• For what it’s worth

    We live in a world constantly screaming for our attention. We’re being asked to download grief and rage at an alarmingly high rate, leaving our nervous systems shot and brains tired, burnt out by the onslaught of bad news that seems to only be getting worse. 

    We are a species of connection, which includes the subconscious desire to have our sorrow be seen and heard by other people. Yet many of us continue as normal. We wake up in the morning, brush our teeth, go to work, caught in the cycle of capitalism that convinced us we needed to perform labor for the near entirety of our lives in order to survive. 

    There is a lot to be upset about, but in case you weren’t thinking holistically, there has been for the last couple hundred years. What we see as current developments in rising extremism is the continuation of colonialist violence that much of this world was founded on. There is “evil” that lives in the hearts of many, but what makes it evil is simply a matter of perspective. What actually makes something violent is not the cognizant intent to harm (because often, those inflicting it don’t define it as such), but the dogmatic belief in being morally right. 

    There is a changing of collective consciousness — it’s not raising nor expanding, but we are certainly at a turning point. It’s time to mentally/spiritually/emotionally prepare ourselves. If history has taught us anything, it’s that the predictable fall of empire is messy and long. 

    I feel it everyday. These unpredictable summers marked by extreme heat and sudden, atypical cooling. The 60 degree temperature changes within the span of a day. The mass poverty, and houseless-ness, the way society looks away as if it all simply weren’t there. The death. The constant, constant death. You are supremely lucky when it is only in the news, and not in your community, when it is not the people you love being taken from you.

    Here’s my advice, which is worth nothing but at least maybe worth saying. Now is not the time to turn away. Now is not the time to fall into despair. There is only so much news worth watching. Our media cycle is at the heart of a lot of violence, stories fed to us by news corporations that don’t care for our health or well-being, only whether our eyeballs are on them, and whether their ratings can continue to line the pockets of their billionaire owners. Wherever you choose to get your news, discern carefully what they are wanting to tell you and why, don’t take it at face value, and then turn it off. 

    Go outside. Go spend time with people you love. Find ways to show up for your community, and if you don’t know who that is, make the effort to find it. Volunteer at your local library, food bank, community garden. Support your local abortion fund, and open your home to out-of-state folks needing a place to stay when they come to get one. 

    Donating money if you can afford it is great, sure, but nonprofits won’t fix this world, they can’t anyway, with how our society is structured, where care for others is only an afterthought to one’s own immediate needs. Real change involves actual engagement, and a contribution of one’s time and energy. 

    If you have the ability to, show up for your family. Cook meals, clean the house. If you can, be available for friends. Call them, text them, tell them how much you appreciate them. And seriously, go outside. Do you know what plants or flowers grow outside your window? You don’t have to know their names, but do you know when they bloom? Do you know what time of year they die, and do you know when they grow back? Do you know what birds nest in the tree outside your house? Again, you don’t need to know their names. Knowing is not just about knowledge, knowing is a feeling, it is familiarity, the same way you know a friend, the same way you know a neighbor. 

    No matter who you are or where you came from, we were all land-based peoples once. Everything — our food, our shelters, our clothes, our beliefs — were tied to the land and the relationship we had to it. Indigenous peoples have never forgotten this, and they are still here, they have never left, and they are asking you to pay attention. 

    Support organizations working to promote indigenous sovereignty and land rematriation. If you’re in the South Bay, you can start with South Bay Indigenous Solidarity. If you’re in SF/Oakland, support Sogorea’te Land Trust. Land acknowledgement is the tip of the iceberg. To start getting into right relationship with land, you have to start with your relationship to the original stewards of the land you live on. And even though it exists out of sight and out of mind, the violence of colonization is still happening daily, and we are all complicit in it, whether we like it or not. 

    I am constantly asking myself what it is I can do to do more, and I imagine many people are asking themselves the same. We long for control in a world that habitually takes it from us, and that in itself is a type of compensation for our own traumas. But I am learning to relinquish wanting control of what I never had control over to begin with and focusing on what I can make a difference in everyday. Often, the answer has been very obvious. 

    It’s showing up for people in my life that I care about. It’s being generous with others, whether that’s with money as a form of care, or with my time and attention. It’s being kind when my instinct is not to be. It’s having healthy boundaries. It’s giving myself space to know what those are. It’s giving myself permission to create art that’s meaningful, even if only to me, and knowing it doesn’t matter where it goes or what happens to it, but that I was fulfilled by the act of making it, and that is enough. 

    Transformation is happening, and the more we buy into the belief that we are separate and powerless, the more we give up our capacity for joy in the face of grief. There are no binaries, there actually isn’t such thing as “good” and “evil”. We are all alive, through some sheer, unexplainable miracle. Nothing is guaranteed to us: that people we love won’t die, or that the world as we know it will keep existing. But just because the possibility of a good outcome is not guaranteed, does not mean we give up, especially on each other. And as much as our lives are set up to condition us not to care, as much as it is easy to perpetuate separateness, scarcity, and apathy, it’s time we start emulating the exact opposite. Because honestly, we don’t really have much time left. 

  • On nesting syndrome, cycles and the ironies of growth

    On nesting syndrome, cycles and the ironies of growth

    My 20’s have been an electrifying, hilarious, and sometimes confusing whirlwind of loss, battles with doubt, wondrous euphoria, and restlessness. It’s just so funny that at 28, with so many cycles of growth behind me (and so many more left to go), I am more convinced than ever how much I truly am who I have always been: a little girl with eyes wide in wonder, becoming older and younger at the same time.

    There’s something beautiful about growing older, learning to fill up all the empty cracks in who I thought I would be, enough so to slowly push out the inklings of doubt that once kept me up at night. Or maybe it’s just that I truly believe in the work that I do, that despite the ups and downs, the frustrations and the boredoms, that I am able to recognize my emotional and spiritual fulfillment. I am learning to recognize the grander scheme of my life, that not only will there always be time for further exploration across different trajectories, but also that if I keep my feet on the ground, my heart level, and my mind clear, that everything will turn out alright.

    People always ask me why I come back to Nepal, and despite the endless essays I could write contextualizing every nuance, every smile and flash of light through the trees at sunset, every shared dinner and expression of gratitude — it all boils down to something more simple: I feel really fulfilled.

    Even if my work may never matter in the highest rungs of a CEO boardroom, I feel a deep sense of contentment from getting to plant trees, from working with my hands and building things out of the earth. Most of all, I am gratified by getting to create safe and inspiring places for children and girls, spaces that allow them to express themselves freely, and shape a different world in their minds and hearts than the one laid before them. The Nepalis use a word to describe a deep sense of joy from life’s experience, that is more constant than happiness or simple pleasure — ananda, which I believe is what I feel in this moment.

    I get to teach girls about their bodies, preventing them from early pregnancy in a society where education about contraceptives and sexual health is taboo. With the help of talented Nepali women, I get to facilitate spaces where girls can think critically about how institutions of marriage, family care, and political representation are unfairly biased against them. I am able to present my solidarity with them as an catalyst for them to feel solidarity with one another. Even as I get older and spend more time worrying about money, I still feel like it’s worth it.

    But who doesn’t worry about money? As someone who’s primary financial worry was filling up my gas tank, living in a rural part of an obstacle-ridden, developing country has forced more perspective on me than I ever cared to have. I remember going to Myanmar, and feeling upset then by the callousness of mahout (elephant caretaker) culture; deforestation by loggers with perpetually abused elephants, a practice I immediately deemed a result of “close-mindedness” and “ignorance”. The privileged cannot instinctively relate to being desperate for food, shelter, or water. We do not know what it is like to have zero options for upward mobility, for employment, for ways to feed our children. Someone said to me at the beginning of that trip that I’ve yet to forget: that every person is just trying to fill their bowl of rice, damned whatever consequences it wreaks on anyone or anything else.

    Which of course, explains what I’ve chosen to do with my life currently, to ask the question about whether it is possible for people to fill that bowl of rice without wreaking havoc on the environment — to actually feed themselves, their families, and find opportunities for mobility by giving back to the earth, and finding deeper connection with other people. To me, answering this question is worth it, even if it leaves a lot less money in my pocket. Nowadays, I care a lot less about what people think about me not having any money. And that took awhile, and maybe still has some ways to go.

    The funny dichotomy between 24 and 28 is how desperate I was 4 years ago to have purpose, to feel like my life made sense and there was a reason I was who I was, that it all wasn’t a blip on the radar in the expansive timeline of a miniature existence. Back then I romanticized travel, and the idea of living in exotic and foreign places, in hopes that doing so would make me better, wishing desperately for adventure more than anything else.

    Looking back from where I’m standing, I was funnily half-right about everything. My life has purpose, but not because I decided to live on the other side of the world for a couple months every year, but because I’m alive, and I’m me, and who that is is not defined by any external factor or career, but simply by what I value, and who I love and what I choose to do with my time. And traveling and living abroad did make me better, but in more ways, than I expected. I learned what it means to meet people where they’re at, that language and culture can define where peoples’ perspectives come from, but shouldn’t limit our ability to understand one another. I’ve learned that despite the differences in values and circumstances, people all around the world are universally the same, regardless of what always appears to be dissimilar on the surface. Globetrotting to beautiful places, snapping well-choreographed photos, and deriving pleasure for oneself through nicely-pampered travel experiences is not in and of itself a bad thing — but it will not teach you much about yourself (or the world, for that matter).

    And as for adventure? Well life is always full of that, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the more extreme circumstances I’ve encountered of avoiding landslides from the roof of a bus or chasing monkeys out of the garden — it can also be making a child laugh, or baking a surprise birthday cake, or realizing what it truly means to love another person.

    I’ve hung out the side of a moving train as it passed over a canyon, breathlessly climbed snow-covered mountains, wandered in solitude across untouched beaches and in cities where no one knew my name. Chasing adventure is what I once deemed to be the most important thing in my life. And you know what that thing is now?

    It’s sitting at home with the people I love, and drinking a cup of coffee on the couch. It’s driving down the California coastline, and peering up at the faces of redwood trees older than time. It’s eating really good food from all over the world, right around the corner from my childhood home. It’s lying in bed with the person I love, and not really caring about anything else I have to do with my day, besides that.

    Growing up and traveling the world taught me, more than anything else, to value where I came from. To honor who I’ve always been, that little girl who stayed up late in her bedroom listening to music, daydreaming about changing the world. I forget sometimes, when I’m caught up in the bullshit of day to day stresses (which there is a lot of when you’re at the mercy of nature and third world infrastructure), that I am living my dreams, and owe myself some credit for achieving those dreams I set out for myself so long ago.

    The seasons come and go, and I am always left in the wake of change a little more whole, a little bit more me. I hope its a cycle that continues, infinitely, until it can’t.

  • A little bit about where I’ve been, and where I’m going

    A little bit about where I’ve been, and where I’m going

    As a child of immigrant parents, I find myself constantly wondering if my small achievements will ever add up to my parent’s sacrifices. It is one thing to go after an unconventional dream, and yet another thing to not entirely know what that dream is.

    I have been in a lot of places in the past few years. It is easy to romanticize the excitement of these experiences, and it would be a lie to say the time spent jumping from place to place were anything but. The exhilaration however, doesn’t abate the growing sense of displacement, as well as increasing anxiety about my lack of financial security.

    I do not feel incentivized to work for substantial amounts of money; it seems I have built up such a large well of self-importance that I can’t commit my time or energy to anything I don’t personally deem meaningful or positively impactful. I say this with a deliberate sense of self-deprecation, because I cannot tell sometimes if I am a person of strong conviction or just extreme laziness. Sometimes it’s too hard to tell from the inside of my mind.


    From Summer 2017 to now I have spent 6 months in Mendocino county, 3 months in San Jose, 3 months in Nepal, 3 months in Marin county, and now 3 weeks in my family’s home before I’m back in Nepal again. As always tends to happen, time and distance from my work in Nepal disconnect me from the sense of identity I’ve cultivated there.

    I have to remind myself, as if it were some spiritual mantra, that the work I do does matter. In the short 3 months I spent in Nepal in 2018, we built a new camp to house volunteers for many decades to come, and assisted in the completion of 30 earthquake safe homes that were made with local and sustainable materials. For the Youth Outreach Program, I worked with my Nepali counterpart Jenisha, who we hired on as a Conscious Impact staff member, to launch a new Girls Empowerment Program at a second nearby high school, increasing our reach to about 180 students in our district area.

    The turn out to the first Aiselu Kharkha Girls Empowerment Program was staggering — nearly 60 girls who barely knew either of us, but after having learned about the premise of the program, were extraordinarily eager to attend.

    This trip to Nepal matured inklings of opinions I once had into founded perspectives. Western views of poverty in the developing world are limited at best; non-profits and charities at the advertising level portray the alleviation of global inequality as simply “helping poor people”, when the complexity of western hegemony and globalized capitalism is more nuanced.  The work is not about simply being charitable, but getting to the source of economic and political dynamics that cause poverty and work diaspora (i.e. the oppression of women, lack of education, reinforcement of our current western-style capitalism). The phenomena of work diaspora particularly hits home, as it is the precursor to my very existence as a first generation American.


    When I got back to California for the summer, I worked as an outdoor education teacher for a Marin-based nonprofit called Slide Ranch. Without a doubt, Slide was one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived, and it was a privilege to have learned so much about naturalism in the context of my home state. While there, I got to meet and live with some of the most amazing and heartfelt individuals, who imbued in me lessons about living off the land, reciprocity in our relationship to animals, and how to create a space of wonder and learning for children. I spent my days leading kids on hikes to tide pools and cypress tree forests, taught about sustainable energy and organic cooking, played games and made watercolor paintings — against the backdrop of one of the most exquisite views of the rugged Northern California coast.

    On the flip side, I traded in the opportunity to earn sustainable compensation for a holistically fulfilling experience — quite the archetypical ultimatum in this day and age. And of course, one thing that ate at the back of my mind during my residency, was the undeniable fact that the experience I was facilitating would have been completely out of my purview as a child — for reasons both cultural and financial. I still struggle with knowing little about how to make such pristine nature more accessible to the type of communities I have come from.


    The irony I face every time I am back in America is how much more spirituality and mindfulness has become commodified. Again, it does not matter how rich or poor you are, for even in the poorest places I’ve been in Nepal, no person is safe from the binds of materialism. I am intrigued by how people are attempting to both search for authenticity and alleviate their environmental impact, through their most powerful means of expression — their dollar. I don’t condone this as wrong in the slightest; if anything, it is simply the (unfortunate) diagnosis of our society’s infrastructure, that our strongest means of creating change is through our currency.

    And you don’t need me to tell you this, because Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed and [insert other religious or spiritual deity here] already told you: there is nothing you can buy that will bring you spiritual enlightenment. And if you find yourself bending over backwards to find it, then in all likelihood you’re only getting farther away.


    Though I like to think of myself as adaptable to different environments and groups of people, I’ve always found that I’m most comfortable around working class folks — people who operate from places of honesty, humor and a zero tolerance for bullshit. I spent this past weekend working as a cook in an airport lounge with a bunch of Filipino, Mexican, El Salvadorean, and Nepali workers, who immediately welcomed me and treated me like one of their own. I was comforted by their camaraderie, but could not repress a sense of guilt at the divide in our circumstances: the fact that even though I am strapped for money, it was not imperative to my survival to work there.

    The juxtaposition between the hard working folks I met in that kitchen, and the kind of affluence I was inundated with in Marin, leaves a strange taste in my mouth about what accessibility and mobility actually looks like in the Bay Area. It makes sense that home starts looking like a foreign place the less time you spend in it.

    It’s this inverted experience, being so familiar with my surroundings, and yet feeling so out of place. I am especially jarred by the smallest changes — like a movement of furniture, or noticing a closed down business I once frequented, or having to reacquaint myself with friends I’ve known for years.

    Home is where I find myself incubating, re-evaluating my life choices, and reflecting on everything that has subsequently happened in my life. I am learning that it never takes very much for me to be back at square one, easily face to face with the same demons and insecurities that I have fought against my whole life. When I struggle to value the person I have become, I find myself envying other peoples’ perceived certainty and stability, the smoke and mirrors of my ego ready to exploit any cognitive dissonance I have about my life and self-esteem.

    If my recent forays into zen Buddhism have taught me anything — or really just all life experience in general — it’s that life is not about reaching the goal, but about experiencing the process. I try to tell myself that my life doesn’t need to add up to some grand list of achievements, even though our production-oriented, capitalistic society has conditioned me otherwise.

    Sometimes it feels like the line between irrationality and pragmatism is very thin. Maybe that is the privilege of being a millennial, or maybe it’s just my inability to feel confident during times of upheaval and transition.

    At the end of the day, I have a roof over my head, and food to eat, and people I love who unconditionally love me back. I am going back to a place on the other side of the world that has become a different version of home. I am going back to continue work that is not easy, but gives my life meaning and, hopefully with all its good intentions, is empowering others with fewer options than me to have more control over their lives. Even if I struggle to feel okay with the person who lives inside my skin, I am damn happy to be alive. The hardest thing about moving forward is the not knowing. So here’s to all of us keeping on, wading through the bullshit, and honoring our authentic selves, as best we can while the earth keeps inevitably turning.

    As always, thanks for listening.

  • All that I know now

    All that I know now

    Growing older has taught me how to mark the end of the seasons. I watched the brilliant blue of a summer sky become grotesquely marked by wildfire, felt the suffocating heaviness of heat waves succumb to cold breezes that blew through me as sharp as daggers. I watched as tree canopies transformed from lush greeneries to impressionist mosaics of dandelion yellow and burnt orange, until all that remained were the black and barren branches of their naked forms, forlorn and elegant.

    The transitions from summer to fall to winter have only become more familiar, and yet they seem to change more quickly, the time passing faster every year. I mourn too much the departure of the seasons, cling a little too desperately to these chapters that I never feel I had enough time to fully savor. It is a bit like catching a glimpse of a hummingbird in a garden: just as you are truly taking in the grace of its beauty, it has already disappeared the moment you stop to blink.

    This fall I said goodbye for an indefinite amount of time to the grandmother that raised me. The woman who wiped my tears and made me snacks and picked me up from kindergarten. As I got older, the role of caregiver and care receiver reversed, and like the passing of the seasons, it somehow happened without me realizing. It is even strange now, to think she is not a part of my life everyday — though I suppose she still is, because I think of her, and am grateful to her everyday of my life.

    As I get older, I always find myself wishing I spent more time with family. I am constantly beating myself up over things I think I should do, even when it isn’t my first instinct to do them. I ruminate a lot over this: my tendency to suffer from internal negative feedback over every action I take.

    I buckle so often under some perceived pressure from others, to show up more for them, to be more for them, internalizing and creating unnecessary guilt that dampens the quality of my relationships. I am learning to trace this back to my own insecurities about being good enough, to stop second guessing how well I am treating others, to stop doubting my own worth.

    Every day is a step forward in my evolution of self. Here is the thing I continue to learn with age: as you fill it, the metaphysical cup of life only gets larger. You try to balance what you hold space for, with all your passions and career choices, your friends and your family. Despite the fact that our families created the foundations for who we are, the nuances of what shapes our lives grows infinitely beyond them. And as we grow, we become so attached to the idea of progress — to be able to make concrete comparisons that who we are now is qualitatively better than who we were before.

    But I don’t believe there is such thing as linear development of growth. Not like the facts and figures and direct causations you can find in the immaculate truth of science and math. Growth in how we change as people is a phenomena that never really becomes clear until you’re past it, can turn around and see the clear reflection of who you used to be. Even then, so much of what catalyzes change is not fixed but fluid, as the actions of your past self continue to affect the decisions you make in the present, ultimately shaping the person you are actively becoming.

    In many ways, growth has turned into this criminal line up of all my past selves standing in a room, shoulder to shoulder. I look at all these previous iterations of myself, and love them so much more now than I did when I was them. So maybe that is actually what growth is: honoring every version of who you used to be — their dreams, desires, and their mistakes — and learning what it means to take all the best parts with you as you keep moving forward.

    It’s all a rigorous balancing act, trying to understand yourself. Wanting to know why you are the way you are, striving to understand your purpose, to once and for all know what you need to do to make yourself “happy”. But here is what we forget when we think about happiness: at the end of the day, you will live and die alone in the body you were born in. I don’t mean this to sound defeatist in anyway, but the hard truth is that our existence is ultimately a solitary one. This is where the misconception comes in — or maybe it is the very nature of being human — that we strive for structure or a sense of meaning in the ways we construct the world around us.

    If we have the right amount of money, the ideal family, the prestigious job title — if we travel to breathtaking places or own beautiful things, only then will we be complete. But none of those things will ever offer you a guaranteed happiness. You will continue throughout your life making different choices that change the outcome of your circumstances. Throughout the ebb and flow of those experiences, you will encounter not just happiness and sadness, but also monotony and routine. Life itself, the day to day goings on of it all, even when you discover something new, will inevitably become boring. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t some affliction that must be immediately remedied. It’s important to discern the difference between stagnation and restlessness. Because in the end, it is your choice whether or not you are content with your circumstances. Nothing outside you will grant you the peace you are looking for. I say all these things in no way to discount the autonomy we have to construct the substance of our lives. I mean to say, there is no point in focusing on material things or goals that you hope will grant you some eternal, permanent happiness — because it doesn’t exist.

    There is no actual way to convey the complexity of life’s experiences through social media. Three years ago I ran away from a routine I grew to despise, what felt like the all-consuming mediocrity of an unfulfilling life — and to this day I have no regrets. But more than ever, life is an uneven road.

    Just because you figure out what makes you happy doesn’t mean that you have it all figured out. Life is not as simple as finding your passion and then going out and doing it. We live in a world where the infrastructure of society requires you to be complicit in systems that perpetuate consumption, frivolity, and destruction — and reconciling this with needing to financially support oneself is no easy feat. It’s not about being able to over-idealistically “follow your dreams”, but having the freedom to live a meaningful life, one that creates more harmony than discord, more equity than inequality.

    I do not live my life or make the choices I do because I have the utmost clarity that it is the right thing to do. I do them, because I don’t know what else to do, besides follow the intuition of my own heart. I still suffer from my own self-machinations, insecurities, and constant procrastination. But the greatest gift life has granted me, whether simply a consequence of age or through experiences I chose to have, is an understanding of myself. Even when I stray, when I become fixated on things that ultimately don’t matter, I remember what motivated the choices that brought me this far.

    It was love. Love for the world, that it was worthwhile to go out and see it, to try and create change in it, even amongst fears that I’d lose time or was choosing the wrong path. Love for me, that I owed it to myself to try and do something that I at first didn’t know I was capable of.

    My extended time in California has reminded me that I am anchored by a deep foundation of love, instilled in me by a family more resilient and nurturing than I’d ever realized. I have also rediscovered what it means to be emotionally vulnerable, and to share intimacy with another person again, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

    So this is where I stand now, with all the acuity of self-awareness brought about by age, and yet still buoyed by a sense of childlike wonder for this world, and all that I continue to discover on my journey through it. I am on a path of becoming more in tune with myself, of trusting the people I love, of creating powerful intention with my words and my actions instead of passively experiencing a world that appears drowned in chaos.

    Time will continue passing, the seasons will come and go — what matters is not what is left behind, but what you continue to create for yourself moving forward. I hope you remember you have the power to make the world better, by simply loving who you are, and not accepting the reality that others force you to believe. We are the makers of our own reality, we are the sole owners of our truth.

    If you made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read all this.

  • What does it mean to make “the jump”?

    What does it mean to make “the jump”?

    People always ask what it took for me to make “the jump”. I’ve had many friends express their admiration for some of the decisions I’ve made over the past year, and in these interactions, intrinsically always attest that they could not do the same in their own life.

    I feel a lot that in these moments, there is an innate recognition of my happiness that has caused others to project an idea of what their happiness should look like.

    I did not know before what my happiness looked like. Sometime again the future, I know I will lose sight of it, until I go out and search for it once more.

    Life paths are not a one-size fits all. I’ve spent a lot of time chasing things that I thought would make me happy because it worked for someone else. And I’ve spent a lot of time mourning the person I didn’t turn out to be, because I was not taking enough time to focus on the person that only I could be.

    If we are privileged enough to attempt to do so, we owe it to ourselves to live as authentically as possible.

    As anyone knows without me having to say, fulfillment can be found in anything and everything — in being passionate about your job, especially if you’re talented at it, found in a loving relationship, where your companionship encourages the personal growth of your soul, and in crafts and interests — like music, writing, dance, art — hell, even in roasting and brewing your own coffee.

    A connecting theme I find in many of my encounters with friends is a hesitation to pursue what they want out of fear. And I’ve been there.

    Fuck, I’m still there. More often than I’d like to admit.

    I struggled for a very long time thinking the life paths I wanted for myself were out of reach because I didn’t spend enough time laying the foundations early enough, didn’t take the right job, didn’t discipline myself enough to be as talented at the art forms I’d always wanted to pursue.

    But that’s the thing. It feels like many of us have allowed mainstream culture to define what it means to be good at what we love. The truth is, doing something you love doesn’t mean you have to be “the best” at it. The idea that the outcome has to be momentous and grand stops people from even trying. And yet, the beginnings of these journeys never are. Sometimes it’s just about giving yourself the space to try, and to discover whether or not you are capable of carving a path that is all your own, or realizing that there’s another one out there that’s even better.

    More importantly, many of us struggle with knowing what exactly even makes us happy. That requires asking yourself the hard questions.

    Who are you? Separate from the identities constantly thrust upon you in daily life — as a daughter or son, sister or brother, lover or friend. Because in the end, you are all, and none of these things.

    Are you comfortable in your solitude? In the silence of just yourself?

    It’s not about what makes you happy. When you cut out the noise from external variables attached to status or convenience or expectations from yourself and other people — do you know what lights your soul on fire?

    What makes you feel like you’re really living?

    Especially in this world where our sense of time and communication is warped by the internet, we’ve become conditioned to look for external validation and affirmation of our actions. That to be good at something, or to be anything at all, it has to have been recognized and documented for someone else, quantified in physically nonexistent computer code. You’re scared no one will hear the tree fall. That you are fully capable of doing or creating or being an amazing, gut-wrenchingly wonderful thing, but no one will ever know.

    But I think that the most beautiful, strange, and awe-inspiring things about us, are the things other people may never truly know. The act of being human and having consciousness is a universal, yet deeply isolating experience. The only reality that is real is your own. So don’t wait for anything outside of yourself determine who you are, what makes you happy, and what makes you feel alive.

    We compartmentalize each others’ happiness, thinking that we can originate it to one action or one thing that catalyzed it coming to fruition. We attach a sense of identity to singular things, like our titles or salaries or relationships or passions, not recognizing how intensely multi-faceted and complex we are. We don’t give ourselves the space to discover fulfillment and happiness in different places, or once we do, we struggle to peacefully let them go when they no longer serve us.

    Living your life to the fullest is not easy,

    We are always going to be, at the end of the day, instinctively resistant or fearful of change. I don’t think getting older means becoming an adult, I think it is just the process of becoming more and more yourself. And there is always mourning in this growth, in letting go of childhood, in letting go of previous versions of yourself as you constantly change, in realizing how different and the same you are from the people and places that have shaped you throughout your life.

    Growing more into yourself means knowing yourself, means being alone with yourself, means realizing you are not like anyone else. And not letting that knowledge scare you, or make you feel lonely — but enrich you, enliven you, excite you.

    “There has never been anything like you, there is nothing else like you, and nothing else will ever be like you.”

    I had to learn what it meant to write for no one but myself. I agonized when I was young, to know what I could write to make me successful. I would write white lead female lead characters, would write story lines that I thought would be popular. Eventually I stopped writing altogether, only to rediscover it the way I do now. As a way to breath, rather than to be recognized.

    Being your authentic self means being okay with being vulnerable. Open and honest with yourself about the things you want or don’t want, the things that don’t serve you, how you feel about the people in your life, and most importantly, how you feel about yourself.

    None of this is simple. I speak from personal experience. People have often asked me for advice, as if I have the key to my own eternal happiness. But I am just as confused and lost as the best of us. I am still up to my ears in debt in student loans, I rely on my parents for support and barely afford the lifestyle I have now. I worry a lot about amounting up to the type of person I’ve set myself up to be in my head, getting easily stuck in vicious cycles I thought I’d grown out of.

    But I stop and perceive the beauty in the lessons learned from these experiences. During my time at home, I took a part-time job working at a restaurant. Though I found myself on the end of questioning and wise cracks about working near minimum wage after spending $80,000 on a degree, I found myself unexpectedly happy with the nature of my job, not confined to a desk, and getting to have authentic interactions with my co-workers and customers daily. Being humble enough to accept and receive the support I do from my parents has brought a new depth of appreciation to what it meant for them to bring me into this world, for them to wholeheartedly support the pursuit of my happiness. And while being forced to confront things about myself I thought I’d overcome is not comfortable, going into that space has led to discoveries I did not ever expect. That deep down, there are things I never gave myself the space to want, because I was always too scared to try. Even now, I have yet to know what to do with these discoveries. But this is my gold, my greatest treasure.

    The anxiety over not knowing whether you can trust your own decisions is always the hardest part. But it’s not about making “the jump”. It always starts small. And this decision, the act of taking a small step in an intentional direction — one that you know feels right to you — will be the easiest thing you ever do. You are not the person other people think you are, and you never have to be.

    And bringing this all back to how the story started — the universal and intrinsic and very privileged desire to know who we are and what drives us — if you ever thought that buying a plane ticket or writing a book or being alone could help you learn about yourself — then you should probably do it.

    In the case of traveling, it is all hilariously easier than you’d imagine. It’s not easily attainable, as anything that requires financial stability never is — but if you have the resources, all you have to do is as follows: 1) buy a ticket 2) find a bed to sleep in 3) let the universe take care of the rest.

    You won’t regret it. And even if you do, at least then you know you had the courage to try.

    Which is all any of us can do, and owe to ourselves, for the short time we get to exist on this earth.

  • A final word on a new beginning


    Throughout traveling, I always end up leaving parts of myself behind in different places. And at the end of a journey, I’m always a little overwhelmed by how much of me is missing, and how much more of me I discovered along the way.

    The parts of myself left behind are not lost, they are breadcrumbs, bookmarks for each chapter spent in a different country to mark a particular point in time across the linear passage of my life; where I can remember exactly where I was, exactly how I felt, and exactly who I was in that specific moment.

    What I’ve learned is that travel doesn’t always have to be an exotic backdrop to your personal adventures. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be about you at all. It can be about everything you experience within a place — the ability it gave you to observe a world that, at first glance, appeared unlike your own.

    Our lives are more or less a consequence of geography and history; we speak different languages, prioritize different cultural values, worship different gods (if any at all), and are born into vastly different social and economic circumstances.

    And yet every place in the world has their own definitions of God, duty, love and happiness. Though we become convinced that the ways in which we’ve defined these things divide us, we don’t realize that attempting to define them at all is what connects us universally to being human. And upon closer inspection, you come to learn how these subjective meanings, when it comes down to it, are really not that different at all.

    The forces pulling me to come home, to see the people I love and who I miss dearly, remind me that though time appears linear, our lives create a cyclical pattern that continues expanding outward. That you can revisit the same place in the world as a completely different person, while still remembering exactly what it felt like when you were there before, is a testament to how time can feel like a flat circle.

    The feelings that so acutely overwhelm me remind me why it’s just as important to honor where you come from as much as the places you go. Home is what establishes the lens in which we see the rest of the world. What begins as a bias can become an invaluable tool, once you step outside of the culture you know and realize how intensely unique each individual person’s lived experience really is.

    In all its ugliness, there are still people in this world who block their ability to truly empathize, who cannot bring themselves to walk anywhere in someone else’s shoes because they don’t yet have the courage to take the first step.

    It’s difficult to not become discouraged and jaded by the world when you see how hard it is for people to love and understand one another – how sometimes it’s hard even for you to accept people that stand far away from you across ideological lines.

    But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. If I’ve learned anything in the past 322 days, it’s this: don’t let your heart become hard. Let life change you, in all the best ways possible. Always hold yourself accountable. Always love yourself. And always love others, even when it’s not easy.

    As the old adage goes, this next voyage does not mark the end of my journey, but the start of an entirely new one — one whose uncertainty and grace I will gladly embrace, in hopes that I, and therefore the world, will become better for it.

  • My time in Nepal

    Reflections by Alyson Sagala – Conscious Impact Nepal from Jonathan H. Lee on Vimeo.

    I am excited to share with you a glimpse into the past few months of my life, and an attempt to convey why exactly this project means so much to me. Thank you again to Conscious Impact, for being more than just an organization, but a loving family with a vision to serve others while in service to ourselves. Shot by the insanely talented Jonathan H. Lee and edited by yours truly.

    Any support towards this project is appreciated beyond belief – whether that’s being interested in volunteering, being able to donate any sum of money, or just sharing this with your networks in hopes of spreading the word about our work. The tiniest of actions can catalyze the greatest of changes – both within this world, and within ourselves. 

  • The fleeting state of happiness


    As I get closer to the end of my time in Nepal, I can’t help but reflect on how much has changed in my life in the past 9 months. I’ve written and repeated this last sentence several times, but I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought possible.

    Loving yourself is a struggle. Don’t let anyone ever fool you into thinking this is easy. Most of us go through life being conditioned to measure our self worth based on validation from other people. Whether that’s having the right job or the right relationship, being worthy of praise in some way by the things you do, or the clothes you wear, or the places you go, or the things you achieve. We spend so much time investing in actions that are supposed to ensure happiness down the line. We forget that the only thing that matters is whether you’re happy right now.

    And see that’s the thing. There’s no such thing as perpetual happiness. Happiness is fleeting, the same way warmth wanes away as we fall into winter, the same way rivers go dry only to overflow again when the rains return, the same way people dance in and out of our lives like the tides recede and then overtake the shore.

    Growth is exponential. Every year of my life, the change that I see in myself isn’t just more than the year before, but growth in multiple directions, creating different dimensions of the person I’m slowly becoming. There are more layers, more depth, and more ways to explore what it means to hurt, to love, to understand, and to empathize. That also means there are more places for demons to hide. Though self-discovery makes my insecurities seem lighter, they become no less intricate in their design.

    We search for symmetry in beauty the same way we find peace in the immaculate creations of nature. There is symmetry in all things, especially in the soul, as long as we allow space for that balance to exist. This all may just sound like the rambling of another millennial, new-age pretentious hippie — but who cares? What people think of you isn’t the important question.

    Who am I? What am I doing to make the world better? It doesn’t have to be anything big. It can be reminding your grandparents that you love them, and that you’re grateful for the life they gave you. It can be forgiving those who offend you, by trying to understand the perspective that they view the situation. It can be planting a tree. It can be smiling at someone who needs kindness. Love is not just the supernova, it is the collision of particles at the subatomic level. It exists at every level of creation.

    Change is catalyzed by the experiences of life. I have fallen in love. I have lost a friend. I have been alone. But in this moment, for however long it will last, I am happy.

  • For a friend



    I laid down beneath the rain
    while the sun disagreeingly continued to shine
    I watched raindrops bounce off the bodies of leaves and tree trunks
    like crystals falling from the sky
    How easy it is for us to get washed away,
    when we’re unable to take shelter from our own storms,
    It’s strange how that happens
    How fleetingly we can disappear, 
    like a storm after its passed
    If we’re all just flickers in the explosive fire,
    Then you were the single brightest spark in that flame,
    bright enough to blind,
    with such passion and fathomless humor,
    a tenacious energy for life,
    and a mischievous smile,
    That I will always keep close to my heart
    You changed the direction of my life for the better,
    taught me how to line the path beneath my feet 
    with intention and an unyielding desire for justice
    How quickly time has passed since you last graced me with your laugh,
    Something I will regret in the days to come,
    but I’ll always remember,
    the late nights filled with our laughter,
    and all the lessons you instilled in me,
    about confidence and perseverance,
    friendship and what it means,
    to always be your biggest and best self
    I just wish your last lesson wasn’t teaching me,
    what it means to miss a friend who isn’t coing back,
    So many will miss you beyond belief,
    but true friendships never really leave us,
    the same way stars still shine for millions of years long after they’re gone,
    your’s will be one of the brightest in my sky,
    for the rest of my days.
  • General update:

    I know I haven’t been as diligent as I planned with updating this website. The good thing is, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing. On the contrary, I’ve been writing a LOT. Mostly snippets here and there, observations or thoughts and emotions I’ve experienced in one of the many countries I’ve visited in the past 5 months.

    Wow. I can’t believe it’s even been that long. Since visiting Malaysia and Thailand in September and October, I’ve been to Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, and am now back in Nepal. I’ve had some very profound experiences in every place that I’ve been, and I plan on sharing stories about my journeys in due time.

    A very good friend I met in Nepal back in November told me that the worse thing you can do is write for other people. I find that I have the biggest problem with this; sometimes I don’t always write what I mean to say out of fear that maybe someone reading may take my words the wrong way.

    But really, what’s the point of writing in the first place?

    I won’t have internet access again for the next few weeks, so unfortunately this place will continue to be neglected. But website or not, I’m still writing, still reflecting, and still continuing to grow in ways that I hadn’t even dared to imagine.

    • Alyson