August 7, 2013
If I could tell my 23-year-old self some wise advice, I would tell her to not worry about the future so much. God has a plan for you. Life will bring you places, lead you to people and give you things that you may not want, but you will instinctively need in order to grow, mature and discover your truest self. Don’t try to control your life through accumulating wealth, fame, awards and titles because they are all a false sense of control. The only thing you truly own is your persistent spirit housed in a body that you must love and nourish in order for it to thrive. This body will one day be the home of your future children and you will have greater purpose to why you exist. The man you will marry, is not who you think it will be. The job you will have, is not what you planned it will be. The place you will live, is not where you expect it will be. BUT, you will be exactly where you should be, as long as you live life with passion….
I wrote those words on my Facebook page a few months ago when I was staring at a 23-year-old picture of myself. When I look in her eyes I see so much pain. I see her undergoing a volatile relationship with one of the greatest loves of her life. He was tall, fit, charismatic and charming. While handsome, there wasn’t an instant attraction. It was a slow yet abrupt romance that began when I started my summer job working as a personal trainer alongside him at our local gym. Not only would he nurture my passion for fitness but also teach me the importance in believing in myself and affirming my goals daily.
Eventually our infatuation would depreciate and the struggles with living in different cities, being in different life stages and having different goals waned on our ability to sustain a relationship we were both passionately a part of. It was difficult to love someone and expect nothing from him. It was challenging to succeed at life goals and feel apologetic because it altered the other person’s perceived scoreboard. Most of all, it was hard to let go of someone who you thought truly loved you.
I can still remember the day I spoke to him with tears in my eyes and pain in my throat, telling him I was suffering from Bulimia and needed help. After over three years of pain and passion, he said to seek help anywhere else, but with him.
I knew my heart couldn’t take anymore disappointment. My mind was already assaulted daily by feelings of hopelessness, guilt and pain. I knew in that moment that I didn’t need to let him physically go – after all, he was already absent from much of my day-to-day life. Inherently, I knew I had to let ‘the idea of him’ go. I had to let go of his negative past experiences, which I used to reason with his current behavior. I had to let go of the first few months of courtship, which I used to anchor my feelings against present problems. Most of all, I had to let go of the idea of me – with him – because my mind and body was habitually with a man that no longer was truly ‘with me’ anymore.
I was a college graduate, a national beauty queen and a state fitness title holder – and yet, with his last, impressionable words, I felt like nothing.
It was in that darkness I discovered my light.
Up until that point I defined myself by whomever and whatever was in relation to me. If I held a degree, I was smart. If I wore a crown, I was pretty. If I received a trophy, I was fit….and if I was loved by a fit, handsome man – then I felt worthy.
When I prayed over the toilet bowl and questioned why I seemed to ‘have everything’ and yet felt like I had nothing at all… I knew that my life’s happiness equation was not accurate. I told myself, I could focus on new goals – like winning another pageant, making more money or meeting a new man. But what next?
The desire would distract me briefly, but the depression that followed the achievement would exist again. In my prayers I found that if I wanted true happiness, I needed to discover my truest passion. When I utilize my God-given gifts to help people in my passion, I am fed a continuous flow of happiness.
I’m happy when I teach someone about fitness or nutrition. I’m happy when I talk deeply with my elderly residents. I’m happy when I write an insightful online journal entry…and most of all, I’m happy when the light inside of me allows other people to shine. There is a life-giving, abundance of light and love that occurs when you discover your passion and allow others to feed freely from it.
That single awareness prompted me ten years ago, to change the direction of my life’s course. It gave me the courage to quit certain jobs, take certain risks and finally leave the negative space I was in. It led me to my kids, my husband and my life servicing this world through my nonprofit and care homes.
It led me to you.
23 years old.
This photo feels like a lifetime ago.
This picture was taken at Bikini America 2003 with Maggie Diabuldo. She
was on her first streak of winning competitions and just shot
her first cover with Oxygen Magazine.
My roommate in Miss Chinatown USA 2003 was Fala Chen. She would later become a popular
Hong Kong actress/singer. It’s amazing to see her success.