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Lessons of Summer 2021: On Change, More Grief, Finding Direction, Discovering “the One”

Relative to my last few summers, my summer of 2021 has been more mellow, which is quite pleasant as it acts as a smooth transition into the upcoming fuller, busier, in-person-functioning-kind-of life.

In 2018, I got to travel to various parts of Europe: London, Paris, Scotland.

A photo of happy Katrina on a boat riding at the Seine River on my first day in Paris. :)
A happy Katrina on a boat riding at the Seine River on my first day in Paris. :)

In 2019, I was able to travel to 3 Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand.

Photo depicting Katrina enjoying her time with elephants at Chang Mai, Thailand.
Enjoying my time with elephants at Chang Mai, Thailand! We got to feed, play, and bathe them. :)
Photo of Katrina smiling in front of Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower was an amazing sight to see.

Within these years, I became exposed to a wide array of wondrous nations and peoples and sacred places. With all of my travels, I discovered how vital it is to understand different aspects of culture, and what makes this world beautiful as it is interconnected with diversity.

Photo of Katrina smiling in the middle of a giant Indonesia rice field, with a sign that says, "I love Bali."
Immersed myself in the famous rice fields Bali, Indonesia!
A photo of Katrina on a boat at El Nido, Philippines.
Swimming at and exploring El Nido, Philippines!

A photo Katrina took on top of the London Eye Ferris Wheel, depicting a view overlooking all of London.
A photo I took on top of the London Eye Ferris Wheel, with a view overlooking all of London.

2020 was the first summer that I was not able to travel anywhere outside of my homeland, California. However, the introspection I reflected upon at the time already felt like an exciting feat of internal exploration, inner adventure of self-discovery, and a profound period of mental recovery. In fact, the inner work I did during that time, as well as the past 2 years after my trip to Indonesia, helped me reach a stable point of grounded solidity within myself, to tackle through what I recall as my rock bottom. Now, I am stronger through the struggles that I used to think were completely unbearable. (And you absolutely can too, if you are currently going through anything big or small.) It is how I learned all of these lessons.

All struggles, obstacles, and challenges involve some kind of change, physically and/or mentally. Most people, including myself, are afraid of change, especially when it is unexpected and sudden (think about the pandemic!).

Often times, changes come with the cost of grief. You mourn over the potential of what you thought could be. You mourn over the loss of expectation. Before all unexpected and sudden change, you believe that you have an unquestionable firm grip of the future, that affirmative sense of control to outcomes. You feel confident and certain and assured. As the future unfolds, you painfully realize that it turns out as something different, worse, or simply not as how you expected it to be. Consequently, you feel like you have let yourself down. Your confidence and certainty and assuredness of what you thought you knew accordingly breaks down. Little by little, these blocks of your conviction fall down. The validity of your aspirations deteriorate. What comes next may result in a rush of hopelessness, helplessness, or some manifestation of tense unease. In comes the disconnection to your own trust, your own gut, and your self-validation.

As things tumble and spiral and escalate out of your control, extreme cases may have caused you to lose the voice of your own heart.

I'll be honest: my summer of 2021 have been filled with many days where I have felt that disconnection to my inner voice due to rapid and big changes, which have resulted in an utter sense of disempowerment. I did not trust myself, and there are times when hesitation still conquers my confidence. It has led to cracks in my core, as well as an invalidation of my needs and wants. At times when no one saw it, I tumbled and spiraled and escalated from within. Again and again and again.

But in the most illogical ways, these continual tumbling and spiraling and escalating dark moments where things felt unbearable, subtly brought the lightness of hope.

As contradictory as it sounds, this has always been my process of coping. Sometimes it is a comment from a stranger I do not know that brightens up my spirit just enough to remind myself of who I am. Or a simple 5 minute grounding exercise, a meditative melody, mindful journalling. A tiny little text from someone I love. Mustering up sheer willpower to move my body, or read helpful affirmations, on my heaviest, most draining days. FaceTiming my best friends. Listening to my body when I feel the most unsafe in it: eating when I am hungry, drinking water when I am thirsty. Hearing someone's soul get excited when they cheer someone else on, or share their passions to their own community. Being recharged in nature. Watching others dance, sing, perform without caring about anyone else except for the purpose of their own raw enjoyment. Dancing and singing to my own favorite tunes that inspire me to create.

All of these are the small yet huge moments that make everything in this life, worth it. Authentic connection is a remembrance of our humanity. These are the little things.

The little things remind me that the worst hardships are opportunities for strength, and sometimes, the universe has my back.

Hope does not come to me; I come to hope. And how I always find hope, is in the gift of positive optimism. I think that is one of the gifts I am most thankful for.

My mind that deals with logic and rationality does not allow this cycle to happen. It is my heart that has this innate power to turn my darkness into my light. But I can only allow its power to realistically manifest when I LISTEN to it. It is my true source for empowerment, and it is yours too.

Genuine positivity and true optimism is not about being constantly happy regardless of your situation and state of mind; it is about allowing all kinds of emotions to enter into your body—good or bad—and firmly KNOWING that better days will come.

My intuition is my internal compass that helps me navigate the world around me.

Some call it their gut feeling, higher power, internal voice, or inner knowing…call it however you identify it as.

With the support and guidance of friends and family, my heart ultimately knows what is best.

When I feel fragile, I feel everything that comes to me. By feeling everything, I allow myself to release and let go of what my future self does not deserve: self-sabotaging thoughts, expectations from others, external validation, a need to feel understood, and people who do not align with my energy.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned in this calm yet difficult summer, is to no longer match other people’s energy. Rather, I am solely responsible for maintaining my energy, and to simply see who aligns with mine.

That way, I know who is right for my pathway in the long-run, or those who just act as temporary teachers. After all, the environment you immerse yourself in act as your resources for inspiration, fuel, and love.

There is no self-love without surrounding yourself in the love of trusted people you know and appreciate.

When was the last time you have checked in with your loved ones? We forget such a simple but vital thing to do. As I have thought about this retrospectively, I realized another reframing technique. Instead of asking yourself or others, “how are you,” perhaps a more effective and beneficial manner to tune into your inner and outer world is…

“How is your heart and where has it been?”

“Where have been placing your energy?”

“Have you been wisely investing your attention into tomorrow’s desired reality? If not, what can you do now that can help that come into fruition?”

I have watched my life change for the better when I ponder on these questions instead of a shallow “how are you,” as it provokes deeper insight to the root causes of my awareness. It leads me back to where my feet are. To what is in front of me at this current moment. And when I think about what is in front of me, it’s this:

Unexpected, sudden, and unintended change sucks. As inevitable as it is, nothing will ever change the continual pain and distrust it can cause to myself and to others. Acceptance is hard, but it is worth it. When I accept that I can only control a limited number of results in my life, I allow more freedom to nest comfortably within me, through the idea of knowing that I do not need to know everything.

I don’t need to have everything figured out, and that’s okay. It is difficult to not know some things at all, but once you have learned how to somewhat sit and coexist with that discomfort, you deeply know that it will always be okay.

To be and to feel okay amidst the discomfort and uncertainty is surely easier said than done, because we cannot let go of our natural need to control outcomes that constitute our future. With that in mind, here is a reflective self-love poem I wrote: "The One."


"The One" - an original poem

Who is the only person you will ever have FULL control over?

The one that ALWAYS believes in your best intentions, despite being your WORST critic?

It is the one that always knows your favorite flavor of ice cream or type of dessert you crave on a daily basis.

It is the one that allows you to feel the hugs from those who unconditionally love you and those who you unconditionally love.

The one that facilitates your own body to be embraced by cool windy breezes, blanketing you on a scorching and perspiring summer’s day as you recharge amidst vast tall trees that remind you to breathe.

The one that helps you feel wonderful natural warmth, as your body transfers the sun’s soothing warm rays from invigorating, fresh, oxygenated air through the pores of your skin.

The one that lets you sip your favorite hot drink on a rainy day, underneath your cozy blanket you annually unfold for marathons of the next show or film you have been dying to watch.

The one that gets excited from realizing they have yet to listen to the harmonious sounds that may become their future favorite melodic song or popping artist or entertaining podcast.

The one that sensually reads these words right now as I pour them from my own truth.

Your mirror reveals the one. For your own self, you are and have always been the one.

Your future self, is the one.

When you learn that finding “the one” is really just a journey of returning to the true core of who you are, consisting of a heart beating with purpose and a mind bustling with infinite potential, you really start to feel joyful with the newfound peace that has been privately residing in your heart all along. Why? Because one can only connect to others as deeply as they have connected to themselves.

And when you finally feel at peace in yourself even when things do not feel okay, compassion compels you to help others in navigating their journey towards their peace, too.

When I feel joyful, I feel everything.

And when I feel everything, I write. <3

~ You are the only one that can dim your light, so do not forget that strengthening, shining, and sharing your light can help create a world with the profound changes that you desire. You are the change, for it all starts with you.

Change your perspective, by being ”the one” to you. ~

Sending much love to all, and hope your summer has been or was delightful as it can possibly be.

- Kat (she/they)

IG: @plantifullylivin


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