A couple of weeks back I found this pretty book at Book People on N Lamar called 🎉📚DIY Rules for a WTF World📚 by Krista Suh (@kristasuh) – a feminist, Hollywood screenwriter, artist and creator of The Pussyhat Project – the most iconic visual of the Women’s March! 👏🏼💯 Super recommend for everyone, especially young feminists ✊🏼✊🏾✊🏻✊🏿✊🏽 and anyone who wants to know themselves better. The following is a wordy post about many of the things that resonated deeply with me as I’ve been processing all of this. As a memory person I can tell you that you should write in your books or at least take notes when something jumps out at you. Many times we read, we consume and we forget. Making little notes and marks makes you remember better (or at least it helps me be more present when reading because I’m looking for things that stick out).
✍🏼 “One of the ways in which we lose our power is simple, we’re made to feel guilty for finding ourselves fascinating”…. 🙌🏼❤
As ambitious women, especially ambitious Asian women of a certain kind, we might feel like the world is ending if we’re not smart, beautiful, kind or whatever else enough. We are enough even without achievement, we are enough even without external validation, we are enough as we are.
So many of our ideals, what we should be, are not even our own ideals! They are often constructs of ideals and messages we’ve absorbed from the media or other places outside of ourselves. The idea that what we like is what we like simply because we like it is sometimes a slight oversimplification. I think Tom Vanderbilt writes about this at length in “You May Also Like”, how taste and morals are relative to many aspects and not just inherent reactions. I also know, on TV and some places on the internet it looks like I am a badass who rides motorcycles and speaks many languages and I can look very intimidating, but that is not what I spend most of my time doing. I spend a lot of my time just hanging out, walking my dog and thinking (too much) about morals or feeling lost. Not very badass, but I embrace it, I’ve learned slowly that there’s down time and there’s On time.
An On period for me is much like September last year when I was doing press conferences for the IKEA campaign in three countries, filming a documentary in two cities and competed at the Asian Memory Open in Hong Kong – all in a span of two weeks. The off period came later, when I spent two entire months in October and November last year spending 99% of my time sitting at home learning, studying, memorizing and hanging out (1% was the weekend I did my first long lecture at the Polyglot Conference in Iceland and appeared on Steve Harvey for the first time).
The good thing about the slow periods is that you can help friends and loved ones, be supportive. Be the one who cleans at home, pays the bills, says words of encouragement and you can go all in on being a supportive role. I never thought I’d enjoy this but seeing my family and friends grow is a passion I never realized I had until recently… it might actually be more interesting than personal growth.
When I started competing in memory I struggled a lot with whether I should write about my achievements (and non-achievements) online. The choice was made when I realized this is a sport dominated by (at the time mostly) white and Asian men and it was sometimes an isolating experience when sexist comments and other micro (and macro) aggressions happened. I knew women could do better than them if they saw more women competing, I knew I would’ve started competing earlier if I had had a woman who encouraged me to enter. I knew representation mattered, and since none of my rivals would say anything nice about me, I started writing nice things about myself. Then the Mongolian mogul that is Khatanbaatar Khandsuren wrote positively about me and then author Erkhembayar Baltsukh wrote about me and since then things have spiraled. When I started, 1 out of the top 10 competitors was a woman. Now, 4 out of the top 10 (including myself) are Mongolian women. 1 of the 17 world records were by women when I started and now 6 of them are held by Mongolian women. Representation matters. Choose who you are representing and who you are speaking to.
This idealism is probably also thrown upon us from various magic mentors seen in movies (Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid, Mushu in Mulan, Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and the list goes on). So far I’ve found it’s better to just be friends and occasionally give kind advice to one another, rather than to go out looking for this idyllic Mentor Person.
Which leads me to this ^, my mom and other loved ones are always telling me to get an agent. I have tried to go hunting for an agent, which has always led to lots of uncomfortable exchanges… Which reminds me that most of the time when amazing things have happened, the opportunity has come to me. I’ve been fishing (doing my part to put myself out there) but not hunting (not actively seeking opportunities). The go-getter in me does not like this, but it is astoundingly clear that the best collaborations I’ve worked on have come out of a place of relaxation.
I’ve also learned to give very stern No’s when I’ve felt the wrong opportunity came into my inbox. I’ve started to learn to give No’s without giving a reason. Women should be able to just say no without having to spend all this time apologizing for not doing a gig.
Sometimes we say no because it doesn’t feel right. Which feels crazy! We should have flow charts and statistics for why, right? No. I said no to a lot of money last year (and this year) just because it didn’t feel right. I understand that it’s a big act of privilege to say no to opportunities and money that look great from the outside, but would’ve made things worse for many if I had participated. There are hidden costs to everything and some things are worse than others. Despite the big checks I said No to last year, I’m trying to trust that there’ll be more opportunities for me to do something that both looks right and what feels right intuitively.
I have so many ideas for everything from apps to art projects to movements on an hourly basis if I’m not meditating or working on a project (this is why I meditate and work on projects all the time so I don’t get sidetracked). I let most of them go, saying “Thank you for visiting me but I’m not your gal” to the idea (I know this sounds cray-cray but this is what I have to do to stop it from developing and occupying my mind). There are a few ideas that I let go into the theoretical “ideasphere” and they keep coming back… and maybe it’s because we’re meant to work together? (The Ideasphere and this whole rhetoric I speak of is heavily influenced by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic which I’ve talked about before).
I have a sneaking suspicion that the ideas that keep coming back to me are doing so because they are something that I truly and deeply want and need, but there’s great fear attached to it. According to Krista, this is where the magic happens. I have a sneaking suspicion that my creative dreams are what I’m truly meant to pursue, but still a little (fearful) voice in my head says… what if I’m wrong?
I know better than to do gigs that feel wrong but pay well or look good, even if some might perceive it as conceited and I should know better than to act out of a place of fear.
The point is, and this has been hard to accept and I still struggle with this, some people will always see you in a negative way. It’s not about your personality, your looks or how you take your tea… they just don’t like you and they’ll never figure out why and you shouldn’t try to either. Once at a memory competition, I gave encouraging words to a fellow competitor. He snapped at me, thinking I was being sarcastic, that I was mocking him even though my intention was the exact opposite. No matter how many positive encounters we have had since, he always sees me in a negative way. That’s OK, I’d rather choose to spend my time with my sisters with whom I share mutual admiration, respect and love and whom I always assume have good intentions.
Another former friend of mine would complain that my vlogs were bad back when I started vlogging, but I didn’t listen and within a few days one of them had more than half a million views on Facebook. If I had listened to him, I wouldn’t have been able to reach out to so many people. No wonder we’ve drifted apart, he’s a perfectionist and I’m ok with doing things way, way, way earlier than that.
I asked dumb questions the first time I competed at a memory competition because I just threw myself at it, now I’m more of a well-rounded competitor but I’m still not perfect. Perfection will never come, I can strive for it but I don’t let the absence of it keep me from trying my best. I know so many people who have said for years that they were going to compete, but the fear of not being perfect keeps them from even starting… which is a little sad.
My time in the memory community has been messy, full of mistakes and definitely inconvenient to others. Not necessarily because I did anything wrong, but as previously mentioned, a guy and girl can exude the same confidence and competitive spirit and people will label the dude a “level-headed guy” and the girl can be seen as “shrill and obnoxious”. I still have to remember that they dislike me no matter what because I’m not a quiet modest mousey woman. In the end, the best revenge is to just be OBVIOUSLY better than they are, which is easy enough when competing since there’s an objective winner with points and all. No mirrortocracy can keep the points down.
I don’t blame the women who choose to minimize themselves. There are often many consequences to speaking your kind and speaking your mind. To be completely honest, I used to roll my eyes when my friends Johanna and Emma talked about feminism when we were 18-19 years old. I felt like I just couldn’t relate to any of their anecdotes and theories at the time…
But then as I started waiting tables, hanging out with dumber men (long story), going to business school and started competing in memory… something in me snapped. Clients at the restaurant would grope me and the police to whom I reported it would say it comes with the job. My opinion during group projects would be overlooked while a guy could say the same thing two seconds later and be praised for his deep insight. I started to feel like I was going crazy since most of my friends (who at the time were 99% white men) just didn’t see it, even when I pointed it out as it happened. I felt like we were living in parallel universes, I thought I was going mad. It’s only after extensive discussion with sisters and woke brothers that I’ve realized, nope, the patriarchy is a thing and I’m not crazy. At least not when I notice sexism.
Woman reports a predator anonymously.
“Anonymous accusations aren’t credible!”
Woman reports under her name.
“She just wants fame and attention…”
Woman reports years after the attack.
“Why did she wait so long?!”
Woman reports immediately.
“What was she drinking/wearing/doing?”
— Laila Lalami (@LailaLalami) 4 december 2017
What I like is important because I like it and I like writing long posts about how I related to the beautiful books that have impacted me deeply.
The exercise that I call “Finding Two positive friends for your Negative friend” has really been working for me and my friends as we’ve tried it on something we find negative in our current lives. Try it yourself when you have a primary negative emotion (fear, anger, Trump), try attaching two positive emotions to it, first just one and then build another one from that one.
I am lucky enough to pursue what I know and feel in my heart is fun. Sometimes people get jealous because it looks like I’m leading a glamorous life of travel and doing fun entertainment stuff… which is not entirely false but also not entirely true. It takes so much persistence and perseverance to get a world record (who would’ve known?). But sometimes I wish I could just say, yeah it’s fun! I’ve been working on trying to live my best life since I was six years old and I first picked up self-help books. I STAND BY MY JOY AND THAT I’VE WORKED SUPER HARD TO NOT WORK SUPER HARD. There’s shame in leading a good life for some reason.
I don’t know how many times I’ve asked people to donate to various causes, people and charities and there’s always someone who supposedly knows a better way to help who complains about my efforts to help (WTF?). There’s always something I should’ve donated to or helped more than what I choose in the moment, which has lead to me donating and helping causes for the past three years in the privacy of my own mind and life instead of sharing it with the public. That’s wrong, starting this year I’ll share it publicly with people.
In reading this book I’ve realized I’m really not too cool for anything and that’s great! I don’t mind asking basic questions because I’m not too cool to sound dumb which means I’ll learn forever!
The most interesting people I know are people who are both incredibly scientifically inclined and deeply woo-woo spiritual. My best friends are people who understand the statistical improbability of winning the lottery, but understand the psychological positive effects of thinking for a second that you could become an overnight billionaire.
The most relaxing people to be around let go of their self-identities. There’s always friction when someone is overly insistent on something being their personality trait (i.e. I’m the funny one or I’m the clever one or whatever).
A lot of my time is spent at home, working on building things, sometimes things that don’t seem to have a clear end in sight. When I first started competing in memory many of my peers commented that it was quaint, none of us thought it would become my first real career (OK, to be honest I had a hunch but I didn’t want to say it at the time for fear of seeming conceited).
But be aware, if you announce that you are doing something with a goal in mind, people might comment negatively. Just deal with it if you really want to share your goals, or keep your goals to yourself.
One good reason to keep goals to yourself is that sometimes, the world (seemingly) has other plans for you, no matter your intentions and wishes. It helps to believe in pronoia, the idea that the universe is conspiring for you, trying to make your life experience better, even if it looks far from it in the moment when it seems to withhold what you want.
Ah, I want this space I have online to be even prettier now that I’ve got some social validation that it’s OK to be passionate about making a beautiful space for people to visit you online. Krista’s website really is pretty too!
The irony of all of this is that I’ve learned we learn better when we hear personal stories than we do reading non-fiction and facts. In which case being personal is an act of rebellion, being personal can cause a revolution and being personal can at the simplest level make someone else out there feel less alone in their feelings and thoughts and that is a revolution in itself.
For my friends who talk about not wanting to make things because they don’t have a following, this rule applies. You get a following because people want to follow what you make, you can’t expect people to follow you if you don’t make anything in the first place (unless your royalty or a Kardashian baby from birth). This makes no sense, please think about this dear friends. To get a following, people need something to follow. If you want to be in movies, go to movie people events (?) and if you want mail, send mail (also I get super happy when I get physical mail for some reason, am I the only one?).
AND MY SWEET SISTERS THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING! DREAM BIG! It’s not about reaching your dreams, sometimes you reach them and it feels fine and sometimes you don’t but you find other things on the way that you’d rather do.
My outlandish dream that I have no shame in sharing with others right now is that I DEFINITELY WANT TO PLAY A FEMALE SUPERHERO IN A SUPERHERO MOVIE OR TV-SERIES OR BOTH SO UNIVERSE LET’S GET TO IT!
I love you my sweet sisters. また、明日ね💕