10 Things I’ve Learned from 13 Years of Journaling

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It all started May 25, 2003. My first diary entry ever:

“My favret thing is when we go to libery. My ather faveret thing was to wach mother-goose.”

This profound statement is followed by a stick figure drawing of what appears to be a little girl watching TV.

While I have come a (sorta) long way from preschool, I still keep that drive to write just a little every day. No doubt I have taken breaks in between. Sometimes three-year long hiatuses. But through it all, I eventually kept going, and I have now filled seven journals full of memories throughout elementary, middle, and high school. And it’s something that’s irreplaceable.

Everyone should journal, and since blogging is a lot like journaling, I thought it would be pertinent to share ten things I’ve learned from my 13-year experience in writing down all the trivial details of my life.

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1. Don’t apologize for taking hiatuses in between journal entries. You deserve a break and you can’t write gold if your heart’s not in it.

2. That said, you do need to motivate yourself sometimes. Look for prompts. Introspect. Relive your day in your mind and write down those reflections. Anything.

3. Don’t worry too much about grammar/sentence structure/any part of the snobby writing process. This is a free-write. No rules attached.

4. Write when you’re the most emotional. What I’ve discovered? Pain creates art.

5. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Experiment with letter-writing, lists, different voices, different styles, different subjects. Write entire page-long paragraphs or choppy sentences. Write poetry or prose. Doodle. Be inconsistent. It may seem like a mess, but there’s a method in the madness – it’ll keep journaling fun and interesting; it’ll keep your creativity on its toes.

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6. Buy beautiful notebooks and journals and sketchbooks and notepads. You won’t be able to resist filling them up.

7. There’s always something to write about. Even if you feel like nothing happened to you today. Surely, you did things. And those things happened in a way that won’t repeat itself exactly ever again. That’s got to be something. Or who says you even have to write about your day or yourself? Just pull up a chair, break out your favorite pen, grab one of those cute journals I told you to splurge on, and get movin’ (your hand)! Once you get started, the rest will come easy.

8. If you’re really out of things to say, plagiarize. Assemble lists of favorite quotes, favorite lyrics. Make specific themes – famous last lines or best girl power lyrics. Hopefully, these will inspire you down another writer’s path.

9. Try writing at different times of the day. You’ll get different results. The 9AM you is different from the 6PM you, which is different from the 3AM you.

10. Say everything you would normally never say out loud. It’s not just therapeutic; you’re creating a snapshot, a self-portrait to look back on over the years. You’re writing for you – a worthy audience and one you can trust.

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What’re you waiting for? Break out the pens, paper, and creative mindsets. Hope this helped! xx

P.S. Additional Tip: Try to have better handwriting than me XD

 

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10 Books Every Introvert Should Read

Here’s to the quite heroines. The ones that think in their heads. The ones with the hidden talents. The ones that bottle up their emotions and age them like fine wine. Here’s to the underdog heroes. The ones that suffer from social anxiety. The ones that would rather read about humans than interact with humans. The ones that we can relate to.

I’m an INFJ myself, and I think the extra N, F, and J play a part in my book selections as well. I’m especially human-centered and emotion-focused. If this sounds anything like you, read on. This is my way of declaring, “Introverts Unite! (…Separately)” and I hope you enjoy these quiet masterpieces as much as I did. (I also included commentary that very rarely actually introduces the books properly and are mainly just tangents that I went off on, because blurbs are overrated.)

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  1. Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

One thing that I find fascinating as an introvert is analyzing other human beings. It’s the eternal paradox that I spend my life both avoiding and studying people. I think the dichotomy comes from trying to uncover the poetry, the quirks, the memories, the tears, the laughter, and the aesthetic that makes up a person while still attempting to seem like a normal, socially acceptable human being. I wish it were ok to walk up to a stranger and ask “Hey which movies make you cry?” or “What keeps you up until 3 AM?”

OK, I’ve said nothing about this book up to this point, but essentially, it’s a novel that captures the human essence. It follows several characters whose paths crisscross in the amazing setting of 1970s New York. It introduces prostitutes, photographers, Irishmen, a judge, a stuntsman, nursing home residents, Park Avenue residents, mothers whose sons have passed away, and it introduces them all passionately and vulnerably. I guarantee that every sentence is poetry.

  1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with such a relatable heroine. She refuses to eat at her college cafeteria for fear of human interaction, she holes up in her room to write fan fiction, and she cares more about her relationships with the people she loves more than anything else. While I’m not in love with the plot, which I found to be a little on the cliché side, I loved the portrait Rowell painted of freshman year at college and suffering through it all as a socially awkward introvert.

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  1. The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

This tale told from the POV of a psychopathic murderer actually freaked me out, because I found that I could relate to the main character more than I cared to admit. Juan Pablo Castel, the murderer, overanalyzes everything to great lengths and falls in obsessive love with a woman. It’s thrilling and chilling – a great Halloween read, I suppose. Even cooler? You’ll be able to tell your friends you read Argentinian existentialist literature.

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I’ll be honest, I haven’t read this novel beyond the high school yearbook-esque quotes (i.e. “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”) But the idea of “wallflower” fits right along with “introversion.” Too often introverts are the ones that are pushed aside, overlooked, marginalized. And the themes of introspection and trying to figure out life while also trying to grow up are the sorts of things any teenager connect to.

  1. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

While this children’s series may be a little below your reading level, hear me out. As introverts, we often see ourselves as special, as different from everyone else. This book completely focuses on four orphaned children whose unique talents get them placed together on a team to complete a mission to save the world. It’s a story that’s both simple and witty, a story replete with loveable characters and quirky logic puzzles. Growing up, I loved stories about gifted children (Matilda, Harry Potter, The Series of Unfortunate Events), because I saw a little bit of myself in them – the kids who like to read, the kids who look out for each other, the kids who think differently.

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  1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

For an introvert, the idea of being stuck in a boat away from civilization for a while sounds kind of appealing. Plenty of introspection ensues throughout the book, and while I’m not big on man vs. nature survivor stories, this one is different. It’s unique, multicultural, and rooted in a deeper exploration of religion.

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you feel like you’re always third wheeling, this one’s for you. Written in the Fitzgerald’s signature enchanting prose, this book is his most famous piece of writing for a reason. It’s a classic 1920s New York story rich with themes of love and morality and social class and how the three don’t mix so easily. Not only that, but the entire book is basically an observation, what Nick Carraway sees and how he tells it. As an introvert, I can relate to Carraway’s affinity for listening instead of speaking, for analyzing the people around him.

  1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Remember that movie a while ago starring Reese Witherspoon that got Oscar buzz? This was the memoir that inspired it all. It’s another one of those on my must-read-sometime list rather than on my have-read list, but I did read a piece by Cheryl Strayed and adored it. Her writing style is both down-to-earth and infinitely poignant, a refreshing mix of the realistic and the emotional. Another one of those deeply introspective authors, most of her writings focus on her trek on the Pacific Crest Trail – how she did it and what she found out about herself.

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  1. The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh

This book gives me shivers. This dark, emotional tale follows the tale of a North Vietnamese soldier and his experiences during the Vietnam War. Written by an actual North Vietnamese Vietnam War veteran, the scenes and little stories are so realistic that they draw you in and tear your heart out. What makes it different from the usual war story? There’s a deep sadness strung artfully throughout the book, a sadness that moves beyond violence, that leaves traces of sorrow in moments of peace and love as well as moments of loss and death. Any introvert who bottles up his emotions and expresses them through writing and art should be able to relate to the protagonist’s struggles.

  1. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I’ve mentioned this book before in a post titled “College Interview Questions” and I’m mentioning it again because it’s literally my favorite book of all time. It’s kind of an unassuming classic. It’s a book that you might have heard of before but didn’t think much of it. It’s not a book that’s on your typical English class reading list, and it’s a book where nothing much happens at all. But to me, it’s a book about life. Readers follow the life of a girl as she grows into a young lady, a girl who is a classic introvert. She hides away to read, she observes the world quietly, and she works hard to make it on her own. But more than that, she is a girl that is made of poetry but doesn’t know it yet. Honestly, I loved the heroine so much, I became her. Well, I borrowed her. Her name is my pseudonym for this blog – Francie Nolan.

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I find that books with relatable introverted characters tend to be my favorites. To the true introvert though, every good book is a friend. The written word is the home in which the introvert thrives. I hope you’ll find homes in the books listed above.

While you get busy reading, I’ll be putting together a Ten Movies Every Introvert Should Watch list and a playlist for introverts, so look out for that! xx

5 Things That Surprised Me on My Trip to Japan

At the beginning of this summer, I had the immense privilege of visiting lovely Nippon, a dichotomy of a country. It’s where nature meets high tech, East meets West, and my awkward lumpy body meets the delicacy of a kimono. While I only saw a snippet of what this string of islands has to offer, as I only stayed a week in Kyoto and Osaka, I’ve already fallen in love.

I was walking back to the hotel room one night after a day of successfully navigating the subway rails when I looked around at the businesspeople, the schoolchildren, the rectangle apartments and glowing storefronts and said to myself, I can see it. I can totally see myself living here.

As always whenever I visit new places, I hope to return someday. Japan truly was a treat, a land of amazing photo opportunities and even better food. Despite the familiarity and the immediate feeling of home, there were still culture shocks along the way. It’s so strange that no matter how much you prepare yourself for being a foreigner, how much you tell yourself that your normal may not be everyone else’s normal, you always find that you were a little more close-minded than you thought you were. As much as I’d love to believe that I am a global citizen, I always end up feeling like such an American tourist. Here are 10 instances of the unexpected whilst in Japan.

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  1. It hit 90 degree Fahrenheit temperature and adults and children alike were wearing coats and sweaters out and about.

As a kid who was raised in Texas, this was incomprehensible to me. In the summer, Texans don’t have conversations that don’t start with complaints about the heat. Everyone is out in tank tops, short shorts, flip flops, bikinis, sunglasses…basically as little clothing as possible. Amazingly, everyone in Japan adheres to dress code even in sweltering heat. Everyone wore long pants or skirts. Everyone wore long sleeves. School uniforms were strictly in place – long dress socks, ties, sweater vests, button-down shirts, and all. I felt out of place in my T-shirts and jean shorts whenever I stepped out into the street.

  1. The streets of Japan are extremely safe.

Of course, I didn’t expect Kyoto or Osaka to be the favelas of Rio or the back streets of Detroit, but I did expect maybe the occasional pickpocket or even drunk person singing in a back alleyway. Never once did we experience that. We got lost maybe three or four times coming back to our hotel in Osaka, but even in the dimly lit business district where we were staying, we always felt relatively secure. Teenagers biked up and down the streets. One sweet lady even stopped to help direct us back to our elusive hotel.

  1. I didn’t hear as much K-pop as expected. Actually, I didn’t hear K-pop at all.

After reading Euny Hong’s The Birth of Korean Cool as well as experience the Hallyu wave in America myself, I expected a cacophony of K-pop to greet me in every store, restaurant, and mall. Not the case at all. To be fair, I was in quiet places the majority of the time – temples, shrines, nature walks, the Osaka aquarium – the kinds of places where pop music would be out of place. However, I didn’t hear any K-pop at all. I heard snatches of J-pop here and there. But never K-pop. I understand that the two countries have had a long-standing political rivalry, but I assumed that Japan would be willing to embrace the Korean pop culture boom heard round the world, especially the East Asian world. I guess not.

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  1. The food courts in large malls are FABULOUS.

It’s almost as nice as walking into Hogsmeade. Bento boxes, every flavor of ice cream, cute Italian restaurants, cafes upon cafes, sushi, seafood, ramen, ramen, and more ramen. It’s all pretty reasonably priced (although fancier places may be on the expensive side), and it’s all yummy. *Although one side food surprise: I expected there to be more bubble tea places! Maybe it’s because I’m used to drink shops every five feet in my homeland of Taiwan or maybe they’re just all in Tokyo, but I definitely expected to see many more cups of the Taiwanese  tapioca milk tea delight. My guess is that Japan wants to preserve its own unique culinary culture without too many foreign influences everywhere. Of course, there’s enough matcha lattes to simultaneously quench my thirst and sweet tooth.

  1. Everything is aesthetic.

The uniformed people. The delicate maple leaves. The pink and white pastel buildings. The draping subway lines. The fluid, singsong language. The food positioned just so as it’s brought before you. Beauty in Japan is on a whole other level. Everywhere I was surrounded by pale, flawless skin and slim, petite bodies – what seemed like the ideal of beauty for both men and women. What surprised me wasn’t this ideal, it was the incredible consistency. Everyone aimed for the same look, and very nearly, everyone achieved it. It seemed like such a stark contrast to American individualism.  There seemed to be some unspoken rule about makeup as well. Schoolgirls never wore it, but it seemed like after high school, you were required to don the foundation-blush-eyeliner-lipstick combo that every working class lady wore. Bright colors were a no go. Everyone matched in the same dark, cool colors normally reserved for wintertime back in the States – black, white, beige, navy, gray. It was interesting seeing Japanese collectivism and conformity manifest itself this way. I don’t think it’s my place to condone or object to this kind of behavior – it’s an entire culture after all – and I’ve always had my own inner conflict of individualism vs. collectivism that I haven’t quite resolved. But to me, this uniformity in aesthetics proved both strange and absolutely beautiful.

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So that’s my two yen on Japan. I think it’s safe to say it’s literally my favorite travel destination ever, 10/10 would recommend. Have any of you been to Japan? Are you considering it? Leave me a thought below. xx

A Letter To My Future Daughter (and Young Girls Everywhere)

Dear Princess Warrior,

Life is hard for a human being. Life for a female human being can be even harder. There are 15 things that I wish I had learned earlier that will make your life that much easier. I hope these will come in handy.

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1. There will come a time in your life when you will want to create change on a macro scale. You will wish you had the power to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate the illiterate, empower the oppressed. These big ideas are so so important, but it’s also important to keep in mind that you need to live a good life on a micro scale as well. Be kind to the outcasts at school. Empathize with strangers. Respect your friends and family. So often, I see groups of friends decide to hate or judge a particular person for some small reason, and those kinds of things can send people into depression. It’s a type of bullying. Remember that good people can be bullies without meaning to; bullies can be your friends. It’s up to you to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. Sometimes it’s up to you to make the difficult decision of standing up to your friends.

2. If he isn’t texting you back, if he isn’t making an effort to be with you, forget him. No matter how strong the jawline, no matter how long the lashes, there lies another boy out there who can top him. I promise. Never chase after a boy, because like buses and trains, when one leaves, another will come along to take its place.

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3. The healthier you are, the prettier you will be. Notice that I said “healthier” not “skinnier.” And the most important kind of health for beauty? Take extra good care of your skin, which means water, facial cleanser, toner, moisturizer, acne cream. All water based and oil free. Twice a day. Every day. Don’t forget some water-based sunscreen.

4. Don’t date in middle school. You’ll only regret it. (Dating in high school can be quite a waste of time as well.)

5. Don’t do things just to try to fit in. It will be tempting. Don’t do it. No ad can tell you what to wear, no celebrity can tell you how to do your makeup, no cool crowd at school can tell you how to act, no cute boy can tell you what kind of jokes to make. You decide. And I could tell you to be yourself, but it’s not really that simple, because I doubt at age 11, you know who you are. I’m writing this to you at age 19 and I am far from knowing who I am. But I am closer to figuring that out than I was at 11, that’s for sure. Just don’t do things because of other people; do things for yourself.

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5. Blow dry your hair downwards. It’ll prevent frizz.

6. Do a sport and stick with it. Even if you think you aren’t athletic or even if you think you suck. This is something you won’t regret, especially if you choose the sport yourself.

7. Do one thing that makes you happy or inspires you every day.

8. Here are the ingredients to a good handwritten letter: an inside joke, a unique compliment, something that you’re both looking forward to, a genuine promise, and something vulnerable that you might not say to them in person.

9. Blend your makeup and use primer. More importantly – go easy on the eye makeup as a beginner.

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10. The first time you’re ever cat-called will likely be terrifying. I want you to breathe, stay safe, walk away, and process it for a second. Realize that you live in a patriarchal society where some men feel entitled to your body and your attention. Pity them. Pity them for listening to society’s screwed-up messages rather than the strong women in their lives. And empower yourself by knowing that you are, in fact, an underdog woman warrior who is fighting against this enemy of misogyny and patriarchy.

11. Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be a diary – I’m sure you can come up with something more creative than that.

12. If a boy ever tells you you “run like a girl” or “fight like a girl,” tell him “good.”

13. There are unspeakable, horrible evils in the world. But hate cannot be fought with hate, and violence cannot be fought with violence. You can’t hurt people and expect to right their wrongs. You can only fight brutality with compassion and love; you can only drive away darkness by turning on the light.

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14. If you ever feel stressed or depressed, talk to someone. Know that insecurity and anxiety is normal.

15. Read. Read everything and anything until you find what you’re passionate about – picture books, Popular Science, fashion magazines, comic books, the daily news, 20th century literature, Shakespeare, literally anything. Then, read some more.

16. Don’t judge other people by what they wear, how they present themselves outwardly, what they listen to, what they eat, what they believe in, what they were born with. This includes that one chick who wears high heels to school every day or that guy who’s autistic. Judge others purely by their morals and values.

17. You’re beautiful and unique. We’re all beautiful and unique. There’s so many beautiful and unique people out there in the world, and you only have a limited time on earth to get to know them.

18. Keep pads/tampons, a hair tie, a pen, and kickass lipstick in your purse at all times.

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19. Even the worst human being is still human. Psychopaths, sociopaths, and criminals didn’t make themselves – society, propaganda, cultural systems, politics, brainwashing, family, the environment, genetics, and so many things that they can’t control made them. That’s why we have to be kind to every human being, and that’s why every human being deserves a second chance. Maybe it’s a naive notion to think that people are good, but I don’t think it’s naive to be good yourself – to practice a bit of empathy. You don’t have to like every individual to understand a little bit of where they’re coming from.

20. Like I said before, I want you to be yourself. If this means disregarding all of the above, then so be it. I don’t care if you’re not the girl who actually carries around a purse or who wears makeup or gives a shit about hair frizz. I don’t care if you’re a girl who does care about all those things, and is actually very passionate about beauty and fashion. I don’t care if you don’t identify as a girl at all. So there, be yourself, unashamedly, unabashedly. And I will always love and support that.

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Sincerely,

Francie xx