The time I did a love challenge

A few weeks ago I had this brilliant idea. Inspired by Aileen Xu and her wonderful Artist of Life workbook, I decided to persuasively invite my two dearest friends to do a love challenge.

In her workbook, Aileen encourages us to write down 10 things we love about ourselves. To nurture self-love and confidence. As I was writing down some things I sincerely loved about me, I began to wonder – how different are the things I love the most about myself from the things the people closest to me love about me? And what can I learn from that?


WHAT IS THE LOVE CHALLENGE?


It consisted of the following:

  1. we each write down 5 things we love about ourselves
  2. we each write down 5 things we love about the other person
  3. a few days later we email each other our answers
  4. share with each other our reactions to what the other has said

HOW IT WENT


The first thing my friend told me when she reacted to my email was something along the lines of “I’m surprised by almost everything you wrote about me.” On the other end, I wasn’t so much surprised by her answers (because she usually expresses her admiration for others naturally), but more on the side of “I don’t usually see any of these as such great things to love about me, or consider them my strengths, but I am so glad that you appreciate them!”

On my email I wrote this about my friend:

“[I love] your shamelessness: yeah. for me who’s always been ashamed of so many of my feelings and likes, and afraid to show my feelings, you are incredible. I love things silently, you love them out loud without caring who hears. truly. it’s inspiring.”

The absolute best part about this whole challenge was the feedback I got from my friend on this particular point. She couldn’t comprehend why someone would be ashamed of liking something. “What is there to be ashamed about liking something? There’s nothing bad about it!”

Later, I would tell her that if you try too hard to fit in, and if people consistently tell you that something you like is stupid as you grow up, you end up being ashamed to show your love for certain things. To me, it’s always heartwarming to see someone else express their love shamelessly, because I can’t (and I really wish I could!).

This is what she told me:

“(…)because I didn’t see you learn how to love things, it’s like it was always a part of you. Because you don’t express the surprise of loving something it doesn’t seem like a new thing, it just seems like it has always been there. I didn’t even consider it love, I just considered it a part of your personality. I just thought you were a pink girl. I don’t think about me like that. I separate myself from the things that I love, but when I think about you, I don’t separate them. They are all you. Weird, right?”

Did you notice that what I love so much about her is something I don’t have that I wish I did?

I admire what I see in her as bravery because being honest about my likes and feelings is hard for me, therefore her openness about it could only be perceived as bravery for me. And I admire her for it. But to her, it’s the simplest thing!

My friend Sara is not afraid of showing her likes and feelings – it’s the most natural thing! So, to her, she’s not being brave when she does it, meaning she will not value this quality in her the same way I do.

What’s more, because to Sara it’s natural to show excitement over a new thing, and since I didn’t behave like that, my likes and loves didn’t even register as such to her. They were just who I am.

It was when I came to this conclusion that I knew I had found the answer I was looking for when I created this challenge: the things we love about others are a reflection of the things we value and fear the most in our lives. We love others in conformity with how we love ourselves. We hate others in conformity with how we hate ourselves.

In simpler terms, we tend to love and appreciate in others what they have that we think we lack, and would love to also have. And because love and hate are so connected, we might also hate others for the same reason.

This is why loving yourself is so important. Because the more parts of me I love, the more parts in others I will find worthy of love as well. I will not resent, I will appreciate. I will not envy, I will celebrate and support.


LET’S DO THE CHALLENGE TOGETHER?


Since it turned out to be such a nice way to share love for me and my friend, I thought, on this month that is considered to be the month of love, why not spread the love further? Let’s all share one thing we love about ourselves, and one thing we love about someone else in our lives.

Here’s what you have to do to participate:

  1. Go to my INSTAGRAM or  TUMBLR (if you wish to do the challenge anonymously).
  2. Leave me a message with something you love about yourself + something you love about someone else in your life (no need to identify who the other person is)

I will compile all the answers and share them on Valentine’s Day on a very special post!

Up for it?

Let’s spread the love ❤

P.S.: Please remember that if you do this I might share you answer on the blog and on Instagram, so before submitting your answer, consider whether you’d like to do this anonymously or not!

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

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Memories of 2017

This time around I didn’t feel like using words to look back on 2017. Not because words aren’t important, but because, unless I wanted to commit to writing a book about this year, there was no way I could describe it in “a hundred words or less” (not really a hundred, you know what I mean).

Yes, yes, what I want to say is that many things happened this year. Some of the greatest moments of my life so far, as well as, perhaps, some of the worst. I did a lot of things for the first time, and lived a whole year with a vulnerable heart, treading carefully – getting hurt easily but also loving just as easily.

So, you see, this was a complex and abstract year, that I felt was best looked back on in a visual way. And that’s just what I did.

Memories of 2017, in a video (the first I made in almost 4 years, so it’s a special baby, this one).

 

I hope you have a 2018 filled with happy moments.

Let me know in the comments how your 2017 was (if you can put it in a hundred words or less).

Our Seoul in black and white

Have you ever wondered if, maybe, just maybe, some pictures are able to capture a little bit of a person’s soul? Sometimes, I think they do – when the photographer knows exactly which moment to snap the picture, catching his subject in a perfect still moment where their soul shows.

I’ve seen it in smiles, in gazes, in the way that the wind blows our hair. I think it’s beautiful, and it’s capturing these moments that has been my passion these days.

sara in black and whitesara and maia in black and whitemaia in black and white

All of this because, finally, about 5 months later, I decided to really go through all of my pictures from South Korea. Saying it took a while would be an understatement, and I might have used up a tissue or two wiping hypothetical tears because I miss that city so much, but I finally pulled through. After picking some of my absolute favorites out of mine and my friend Mariana’s camera roll, it somehow all came together in black and white – a style I am not usually one to pick but found so fitting in these pictures.

 SM artists at SM Town Mari and sara with BTS Maia in Gangnam

I always have said that, although black and white rarely fails to make a picture look good, it also gives it a gloomy vibe which I haven’t really ever wanted my pictures to have. However, looking at these, and as I write these words, I can finally understand why this style portrays these pictures in just the right way. And that is because of my very personal feelings toward them. You see, looking at these memories, 5 months after living them, brings me a strong sense of longing.

I miss that city like I have never missed a place before. I miss the friends I made there and the ones I left there. I miss the moments we all shared together in Noraebang and AirBnB houses, crowded streets and spicy food restaurants eating lamb skewers like crazy. It wasn’t just one thing or two about that trip that made it amazing. It was a lot of small, special things, and special people.

 Beautiful sara in Gyeongbokgung Maia in Gyeongbokgung Rae and her tattoo in black and whiteRae in Seoul Sara and Maia at a noraebang

Sometimes, I go talk to my friend and tell her ‘Mari, I miss Seoul so much today’. Sometimes, she will come up to me and tell me how she listened to a song and it made her think of Seoul too. And we will reminisce and hope that one day we get to go back. We hope that the friends we left there update us on what is going on over there, and send us pictures of the smallest things that make our hearts full of longing skip a beat.

Maia reading blonote at Arriate flower café Maia reading blonote at Arriate flower café Beautiful mug and flower at arriate flower café

And that is why black and white makes these pictures come alive. It brings out the nostalgia and longing towards a city that probably took a piece of me and kept it there safe and sound. Until another day, hopefully soon, when I go back and find it again.

Seoul (& Busan),

보고 싶다

(I miss you)

P.S.: Almost all of these pictures are from my lovely friend Mariana, so head on over to her instagram if you would like to see more!

Shy girl takes dance classes

“Maia the hip hop girl!” said my brother-in-law, when I took him out to shop for some training clothes for my new hip hop dance classes. He was laughing. “It just really doesn’t fit you.”

He is wrong, obviously. I have been a closeted hip hop dance goddess all my life, kept in the shadows by something called shyness. So I laughed with him said, “But it’s so much fun!” and went on to buy me some hip hop casual looking hip clothes.

Shy girl takes dance classes

So, yeah, this is what I wanted to share: I have committed a fair share of my money to take hip hop dance classes. I have wanted to do this for at least a decade but was always too scared to. I mean what if I suck and everyone laughs? What happens if the teacher tells me to dance on my own?

Most of all, I was scared of that reaction my brother-in-law had. Of my family laughing and looking at me like they can’t understand why a shy girl like me would ever want to take dance classes.

Now I just find it kind of adorable. The reaction, I mean. I wonder if one day I’ll get to show them my secret talent.


Dancing is the most fun I’ve had in a very long time even if I still suck at it


Yeah, I lied. I’m not a goddess of dancing. I really do suck because I still know so little but boy does the prospect of learning make me excited!

I’ll get back to you once I’ve gone from Extreme-Struggling-Beginner to Half-Decent-Little-Dancer.

Wish me luck!

What it was like to finally go on the trip of my dreams

Seoul was the vacation of my dreams.

You know the kind of  vacation I’m talking about, right? That far away place we long to visit one day, seemingly so far out of reach. That place we might have spent a little too much time on the internet drooling over – looking at pictures of it on Instagram, reading article after article about it. Maybe we have cried once or twice while doing this. Possibly. Cannot tell you with certainty because of reasons.

To me, that place was Seoul.
Gyeongbokgung palace entrance
Amazing Maia at Gyeongbokgung palace Ever since I started learning Korean a few years ago (damn, has it really been years?), and I became more and more curious about Korean culture, this became my dream destination. But going there would require a lot of money that fresh-out-of-college-me did not have, as well as someone else crazy enough to come along with me.

Until this day, I am still impressed by how it all came to be. How I went from seeing Seoul as a dream to actually making plans to go, buying our tickets and being there. Between you and me, I think it was one little miracle.

Of course, I had to work hard to save enough money to go and spend over there, but I also managed find some crazy friends who were willing join me.  Two friends that also were willing to work hard to save money so that we could all go.

And so it was that in July the three of us packed our bags and ventured to the opposite side of the world.


SEOUL AND US: A LOVE STORY


Our Polaroid in front of Kim Sejong the great

Now, listen, don’t get ahead of yourself there. It’s not that. None of us found a hot Korean prince and moved in with him into a palace. We just fell in love with the city, day after day, until the thought of coming back was one of disappointment. I’m not kidding, I’ve never been this sad about coming back home from a vacation before.

It wasn’t love at first sight, though. When we arrived, nothing looked particularly interesting to me. It was raining, the sky was overrun by dark clouds and all I saw were tall grey buildings everywhere. And the air… the air made me feel like I was inside a sauna. Bye bye straight fabulous hair!

Our second day did the trick. Finally, I was walking familiar but completely new territory. Seeing in person what I had previously only seen excerpts of on TV and completed with my imagination. You see, I watch a lot of Korean tv shows – I find them funnier and way more lighthearted than western ones – so the streets of Seoul weren’t strangers to me. The city was like a friend I had met online, and our friendship was finally transitioning to real life.

Seoul at night Amazing Maia in Myeongdong Amazing Maia in Myeongdong Amazing Maia in Myeongdong

Quite just like meeting an online friend we have talked to for years, meeting Seoul was, at the very least, a thrilling experience. The realization that I was actually there, so far away from home, listening to the language I’ve been learning being spoken so casually everywhere — speaking it myself!  There was so much I wanted to see, so much I wanted to do. Just riding the subway was already drawing the biggest smile on my face!

Since I have already been in New York once, Seoul’s skyscrapers and flashing lights weren’t exactly a novelty to me. Yet they felt different, with their saturated multitude of colors and designs. It’s like, whilst New York is a carefully curated art collection, Seoul is an assembly of independent artists showcasing their art freely. My eyes had a feast every time we were in the city, finding more different and unique things to look at every day.
City lights in Myeondgong
All of this made up a perfectly imperfect and charming atmosphere for what would be my favorite 10 days of 2017 so far. We had many little adventures, many occasions where we lost our way, strange and exciting encounters with locals. We laughed a lot, fought a bit and tried new things. We bought a lot of stuff and polaroid-ed our way through the trip.

I made many memories over there that I will treasure in my heart for a very long time. And I will always remember fondly my everyday struggle to find non spicy food to eat.

And, just like that, I had fallen in love.

Polaroids of South Korea


And you, have you ever been on the vacation of your dreams? Where did you go? How was it? 

Feel free to share your experience with me down in the comments!

All of these pictures were taken by my dear amazing friend Mariana Pereira. You can click here to check out her Instagram!