The Top 5 Letters in My Alphabet

My February series was a doozy for me, but I keep thinking about how much  I learned about discipline in my writing from it. I’ve also been reflecting on what caught people’s eye the most.

Here are the most popular posts of the alphabet:

5. B is for Books – 4 Reasons to Pick Up a Book Right Now

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4. C is for Change – How to Make a Change Right This Second

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3. S is for Start – What You Need to Do Right No to Jump Start Your Passions

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2. F is for Faith – The Beginner’s Guide to Writing About Faith

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1. A is for Asian Americans – What You Need to Know About the Asian American Identity

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Which one of these stands out to you the most? How about in the rest of the series? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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Q is for Quiet

My clarinet teacher used to tell me, “You’re so talented, but nobody would ever know that.” Or, some variation on that message.

I think this was a compliment, but also a comment at my lack of confidence in myself. Josh and I recently had a conversation about this, too. He mentioned that the reason that I don’t receive as much recognition as my colleagues is probably because I don’t draw attention to the things that I do. And, it’s true. I don’t draw attention to what I’m doing, I mostly hide. And, I mostly hide because maybe I fear criticism more than I long for praise.

Josh mentioned this again when I was sharing an idea that I had. He encouraged me to tell the other people involved, but I told him I didn’t want to. I told him that I’d rather him just suggest it. And, he brought back to my mind the words of my clarinet teacher. He told me that nobody will ever know of the good ideas that I have unless I’m the one sharing them.

But, I mostly want to hide. It’s safer to hide.

Growing up, my family thought that I was the loud, outgoing one. But, I always remember being the quiet girl at school. I was quiet because I was scared of other people and what they might think of me. I was quiet because I was scared to be wrong. I was quiet because it took so much energy and nerve to speak out.

I’m not always quiet, but it is a comfy, security blanket that I often pull over me when I get scared or tired. When I get scared, I get quiet.

I don’t think being quiet is a bad thing. I think there is strength in being quiet.  Susan Cain delivered a powerful TED talk about this idea of the power of introverts. She has also written a book about this concept. She gives way to affirming the style of thinking, processing, and connecting that an introvert has juxtaposed to a world that is made for extroverts.

I don’t think that being quiet is bad thing, and I don’t know that my talents remaining hidden or out of the spotlight is necessarily a bad thing. I don’t want to share my ideas, talents, or gifts for the sake of recognition. I also don’t want to hide them for the fear of criticism. And, I certainly don’t want to be in a state of hiding that the ideas, talents, and gifts that I have are not maximized to their full potential.

I think that there is a way to use my quietness as a strength, but I’m just not sure what that looks like yet. What do you think?

O is for Opinion

The opinion of others is something that plagues me. For many years, I’ve allowed the opinion of others to control me, dictate my self worth, and determine my moods. I’ve given over my power and agency to others’ opinions. And for that, my mental health has suffered and my joy has been hastily given away.

I allow others’ opinions of me take over my own opinions of myself. I let their views on who I am dictate how I see myself. If they think that I’m inadequate, invisible, or insignificant, I begin to see myself in that way too. If they see that I’m outstanding, exceeding their expectations, and amazing, I begin to see myself in that way too. It truly is a double edged sword.

The cousin to opinion is comparison. I compare the opinions that people have of another person to be in direct link to me. If she is getting all the attention and I’m not, that must mean that she is worthy of the attention and I’m not. If they see her to be impressive and awesome, they must not be seeing me that way either.

In reality, a lot of what I perceive to be others opinions may not even be true. And, even if it is, how much does it really matter? Josh is a king at not caring about the opinion of others.

If they don’t matter, then their opinion doesn’t matter.  – Joshua Lee

At first, I thought that this was a bit harsh. Everybody matters, at least to me. 😉 But, this isn’t about anybody’s worth or value. This is about specific people’s influence over my life. I can’t walk through life disregarding every single person’s opinion. I don’t think that’s wise or responsible. However, I can’t walk through life regarding and giving whim to every single person’s opinion, either.

When evaluating another person’s opinion, it’s important to ask myself these questions:
  1. Are they in my inner circle? There are few people in my inner circle, to whom I would really allow to help shape and guide the bigger decisions in my life. These are people that know me deeply and fully. These are wise people who want the best for me and are truly in my corner.
  2. Is the opinion real or assumed? It’s easy for me to think that “everyone” has a poor opinion of me when the compliments and affirmation run dry. It’s easy to think that nobody likes me or that everybody hates me when I receive small criticisms or feedback. Yet, I can only go off of what people say to me. I can’t assume the opinion of a large group of people, or project one piece of feedback onto a whole crowd of people.
  3. This doesn’t say anything about my worth. This isn’t a question, but it’s a statement. When somebody else’s opinion of me is confirmed as reality (which, let’s face it, it rarely is…because nobody is criticizing or critiquing me nearly as much as I assume), it doesn’t say anything about my worth, value, beauty, gifts, or identity. Period. Case closed.

M is for Marriage

I wrote this list when Josh and I were engaged. We had been thinking, reading, and talking a lot about how to “prepare” for our marriage. After awhile of talking about something for so much, there’s nothing else to say and there comes a time where you just have to walk through it.

After almost two years have passed, I see that these ideas are more true than I realized at the time. Here they are:

Things I thought I learned about marriage before it even started, but are still true today:
  1. Getting married doesn’t mean you have arrived. *girl tells story about problems in dating* “And look at us now, we’re married! So it all worked out!!!” ………No. Getting married does not make you a success story and it does not mean that you have arrived. It’s just the beginning. Marriage isn’t a trophy you tote around to talk about your success and victory in dating. No.
  2. Your past sin is not going to ruin your marriage. Maybe this one has a caveat. It won’t ruin your marriage…unless you let it. If it hasn’t been dealt with and brought into the light, then yes. If there is unforgiveness, then yes. I get where the idea that it’s going to doom your marriage would come from. But, just because it existed, that doesn’t mean that your marriage will suffer. There is healing. There is redemption. Jesus didn’t command purity so that when we failed he could use our failure to withhold good from us in the future. He commanded purity because it is for our good.
  3. Getting married doesn’t mean you have to have it all together. I’ve had this idea of what I would be like and what my husband would be like when we got married. It included perfection, an absence of sin, unwavering understanding of each other, and unattainable levels of maturity. That’s not reality. Our problems won’t be solved just because we get married. It isn’t some magical fairy land where the world stops and all your problems go away. Life goes on and the world keeps moving.

On this Valentine’s Day, Josh and I spent time thinking about our marriage and what it means. It’s crazy that tomorrow we are are speaking to college students about marriage. I hesitated to sign onto this because I just feel so beginner. Our marriage is in its’ beginnings still, we are finding our footing, and we are learning a lot.

I hope that we never stop learning a lot.

Through it all, I’m thankful for the parallel of Christ and the Church and a husband and wife. I’m thankful that the redemption that is easily seen in marriage, and for the joy it is to journey in the ups and downs with my favorite friend, partner, and husband.

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I’m thankful for this guy and for everything that makes him who he is. Thanks for making me smile this hard every single day. This one’s for you, Josh. I love you so much.

H is for Help

Sometimes you can ask for help, and it’s actually beneficial. But, sometimes you can’t ask for help and you’ve just got to figure things out on your own.

When Josh and I went to Chicago with our friends Grace and Elizabeth, we learned this lesson the hard way. We decided to go on a tower tour, but granted that everyone else and their children wanted to go their too at precisely the same time, there was obviously a line. There wasn’t much we could do about it, so we just stayed in line and hoped that our rental car wouldn’t get towed if the parking meter ran out before we could get back to it.

The tower was super cool and totally worth it. But, when we finally got through with it, we realized there were about 10 minutes left on the parking meter and we were a whiles away. We walked at our fastest walking pace, until we realized that that wasn’t going to do us any good. We straight up started jogging through the streets because…why not?

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As we got closer, we started saying “Okay, good. We’re close. We’re close.” Except…where exactly was the car? I think it was the intersection of this street and that one. But, it wasn’t not here. What.

After turning down 2 streets, we decided to split up. Two of us running like lost puppies one way and two the other. Panting like a dog, Elizabeth and I finally found the car as we raced up to it and hugged it gently.

Now, I’m sure we definitely looked like we needed help. Lost tourists running around the streets with seemingly no end in sight. Yet, stopping to ask for help would not have helped at all. Nobody knew where we parked the car, not even us.

I find myself in this dilemma a lot. There are probably a lot of things that I could ask for help on. Things that I don’t understand or that I’m not sure about. I’m sure that I could take other people’s opinions for what they’re worth and form my own based on the information that they can provide. But, that takes a lot of time, and when you’re searching for something that only you know the location of, it’s kind of a waste of time to stop and ask other people where the car is.

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I began writing about this idea of help thinking that my story was all about the benefits of asking for help. But, I think there is something to be said for independent thinking and self-trust. I see this a lot in my students, where they will insist on getting help with something before they’ve taken several steps to figure it out on their own.

In the end, I think it’s a balance.

I think it is both. I think that knowing when to ask for help versus when to take things on your own is a skill that is important to develop. It’s not okay to not ask for help if your in an abusive situation. It’s not okay to not ask for help if you are struggling with a mental illness and there’s literally no physical way to change the chemical state of your brain. There’s a host of other situations where it’s not okay to not ask for help, I’m sure.

Yet, at the same time, it’s okay to trust yourself and be confident in what you know. It’s okay for me to recognize the unique experiences and skill sets that I have, and trust my own intuition and act independently.

For me, it’s easier to not ask for help. It’s easier to avoid difficult situations or find a different way if I reach a struggle that I need help with. Yet, I continue to learn this balance of judgment. Both in times where I’m forced to ask other people for help, and when I’m forced to find my own dang car and not ask anybody for help.

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