trip. She’s super excited about this one and invited me to join in the fun. So I thought about it for a few weeks and decided to postpone my other trip and joined her instead. Ticket’s booked. Hope we get to see all the beautiful sceneries in September!! Yay ^_^

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I WANT

to teach full time and own a business related to language/travel one day. It’s so bloody hard to decide between turning my hobby into a full-fledged source of income and keeping both jobs to enjoy half the benefit of both worlds (Engineering and Education field).

but do I NEED to make this decision now?

Am I prepared for the decrease of income during the switch? lifestyle difference? change of habit? change of monthly budget? being out of my familiar zone? How long can I maintain this slash career? Do I need more free time for myself and for me to build a relationship? When can I take the leap of faith? All these questions bring me back to my earlier post about doing what you love to do as a profession.  At the end of the post, I refer to myself as the member of this group;

3. Still doing slash career (definition – having a full time day job: it pays the bills but not necessarily the thing that you want to do long-term & after work/weekends: doing what you love to do but not really a $-making venture yet) and waiting to make the switch. Meanwhile, becoming a reliable and excellent support system to everyone and live a full life. Good luck and you’re so awesome! (~ goes to myself + my future self + some other friends)

Right now, I’ve found the 3 hobbies described in one of the quotes below. They’ve made my life more meaningful and brighter. First hobby to make money: teach languages, second hobby to keep me in shape: play volleyball, third hobby to be creative: write a blog post or sing in karaoke:).

I have a road map and currently doing baby steps to make this ‘WANT’ comes true. It includes some further study and courses I want to take, some financial goals to be achieved and lots of other things. Remember the snapshot of my 2015-2017 master plan above? Yeah, I wrote them there.

Even in the end, if my life doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, I’d be pretty happy and satisfied with the current arrangement. All is well. By then, this fickle-minded brain should know how to make peace with it and just continue enjoying the ride.

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I WANT

to share my life with another person, to finally be in a committed relationship.

but do I really NEED one?

No. Not really. If I haven’t found the right one for me yet, I won’t settle.

In general, I’m looking for this kind of guy, someone who:

(1) knows what he wants in life or at least be curious about it. He looks for ways to improve his life, takes on new challenges and becomes wiser each time.

(2) knows how to set his priority. Sometimes, he could be the right person, but our timeline and priority in life at that period of time was so out of sync, that it won’t work anyway. Is his priority right now on his career or love/relationship?

(3) is a good person with integrity (preferably well-traveled and a non-smoker).

Everything else is negotiable. We don’t need to have the same hobbies. Sharing one/two interests is nice, but it’s not necessary. And yeah, I think that initial attraction (or sparks or chemistry or whatever you call it) when you go out on the first few dates are also important. How’s the vibe and feel that this guy is giving out when he’s around me? Is he attentive? Is he a caring person in general? Is he a curious person and someone who can hold a conversation well?

Then afterwards, I’ll ask myself these questions: Am I attracted to him? Am I feeling comfortable around him? Am I willing to follow his lead and see how it goes? How long does it take for a man to court a woman and be committed? love confession or declaration or whatever? 3 months, 6 months? Am I willing to wait? I’ll usually think about these in the back of my mind and force myself not to over-analyze his words or actions, as I believe that for the matters of heart, only time will tell. If he’s interested, he’ll show it. No confusion. No drama. If the first guy approaches and has been around for some time, maybe I’ll meet 1-2 other suitors along the way and ended up with another guy or none of them or maybe I’ll never meet anyone. Who knows?

I want a relationship, that doesn’t mean I need it to have a happy life on my own. Any relationship status you hold right now; be it single, attached, married, divorced and whatever; has its own challenges, embrace it and be happy anyway.

Most importantly, I know that I want to have this kind of relationship one day, with respect, love, loyalty, commitment; and put my heart on the sleeve more frequently, instead of hiding behind a huge wall. When I’ve chosen to be in a committed relationship, I’ll do the same as the 3 points above: be curious about my life (and his life too), re-arrange my priority and be a good person. Hopefully, we could also grow better as a person, walk towards a better future together, hand-in-hand.

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In the end, is “what you want” the same as “what you need”?

There’s no exact answer to this. Depends on what it is that you want and in what phase of life you are in right now.

Just remember to always ask yourself this question before indulging on what you want, “Have I covered all my basic needs?”

If the answer is a resounding YES: you’ve got food on your table, roof over your head (rental or mortgage, doesn’t matter), decent clothing, life/health insurance to protect the wealth you’ve accumulated so far and a generally happy positive attitude towards life.

If all of them are there right now, I’d say go ahead!! Plan, prioritize, take actions, GO and PAMPER yourself with what you want: the things that you’ve always wanted to experience, the places that you’ve always wanted to visit, that further education/courses that you’ve always wanted to enroll in.

Even if you can’t always have whatever you want, don’t forget to be grateful with what you already have!

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Cheers,

Sien

Happy early Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year everyone! 

Be healthy, joyful and prosperous in the coming year!喜气洋洋!

Wearing my heart on my sleeve – good or bad idea?

Hey folks,

Right about this time last year, I wrote this love story of a dear friend, “Crossing Oceans Just to Find You“, as my last post in 2013 and before that I was making a statement and arguing with myself on  “3 reasons why I stop making new year’s resolution“. This year, I think I want to set one resolution for 2015, something that has long been overdue.

By definition, resolution is a promise you make to yourself and once you stick to it daily, it will introduce a permanent change in your life. Eventually, a new habit or lifestyle will be created. It’s different from goals. Goals are short-lived. Once you achieved them, you’ll move on to the next. Resolution is to be achieved in a longer time frame, sometimes undefined, and it’s best to keep it daily.

In 2015, I need to step out of the half-opened cage, be courageous and push that door, be more open and honest about my own feelings and emotions, be it good or bad. Wear my heart more on my sleeve, instead of keeping it tightly guarded behind a huge wall. I will have to be the one who break it down, instead of waiting around for some random anonymous guy from the unknown future.

Oh well, I’m not entirely sure if wearing my heart on my sleeve is a great idea yet, so I’ll just have to give it a shot. I’m not used to showing my emotions to everyone, only to some selected inner circle of friends whenever I feel like it. And it seldom happens. How to wear your heart on your sleeve and be authentic?

Here are the definitions of “wearing your heart on your sleeve” from around the web:

Display one’s emotions openly.

People who wear their heart on their sleeve do not hold back their emotions, for good or for bad. It is clear how they feel in each moment. Example: “She’s a shy person. She’s never been one to wear her heart on her sleeve.”

People who wear their heart on their sleeve express their emotions freely and openly, for all to see. They do not hold back their emotions, for good or for bad. They let things get to them too easily. They don’t know how to let go of negative feelings and unhappiness.

Also, pin one’s heart on one’s sleeve. Openly show one’s feelings, especially amorous ones. For example, You can’t help but see how he feels about her; he wears his heart on his sleeve. Shakespeare had it in Othello (1:1): “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at.”

Someone who wears their heart on their sleeve shows their emotions and feelings publicly.

To make your feelings and opinions obvious to other people.

“John’s always worn his heart on his sleeve, so there’s no doubt who he’ll be supporting.”

To show your feelings, esp. your love for someone.

” You always know where John stands because he wears his heart on his sleeve.”

Cheers to another awesome year in 2015! Count down starts today, H-9 before the new year!!! Yaaaay…^_^

Cheers,

Sien

Another good read: overcoming fear of vulnerability.

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[TED Talk] Vulnerability in Life (reminder for myself)

Brené Brown:
The power of vulnerability
TEDxHouston · 20:19 · Filmed Jun 2010

Transcript

0:11 So, I’ll start with this: a couple years ago, an event planner called me because I was going to do a speaking event. And she called, and she said, “I’m really struggling with how to write about you on the little flyer.” And I thought, “Well, what’s the struggle?” And she said, “Well, I saw you speak, and I’m going to call you a researcher, I think, but I’m afraid if I call you a researcher, no one will come, because they’ll think you’re boring and irrelevant.” (Laughter) And I was like, “Okay.” And she said, “But the thing I liked about your talk is you’re a storyteller. So I think what I’ll do is just call you a storyteller.” And of course, the academic, insecure part of me was like, “You’re going to call me a what?” And she said, “I’m going to call you a storyteller.” And I was like, “Why not magic pixie?” (Laughter) I was like, “Let me think about this for a second.” I tried to call deep on my courage. And I thought, you know, I am a storyteller. I’m a qualitative researcher. I collect stories; that’s what I do. And maybe stories are just data with a soul. And maybe I’m just a storyteller. And so I said, “You know what? Why don’t you just say I’m a researcher-storyteller.” And she went, “Haha. There’s no such thing.” (Laughter) So I’m a researcher-storyteller, and I’m going to talk to you today — we’re talking about expanding perception — and so I want to talk to you and tell some stories about a piece of my research that fundamentally expanded my perception and really actually changed the way that I live and love and work and parent.

1:46 And this is where my story starts. When I was a young researcher, doctoral student, my first year I had a research professor who said to us, “Here’s the thing, if you cannot measure it, it does not exist.” And I thought he was just sweet-talking me. I was like, “Really?” and he was like, “Absolutely.” And so you have to understand that I have a bachelor’s in social work, a master’s in social work, and I was getting my Ph.D. in social work, so my entire academic career was surrounded by people who kind of believed in the “life’s messy, love it.” And I’m more of the, “life’s messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box.” (Laughter) And so to think that I had found my way, to found a career that takes me — really, one of the big sayings in social work is, “Lean into the discomfort of the work.” And I’m like, knock discomfort upside the head and move it over and get all A’s. That was my mantra. So I was very excited about this. And so I thought, you know what, this is the career for me, because I am interested in some messy topics. But I want to be able to make them not messy. I want to understand them. I want to hack into these things I know are important and lay the code out for everyone to see.

3:08 So where I started was with connection. Because, by the time you’re a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice and mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is — neurobiologically that’s how we’re wired — it’s why we’re here. So I thought, you know what, I’m going to start with connection. Well, you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things you do really awesome, and one thing — an “opportunity for growth?” (Laughter) And all you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right? Well, apparently this is the way my work went as well, because, when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.

4:18 So very quickly — really about six weeks into this research — I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn’t understand or had never seen. And so I pulled back out of the research and thought, I need to figure out what this is. And it turned out to be shame. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? The things I can tell you about it: it’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” — which we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.

5:31 And you know how I feel about vulnerability. I hate vulnerability. And so I thought, this is my chance to beat it back with my measuring stick. I’m going in, I’m going to figure this stuff out, I’m going to spend a year, I’m going to totally deconstruct shame, I’m going to understand how vulnerability works, and I’m going to outsmart it. So I was ready, and I was really excited. As you know, it’s not going to turn out well. (Laughter) You know this. So, I could tell you a lot about shame, but I’d have to borrow everyone else’s time. But here’s what I can tell you that it boils down to — and this may be one of the most important things that I’ve ever learned in the decade of doing this research. My one year turned into six years: thousands of stories, hundreds of long interviews, focus groups. At one point, people were sending me journal pages and sending me their stories — thousands of pieces of data in six years. And I kind of got a handle on it.

6:34 I kind of understood, this is what shame is, this is how it works. I wrote a book, I published a theory, but something was not okay — and what it was is that, if I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness — that’s what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness — they have a strong sense of love and belonging — and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if they’re good enough. There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those.

7:51 What do these people have in common? I have a slight office supply addiction, but that’s another talk. So I had a manila folder, and I had a Sharpie, and I was like, what am I going to call this research? And the first words that came to my mind were whole-hearted. These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. So I wrote at the top of the manila folder, and I started looking at the data. In fact, I did it first in a four-day very intensive data analysis, where I went back, pulled these interviews, pulled the stories, pulled the incidents. What’s the theme? What’s the pattern? My husband left town with the kids because I always go into this Jackson Pollock crazy thing, where I’m just like writing and in my researcher mode. And so here’s what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

9:39 The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

10:43 I personally thought it was betrayal. I could not believe I had pledged allegiance to research, where our job — you know, the definition of research is to control and predict, to study phenomena, for the explicit reason to control and predict. And now my mission to control and predict had turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting. This led to a little breakdown — (Laughter) — which actually looked more like this. (Laughter) And it did. I call it a breakdown; my therapist calls it a spiritual awakening. A spiritual awakening sounds better than breakdown, but I assure you it was a breakdown. And I had to put my data away and go find a therapist. Let me tell you something: you know who you are when you call your friends and say, “I think I need to see somebody. Do you have any recommendations?” Because about five of my friends were like, “Wooo. I wouldn’t want to be your therapist.” (Laughter) I was like, “What does that mean?” And they’re like, “I’m just saying, you know. Don’t bring your measuring stick.” I was like, “Okay.”

12:02 So I found a therapist. My first meeting with her, Diana — I brought in my list of the way the whole-hearted live, and I sat down. And she said, “How are you?” And I said, “I’m great. I’m okay.” She said, “What’s going on?” And this is a therapist who sees therapists, because we have to go to those, because their B.S. meters are good. (Laughter) And so I said, “Here’s the thing, I’m struggling.” And she said, “What’s the struggle?” And I said, “Well, I have a vulnerability issue. And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help.” And I said, “But here’s the thing: no family stuff, no childhood shit.” (Laughter) “I just need some strategies.” (Laughter) (Applause) Thank you. So she goes like this. (Laughter) And then I said, “It’s bad, right?” And she said, “It’s neither good nor bad.” (Laughter) “It just is what it is.” And I said, “Oh my God, this is going to suck.”

13:38 (Laughter)

13:41 And it did, and it didn’t. And it took about a year. And you know how there are people that, when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they surrender and walk into it. A: that’s not me, and B: I don’t even hang out with people like that. (Laughter) For me, it was a yearlong street fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.

14:14 And so then I went back into the research and spent the next couple of years really trying to understand what they, the whole-hearted, what choices they were making, and what are we doing with vulnerability. Why do we struggle with it so much? Am I alone in struggling with vulnerability? No. So this is what I learned. We numb vulnerability — when we’re waiting for the call. It was funny, I sent something out on Twitter and on Facebook that says, “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?” And within an hour and a half, I had 150 responses. Because I wanted to know what’s out there. Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid off; laying off people — this is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.

15:23 And I think there’s evidence — and it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it’s a huge cause — we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. (Laughter) I don’t want to feel these. And I know that’s knowing laughter. I hack into your lives for a living. God. (Laughter) You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

16:47 One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. And it doesn’t just have to be addiction. The other thing we do is we make everything that’s uncertain certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. I’m right, you’re wrong. Shut up. That’s it. Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are. This is what politics looks like today. There’s no discourse anymore. There’s no conversation. There’s just blame. You know how blame is described in the research? A way to discharge pain and discomfort. We perfect. If there’s anyone who wants their life to look like this, it would be me, but it doesn’t work. Because what we do is we take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks. (Laughter) Which just, I hope in 100 years, people will look back and go, “Wow.”

17:50 (Laughter)

17:52 And we perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you what we think about children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, “Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade.” That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, “You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” That’s our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we’ll end the problems I think that we see today. We pretend that what we do doesn’t have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that corporate — whether it’s a bailout, an oil spill, a recall — we pretend like what we’re doing doesn’t have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo, people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say, “We’re sorry. We’ll fix it.”

19:01 But there’s another way, and I’ll leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

20:05 That’s all I have. Thank you.

20:07 (Applause)