Be like a dustbin with a hole in the bottom

What the heck kind of quote is that, you ask?

It’s actually from one of Ajahn Brahm’s many amazing published books called Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?

Who is this Ajahn Brahm? No, he’s not a Thai poet (that’s the first thing I thought of). He’s a Buddhist monk and a very famous one at that. Okay, maybe famous isn’t the word I should use. Well-known, perhaps. Famous sounds… inappropriate for a monk.

Anyway, Ajahn Brahm is a Buddhist monk (you can read about him here) and we’ve had the privilege of attending two or three of his talks. He is an amazing speaker who has so many wonderful, touching and enlightening stories to tell. I can only hope that I get to attend more of his talks. If you do attend one of his talks, look out for the person bawling her eyes out at his stories… That would be me. Also, if you like, you can listen to some of his talks on Youtube or download them from this site.

At the latest talk we went to a few months (or has it been a year) back, it was revealed that he had released a new book – entitled Good? Bad? Who knows? – and it was being sold outside the hall but if I remember correctly, the reason why we didn’t get his book then was because 1) the lines were really long or 2) it would have been sold out by the time we joined the queue.

Which is why we said that when we got here, we would order it from Amazon. My sister recently brought this topic up at dinner and I was like, oh that’s right, we meant to do that. It was also around that time when I re-discovered Thich Nhat Hanh – another Buddhist monk whose book A Pebble for Your Pocket is one of my favorite books that I read while growing up – and began to look up more of his books.

You’d really like to know how much time I spent browsing all the Buddhist books, wouldn’t you? I was so tempted to get them all BUT…

As a surprise (and I’ll just admit that I’m bad at keeping surprises) and after going through the list of books over and over again, I ordered Ajahn Brahm’s Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? and Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Communicating.

I bought Ajahn Brahm’s book as a gift for my mom and sister. Often times, with things (aka life)¬† happening so quickly or coming down at you, it’s so hard to remember to be positive or understanding or less judgmental/temperamental. Which is why I thought it would be a good idea to get these books.

I wrote a bunch of stuff but deleted it because felt like it was getting off-topic so let me try to direct this post to the main point I was getting to.

Before my mom went home, I decided to browse through Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? and I stumbled upon this page that spoke volumes to me. I had a sudden aha! moment, an epiphany if you will. It was like Ajahn Brahm had written that page just for me.

Before I tell you what I read, I’ll tell you the thing that has been bugging me for quite a while now. I had an empathy burnout. Or at least I believed that I did. I was so tired from giving my all to everyone that I felt empty and weary. I ran out of consoling things to say, I started to lose my patience quickly, I didn’t want to listen to people’s problems anymore, I began to wonder if my heart had gone cold. I actually read that people can have empathy burnouts where they are drained and need to have time to themselves to recharge.

But that didn’t happen. I waited for my empathy to be recharged so that I could continue giving my all and doing my best for everyone around me. I HATED being ‘cold’. I used to pride myself on having empathy. I wanted so bad for things to go back to the way they were – when I could listen to people’s problems, cry with them, laugh with them, console them, lift their spirits, be their rock. But it didn’t happen. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong or what I was supposed to do.

I continued questioning my ‘coldness’ until I read that one page in Ajahn Brahm’s book. I actually have two quotes from the book even though the title of this post only has one.

The first reads:

To help a person out of a pit, I must sometimes enter the pit myself to reach for their hand – but I always remember to bring the ladder – Ajahn Brahm

I was SO moved by this line because I remember drawing a small comic of myself helping people out of the pit but inadvertently falling in as well. I was mildly depressed when I drew that comic. I was overwhelmed by my emotions, by other people’s emotions, by my helplessness, by my empathy burnout.

I forgot to bring the ladder! I didn’t know I needed one!

But it makes sense to me now.

The other excerpt from the page read:

He* told us to be like a dustbin with a hole in the bottom! We were to receive all the rubbish but to keep none. Therefore an effective friend, or counselor, is like a dustbin with no bottom, and is never too full to listen to another problem. – Ajahn Brahm

Then I understood. I know it sounds dramatic but it was like someone had struck a match inside a dark and damp cave.

I’ve been receiving AND keeping. That was is my problem. I let people’s problems pile on and on and on until the load on my shoulders feels unbearable. My bin is full. I didn’t open the bottom lid (if you have a Hoover vacuum, you probably know what I’m talking about) to empty the trash. I need to let go of all the old baggage that is weighing me down.

If you’re thinking that by being a bin with no bottom means listening but not giving a shit about people’s problems, that’s really not what it means. As Thich Nhat Hanh put it so simply, if we learn to understand someone else’s and our own suffering, compassion arises. With compassion, we can be bottomless bins. To me, it means that you help with what you can and after that, you don’t let it weigh you down or keep you from moving forwards.

People don’t change overnight so it’s taking me time and effort to remember these two pieces of advice and practice it.

But I get it now and just thought I would share it with anyone who is going through the same thing as myself.

I would also like to offer my own piece of advice: if you’re in that pit, don’t forget to look up. Sometimes you may be so caught up in your own despair that you might not even notice that there may be people stretching their hands out to you to help you out. My mom and sister have been here for me and for that, I’m grateful.

P.S: You don’t have to be Buddhist to listen to Ajahn Brahm’s talks. They are for everybody and anybody.

* the ‘he’ in Ajahn Brahm’s quote refers to Ajahn Chah who was another incredibly wise monk and Ajahn Brahm’s master.


Are you actually enough?

Ah, I think to myself, you did well today. You got up early, made early Twitter conversation with old friends, watched the K Season 3 preview trailer (cue deafening cheering and confetti showers and champagne popping), made lunch for both of you, you’ve got dinner all planned out, you remembered to pack all your lab stuff, and left the house early to get to school on time.

You did well. You found a lovely parking spot on campus but out of concern for the bouncing truck parked diagonally in front of you, you got back into the car and backed into a parking further from that hazard of a truck.

You were attentive in class, took your notes diligently without feeling bored or annoyed like in yesterday’s class, you didn’t do too bad in today’s lab, you got along fine with your group members and you’re beginning to think that they would make decent friends. You even found out that a group member has a textbook you need and is willing to lend it to you, thus saving you potential textbook money.

You found a lovely table in the library (even if it was further than your usual spot), you were fairly productive during the two-hour break in the library…

Well, except for the little bit of news that you heard from your friend who shared the table with you.

“X is taking 21 units!” she told you.

“Wait, no, I thought she’s taking 17…”

“No, 21. That’s crazy.”

And suddenly you felt like someone wrung a wet towel down your neck because you’re only taking 15 units. You suddenly felt useless and started putting yourself down and telling yourself that you suck and aren’t doing enough and why the heck didn’t you take 21 units.

But you managed to put that aside after that and forgot about it in your haste to get to your next class where you learned fascinating things about triceratops. You left class, feeling refreshed and more knowledgeable about paleoecology.

You did well, I tell myself. You spent the next hour studying for your midterms which is rare since you usually don’t start studying this early. You wanted to put the book away and listen to music instead but you used that time to finish off an entire chapter.

For the first time in a long time, I was actually feeling good about myself. As someone who struggles with self-esteem and involuntarily compares myself to others, I find it hard to pat myself on the back and say, well done today. I struggle with telling myself, You’re doing enough, you’re enough.

Not today. Today I had a skip in my step… until I came home and heard a little story.

“So-and-so’s daughter is younger than you, works 7 days a week even though her parents are effing loaded, is going to study abroad at some top university, and her parents even bought her a house there. Oh yeah, she’s also going to makeup school so that she can get a certificate that she can add to her undoubtedly flawless resume that just screams HIRE ME I’M PRACTICALLY PERFECT.”

Oh. Wow.


That is great. That feeling of accomplishment went right out the door faster than I could say OI!

The thing I really don’t need to hear is stories about how accomplished other people’s children are.

But wait, don’t you want to hear what they’ve done in the 19 years of their life so far?

They can play 400 instruments including 45 variants of the guitar, the number of As they have on their report card can wrap around the Earth three times, they play 75 types of sports and are on their way to become pro golfers that earn 7 figures, they write children’s stories and literature that Enid Blyton and Shakespeare could only wish they wrote in their lifetime, they graduated from Ivy League universities and have 3 PhDs in some unknown but lucrative field, they have full scholarships even though their parents practically have cash flowing from their ears, they are corporate CEOs by day and Youtube celebs by night, they can tame tigers and do somersaults on horseback, they can cook blindfolded…

And what exactly did you do?

Oh, you made breakfast, lunch, AND dinner for yourself and your sister? You studied for midterms and didn’t screw up in lab today? What, you think that’s worthy of a mention in every day conversation?

This is an Asian parent thing. Not all, but most. I know because I grew up experiencing both sides of parenting: the Asian and the non-Asian.

Can you tell why my self-esteem hasn’t made much of an appearance in my life?

I’ve been told that this method of comparing your child to other people’s children is some kind of reverse psychology that is actually supposed to motivate you to do better.

It. doesn’t. work.

What it does is kill your self-esteem and self-worth in the long run. If it doesn’t kill yours, congratulations, you are made of steel.

Can you tell why I always feel inadequate, like I’m not doing enough, like I should be doing more, like I should be taking on the world?

It sucks. It really sucks to have to hear these kinds of things. Someone’s always waaay more accomplished than you while your measly dean’s list accomplishment can just vanish beneath their endless pile of glorious achievements.

Can I not just be a normal college student who is trying to do her best in her studies and especially when she’s miles away from home?

All I need at the end of the day when I feel like I’ve done well is a small, ‘I’m proud of you’ or just the teeniest tiniest ‘good job’? Even a smiley face would suffice.

That’d be nice. That’d be more than enough.

Which is why I get choked up when I check my messages and find a ‘you’re doing great, I’m so proud of you’ sent to me.

Which is why I want to tell you, whoever you are, if you’re feeling like worthless crap today or tomorrow, you’re doing enough. You don’t have to do everything to feel like you’re enough.

P.S: I’m not saying that only one parent has been supportive of me. I get encouragement from both.

Double P.S: When I told my sister how inadequate I felt about not taking 21 units like X, she told me with all the wisdom of a younger sister that I love and am so grateful for: So? She lives on campus; she doesn’t have to cook, clean, drive, take care of rental or bills, etc. Don’t compare yourself to her. And that’s the truth.


My sister’s tip on how to build self-confidence

1. Watch Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan).
snk12. Shout ‘Tatakae’ to yourself after your shower every day (tatakae means fight in Japanese).
eren3. Ta-da! Self-confidence built.

ConfidenceResizeAdvice was given to me in the bathroom. Advice not to be taken seriously… if you haven’t watched Shingeki no Kyojin.

Haha, I found this funny so I had to share.

How do you boost your self-confidence? Let me know.


And they said…

I wish that I could be like the cool kids.

Cool Kids – Echosmith

Guys, we have discovered our first and new favorite English song of 2014. So going to a volunteer center does have its benefits aka involuntarily listening to the radio. We heard Cool Kids on the radio and when I came home, I Googled the song. That is how we found Echosmith, my friends.

The lyrics of this song is pretty spot-on too. I think everyone at some point in their lives has had that ‘I wish I were in the cool clique’ moment. And it depends on how much that thought actually affects them because I have seen some friends go to a ridiculous extent just to try to fit in. It’s sad but true. I suppose I wish there was some kind of conclusion in the lyrics like telling kids that ‘cool kids’ are not everything (which they are not) but I guess it could be a cliffhanger ending.

It’s a catchy song with a cool beat. We’re not really into indie but nowadays we don’t go for labels. We like what we like whether it’s heavy metal or synth pop or indie folk (is there even such a genre?). So… are we in on the loop again? I haven’t gotten ANY references to recent music in the past 2 years so I think we deserve some kind of award ahaha.

Can I have hair like Sydney’s? Lol. Sydney reminds me of Mandy Moore. A lot. They’re both gorgeous and talented.

We will be keepin’ an eye out for more music from Echosmith.

On a side note…

Kids out there, ‘cool kids’ in high school are not everything. They may look like they’re having the most fun or ‘having it all’ but trust me, you’re pretty cool without trying to be like them. Be grateful for what you have and know that you are unique even if you’re clique-less.

I knew a ‘cool girl’ in school – we attended the same elementary and high school – and I remember coming home one day and telling my mom that she’s the ‘cool’ type.

And this is how our conversation went:

Mom: who says she’s cool?

Me: well, she’s popular and hangs out with the other cool kids.

Mom: pfft, who is to say who is cool or not? So she’s popular. So what?

Me: -thinking my mom doesn’t get it because um, obviously cool kids are different- she’s very uppity-up, you know… just because she’s cool. She doesn’t talk to me because she’s too cool for me.

Mom: wait, hold on, what exactly does ‘cool’ mean in the first place? What qualities deem a person ‘cool’ or not?

Me: @_@ -stumped-

Mom: well, I think you’re cool so now that makes you just as cool, doesn’t it? Don’t pay those ‘cool kids’ any mind. Just do your thing. So what if she doesn’t talk to you?

This may seem like just another ‘my mom thinks I’m cool’ story (there is nothing wrong with that because your mom’s support should mean the goddamned world to you) but it helped me move past that ‘omg I’m not a cool kid’ phase. It’s not to say that I didn’t still get those feelings around popular kids but it was usually a touch-and-go feeling. Nowadays I sometimes still do wonder why I’m not in a clique and it’s only normal when you’re around people who are in groups but at the end of the day, I’m me so yeah.

When I first heard Mike Posner’s ‘Cooler Than Me’, I immediately pictured this ‘cool girl’ and have since associated with her every time I hear it. Um, the irony being that I heard it on the radio right after Echosmith’s ‘Cool Kids’.

Funny thing, this ‘cool girl’ who didn’t speak to me for many years now follows me on Twitter and we occasionally have conversations. Haha. So there you have it. High school is tricky, believe me I know it, but you’ll get through and maybe after you’re done, you’ll look back and be like, WHAT? I was bothered by such trivial things?

And how did this post turn into a long rambling one about high school and popular kids lol?

P.S: Who else thinks that Cool Kids is reminiscent of Jodi Watley’s I’m Looking For a New Love?


Things you first need when moving into an apartment: student edition

Since moving into our new place, I’ve realized that I wish I had known a few things about moving across continents to study. Precisely why I’ve put together this post for students who are just as clueless about moving into a brand new unfurnished apartment in a country completely foreign to them.

I do feel the need to point that this post is US-oriented so you might have to improvise a bit if you’re elsewhere and there is no Target or whatever.

1. Antibacterial wipes

Go to your nearest Target or Walmart or Costco (if you’re like us and are always needing to wipe something down with and need half a dozen bottles of Lysol wipes) and pick up a bottle of Lysol wipes. You will not be sorry. They’re good for everything.

No doubt the apartment will clean your apartment before handing you the keys (though it’s really hard to say whether they do a good job of cleaning or not) but you should really consider wiping things like the toilet bowl, door knobs, counter tops, light switches and just about any surface that you will be touching quite often.

2. Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, towel)

So you may have packed these and brought them with you or you might have accidentally left out something or you were thinking of buying these upon arrival – it doesn’t matter. As long as by the end of the day you got your stuff, you’re good.

You’ll be needing this before you turn in for the night and when you wake up, right?

I know they sell toothpaste at dollar stores so you might want to check that out. Or if you’re thinking long-term, go to Costco and get the 6-pack (or was it 4?). Target had this awesome selection of towels and they were going for a good price so I got one.

3. Bed sheets and pillows

Hopefully you move in AFTER you buy your bed. If you don’t and assuming you don’t have a couch, I’d probably recommend getting an airbed. Airbeds are not too bad in terms of comfort and they come in handy if you ever go camping or stay over at a friend’s place.

So you’ve got your bed, now go get your sheets and pillows. Target has some really cute options especially around August when they have College/Back to School selections but if you’re going for something more affordable, Walmart is the way to go. Tip: if you don’t like ‘hairy’ bedsheets (because I don’t), get the sheets with a higher thread count.

4. Chairs/table

No table, no problem. Chairs are probably what you need more than a table since they are easier to load into a car and you can actually sit on it. We got 4 chairs from Target for $20 each. I know. Why are chairs so expensive? But wait, you have even seen the office chairs? They go for about $80-$150.

I would also recommend getting a dining table first so that you can eat at it. And here’s a tip from me to you, just get a sturdy six foot long table instead of a fancy dining table set. If only IKEA delivered. We planned on going down to get some furniture but then we remembered the fiasco we encountered at Canada’s IKEA where we couldn’t even LIFT the box from the warehouse onto the cart. Yeah, so that was out. I also read reviews that it’s always madness in the IKEAs.

But who needs IKEA when you have Costco delivery?! We ordered two tables from Costco and they were delivered SUPER fast. I literally got the second table the next day!! Kudos to you, Costco. The only problem we ran into was trying to get the dang table out of the box. It took 3 people to do it. Anyone know any tips for getting a table out of its box?

5. Adapters

Let’s just assume that you’re coming from a country with different battery adapters. It’s such a hassle to have to get different¬†adapters for different countries but thank goodness for universal battery adapters.

6. Clothes hangers

We got a bunch from The Dollar Tree but then Target also had great back-to-school sales on household items so we got another bunch. You should see our closet. They are a range of bright pink and green clothes hangers. I was against buying so many but seriously, they’re useful for everything. I will buy more if I see them on sale.

7. Plastic bags

I feel like plastic bags are so necessary whenever you are. They are good for garbage, collecting clean and dirty laundry (if you haven’t already got a laundry basket), keeping all the small things, as an alternate for gloves, wrapping stuff…

Um, who needs those kitchen trash bags with drawstrings when you have plastic bags that you get from grocery stores that you’re going to throw away anyway? #theasianwayisthegreenway

8. Water

Bottled water to be specific. If you’re like us and don’t drink tap water, get yourself a crate of bottled water to last you the first few weeks before you settle down in your new home. You’ll be so tired from running around and moving furniture and going to school that you won’t have time to boil water or even wait for it to cool down.


I personally would rather go to Target because Walmart is, well, Walmart but things are cheap so sometimes it’s just better. But here’s something I learned: shop online from Walmart. Stuff gets to your doorstep and you don’t even have to set foot in there. Awesome? I think so.

Any questions on where to buy other stuff? Let me know, I’ll be more than happy to send you in the right (read: affordable) direction. If you have any tips or know of any more affordable options, feel free to list them in the comments.


Life goes on

More things that tick me off (read: what ticked me off today):


for your entertainment

A man being condescending to a woman because she’s a woman and he thinks that he is superior to her in certain (read: all) areas.

I’m sorry, just because you’re family does not give you any more right to think that a woman’s opinions are below you. In fact, it makes it worse.

Sorry, bruh, it’s the 21st century. Ain’t no Prince Charming going to come and kiss you to wake you up from your beauty slumber where you are obviously still living in the stone ages where men were superior to women. You might need a tight slap across the face from a woman to wake you up though.

make-you-flight-attendant-hate-you-19aI haven’t been very vocal like other bloggers about female power but it doesn’t mean I’m not behind it all the way. I am. I honestly believe that women can bloody well take charge and lead the way. Being a woman shouldn’t mean having your opinions scoffed at/cast aside as unimportant or having to do all the household chores or having your knowledge of ‘guy’ things believed to be less than a man’s.

I am so grateful for growing up around strong and capable women (and Asian, to boot). Like my mother, for example. She rules and you know it. My great-grandaunt who lived with us was a model example of what a kickass woman should be – compassionate, soft-spoken but capable and independent as all heck. She started her own business which is saying something since this was like 50-60 years ago back and at over age 75, she was still walking to the bank and handling her own stuff well.

That is not to say I’m against men or whatever the anti-feminism people say.

Life goes on… and will leave sexist people like you behind.

By the way, if you try to look for words of encouragement or comfort from Asians*, you’re better off giving yourself a pat on the back or wrapping your arms around yourself to give yourself a hug because you will most likely be faced with a) indifference, b) a ‘you got 105% on a test, big effing deal, it’s not enough, do more’ mentality, c) a ‘so-and-so’s child did better than that, why aren’t you doing the same’ declaration or d) all of the above.

* based on personal experience; also referring to most but not all

In other news, I am SWAMPED with homework and tests. Everything in this week, can you believe it? I haven’t caught a break this week and I feel like I might just bash my head on the table. Maybe why this crappy feeling hasn’t quite gone away.

While we’re on the topic of my previous post, my post was actually shared on someone’s site????? This puzzles me as to why someone would share a post about me ranting about my day. Which also made me very self-conscious after I saw the tweet because I immediately thought, did they do it in a sarcastic ‘look at this ranting idiot’s post’ way? But then I thought what the hell, we’re human, we have bad days and we can freaking talk about it if we want. And I could have just been overreacting. Maybe the person could relate to my post and found it interesting so they shared it. Whatever it is, I’m past it.

Part of me wants to eat my weight in pasta and potatoes and Thai curry to make myself feel better, part of me is rejecting the idea of food. You tell me what’s up. Okay, you know what, Thai curry actually sounds good.

In other less depressing and annoying news, today we ran into a new friend from the Japanese club that we joined (our first voluntary participation in a school club no less) and chatted for a bit. It was uplifting and gave me the boost of motivation to pick up where I left off with my Japanese learning (I was doing so well but have been slacking off because of exams and homework). I guess it wasn’t so much of what we talked about but more of his enthusiasm towards wanting to learn Japanese.

Okay, that’s all from me today.

Post title appropriately borrowed from Chemistry’s Life Goes On.