The Transition into Adulthood

We go through changes in our lives constantly from the day we’re born. Just when we think we’re done changing, we’re hit with something that forces us to re-evaluate ourselves as people.

I have undergone so many changes in the past three years that sometimes I can’t even recall what kind of person I was at 17. When I was 17, I used to think that the person that I was, was the person I would be for the rest of my life. I’d just gotten accepted to my first choice of university for a very prestigious program. My life was completely planned out and was going smoothly. I would graduate in 5 years, find a really nice paying job in one of the Big 4 accounting firms, pay off my student loans, and be able to finally travel the world as I have dreamed of doing all my life.

Now I don’t even know what it is that I want to do for the rest of my life, but even though that is the case, I have no regrets and I would say that I am a lot more content with my life now than I was back then. Even though I don’t quite know what kind of job title or profession I’m looking for, at least now I know that it’ll be in a field that I enjoy.

Transitioning into adulthood is an extremely scary thing. Some refer to it as a “quarter-life crisis.” My quarter-life crisis took place in 2 major stepping stones, all of which I experienced failure and had to push myself to get past them.

The first big transition that I went through was moving out and going to university for the first time. During that year, I learned how to live on my own, got a taste of the real world, and discovered what true friendship really is.

Growing up, I never had any best friends. I spent most of my time with my family and never really got to experience all those things that children and teenagers usually get to experience, like having a birthday party with friends, hanging out after school, and going out together. That’s why all the friends I made at my first year of university had such a huge impact on my life. They were my first “real” friends whom I got to do everything with and experience new things with. Even to this day, I still consider them my best friends even though we’re all in different cities now.

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May 2016 (top), September 2013 (bottom)

Transferring to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology was the second major transition that I went through in my life. That was the year that I made the terrifying decision to drop out of university. During that time off, I found myself a full-time office job where I started to save up money to transfer to a different school. That school ended up being Humber College.

The change didn’t stop there. Before my first year at Humber, I spontaneously chopped off 15 inches of my hair and donated it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, an organization that takes donated hair and makes them into wigs for women fighting cancer. I have had long hair for almost all of my life so doing this was a huge change for me. Since I was starting a new school and taking a step towards following my dreams, I wanted to do something to celebrate a “new me.” It took some getting used to, but I ended up loving my new short hair. Not only did I feel more light physically, I also felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders mentally. I went through a lot of tough times in the past 2 years, but I was able to overcome them and move on with my life. Now I can look back proudly and say that I made it and remind myself that there is no obstacle that I can’t overcome.

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Life in a cubicle (written in a cubicle)

LIFE IN A CUBICLE
(written in a cubicle by Emily Chhin) / Aug. 2015

Trapped under fluorescent lights
not a window in sight.
Some days I don’t even know
whether outside is rain or shine.

For seven months, this cubicle has occupied my life.
I kept it to myself, all my frustration and strife.
Always criticized for what I did wrong,
despite all the things that I did right.

By the time I get home, I just feel like collapsing on the floor.
My head throbbing. My tired eyes, sore.
There’s so much I want to do: exercise, take photos, learn something new,
but all my body feels like doing is watching TV, nothing more.

I hate this job, it’s made me miserable,
but it’s opened my eyes to something previously hidden, invisible:
This is my life, and I want to live it doing something I love.
Any other way would be unthinkable, unbearable, unforgivable.

And so, finally, I am leaving this place with a new goal in mind.
I am going back to school for what I really love: photography, videography, and web design.
It took me a long 20 years to realize
but now I’m finally leaving this life of false dreams and lies, behind.


I was cleaning my room and found this poem that I had written last year. It was sitting under a pile of books that I had on my desk.

Since I’ve written this in August of last year, I have gone to my new school, met new people, and finished my first year of post-secondary school in the top percentile of my program.

Grades have always been a nerve-wracking, anxious thing for me, especially after the last 2 years of failing classes and getting terrible marks at my previous universities. That’s why the past year at my new college has been an eye-opener for me.

Not only did I start getting great marks back in all of my classes, I made the Dean’s list for both semesters and my work has even been recommended by my professors. I’ve had one professor make an honourable mention of my website to my program coordinator, and I was specially asked by her to represent our program at the March open house.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more surprised and more proud of myself in my life. After 2 years of continual failure, you don’t know how much it means to me to finally have my hard work pay off and be recognized.

I’ve deduced that maybe my success was the result of going into a program that I’m actually interested in and have a passion for. That passion will shine through your work and translate into success.

Ironically though, I’m back at my old cubicle job for the summer. I can’t escape the reality of having to work in order to help pay for school and not placing the entire burden on my father. At first, the familiar anxiety and depression that I had working there last year started coming back to me, but then I realized that, unlike last year, I now had a clear path laid out for me for my future. I no longer had to worry about having to work there for the rest of my life; it was only temporary. I remind myself that everyday that I go into work. I’ve been nagged by my boss, scolded, and overheard my co-workers talking about me behind my back, but I just have to keep reminding myself not to take things so seriously and to just keep looking at the positives in my life right now and to keep looking forward.

Even if I’m working at the same old job that I tried to get away from last summer, this summer is different. I’m a lot happier and the positive vibe has given me a lot more energy to work on things that I love, like painting, photography, and getting out and enjoying nature.

Next summer, I vow to make a change. I’ll try to look for a job that will help me transition into the field that I want to work in, and take one step further towards building the life I want to live. Time doesn’t stop and I don’t want to waste anymore of it wallowing in the past.

It’s selfish to be lonely alone.

emilychhinphotography_lonelyaloneLoneliness is a strange thing that comes and goes in my life, in which I have absolutely no control over, no matter how hard I try to subdue it. It hits me at the most unexpected times, which is why I created this typography poster: to remind me that one day, I will eventually find that other lonely person out there and we will be able to fill that empty void with each other’s company.

Even if I’m in a crowd of people, or with my own family, sometimes I can’t help but feel a little lonely — like I still don’t fit in. There are so many expectations of me that I’m afraid I won’t meet, and I constantly feel like I’m a dead weight, or a failure. I sometimes feel like my place in other people’s lives is slowly starting to fade away and I’ll eventually be forgotten.

How can I make an impact in the lives of others, for the better?

I’m trying to figure out the answer to that question, but keep coming up short.

I hope to share the beauty of the world through my photography and words, but it’s hard to get the audience that I’m trying to reach out towards. I feel like time is inevitably passing each and every day, and yet my words and art are still left unnoticed. If only I could stop time and figure things out before letting it run again.

I want to do something in this life that can help other people and touch their hearts, but I still don’t know what that thing is. I try to brighten the days of others with my kindness, but sometimes I’m very bad at expressing my feelings and end up being misunderstood.

I want to help others, but sometimes my fear of getting hurt holds me back. In this world, I’ve learned that being too nice and trustworthy means that people will take advantage of me and exploit that trust. I didn’t use to view my naivety and innocence as a negative thing; I used to think it allowed me to view the world differently — in a more positive light — and see the good in people that others may not see at first.

 

“When so many people are lonely, it’s selfish to be lonely alone.”

No matter how lonely I am, this quote reminds me that I am not alone. There are other people out there going through the same thing as me. There is nothing more therapeutic than knowing you’re not alone and being able to share the burden instead of carrying it all on your own shoulders.

Sometimes we just need someone there to listen.

It’s our job as normal people to ensure that the potential of those misunderstood ones is realized.

“It’s our job as normal people to ensure that the potential of those misunderstood ones is realized.”
-Sora (No Game No Life, ep. 7)

When I first read this quote, I could instantly relate to it and understand the meaning behind it.

In this society, the talented are outliers, and often overlooked. Those kids with potential are either given the opportunity to hone their skills, or else they simply grow up and become average like everyone else. I see nothing wrong with being average; for me, a simple life where I can enjoy the daily, little things I love like gaming, watching tv, travelling, taking photos, etc. is enough for me.

But on the other hand, I believe that I was once one of those kids with potential when I was younger, however, I was not guided on the right track or given the right opportunities, and so I lost myself somewhere along the way. My potential as a great graphic/web designer and artist was never touched upon, and so it just faded away to average.

I definitely won’t give up on trying to improve, since graphic design is something I’ve always loved and been passionate about, but I know that I won’t be able to make up all the lost time and make it into a career.

So I personally know how important it is to find those people with potential and make sure they realize the talent that they have. Sometimes, people just need to be put on the right path at the start, to end up where they belong in the end.

Make a Decision and Stick With It

I’ve been conflicted the past couple days about whether I’m making the right choice about withdrawing from my computer science program and taking 2 terms off of university to work, save money, and build on my creative portfolio.

Everyone I’ve talked to has made it clear that they think my decision is a bad one, and that I should just continue with my program, and so the choice, that had once been very clear to me, started to waver. I started to immediately question my decision and question myself as a person. Should I just tough it out and continue studying courses that I find it hard to focus in? Should I just stick with it and see if it gets better in 4 years? What if it doesn’t? What if this program isn’t right for me again? I need the degree, or so everyone tells me, but what if I’m stuck doing a job later that I don’t really have the passion for? At least I’ll be making lots of money… right?

All of these thoughts were colliding in my head and I couldn’t think straight anymore. Not to mention everyone around me was telling me different things like, “you should do what you enjoy,” or “you should continue in computer science so you can get a good job and not have to worry about money,” or “just stay in your program. You just need to get your degree and you’re good.”

But is it really all about the degree only? I’ve always viewed university as a place to genuinely learn skills and techniques that you will later be able to apply to whatever career you choose. To me, university isn’t just a place where you force yourself to study a bunch of courses you hate, just so that you can get a paper saying you finished this program. Personally, I am always looking to improve and learn new things, but I feel that the only way I can become the best person I can possibly be, is through a little bit of guidance and criticism, and that’s where university comes in. I want to build on skills that I already have, and learn more about the things that interest me; not just drilling facts into my head for the sake of tests, and forgetting it all later.

I’ve always been a person who finds it hard to focus on something that I find uninteresting to me, and if the passion isn’t there, I can’t seem to find the motivation to do it. However, when it comes to the things I love and enjoy, such as graphic design, photography, video editing, and writing, I can spend hours and hours doing it, and I won’t even realize how much time has passed. When I’m learning about things I love, it’s easy for me to put in the hours required to learn it. In fact, sometimes I can’t even control myself.

It’s things like those that really make me feel that I should be pursuing a career that has something to do with my passions.

The program I’m in now does not give me a lot of time to improve my graphic design skills or photography, and so I became afraid that if I stayed in this program, the creative ability that I had worked so hard all my life to acquire, would slowly fade away and be sucked dry by the continuous cramming and studying for subjects, like Chemistry, in which I could never quite understand. I’m already starting to feel like I’m becoming more and more average in my photography and graphic design skills; skills that I had once been greatly complimented on when I was younger. I feel like I need to take a break, to really find myself again, and rebuild the confidence I had in my creative abilities.

So after a lot of time to myself, and thinking about all my past mistakes about make decisions based on the opinions of others and their expectations, I realized that my initial decision, no matter what other people thought, was my decision, and it was the right one. It seemed right before, and now it just seems even more right. Don’t let your decision be swayed by the biased and closed-minded opinions of others, and just stick with it. Remember that this is your life, and you decide what you want to do with it.

Don’t end up being that person with so much regret in their life because they chose the path that someone else laid out for them. Make your own path.

Emily

Where Has Humanity Gone?

On my short 20 minute walk home from class, I encountered 4 incidents of careless, insensitive behaviour of human beings. Four.

  1. People leaving their empty coffee cups on tables despite there being a garbage bin 5 steps away.
  2. Almost being run over by a car that sped through a pedestrian crosswalk. If I hadn’t looked before I crossed, I definitely would have been hit.
  3. A car parked directly on the sidewalk, blocking the whole path.
  4. A giant group of friends taking up the whole 2m-wide sidewalk and forcing me to walk off onto the dirt unless I wanted to walk into one of them.
    1. This happens to me quite often, actually. Whenever I’m walking with a friend and I see someone coming in the opposite direction, I make space by walking either in front of my friend or behind my friend. It’s not hard to do it for a couple seconds, come on…

It actually made my walk home a very sad one, when I realized how few, truly caring people there are out there in the world. I’m not perfect, and nobody is perfect, but I always try and put others before me whenever I can, whether it be letting them go into the line first if we both get there at the same time, or helping out if I can, but sometimes, it just makes me feel sad when I’m always trying to give to people, but others never even try. I feel good when I give, and that’s why I do it, but when others don’t do the same, I can’t lie, it does make me a little sad.

Sometimes I just wish I could do something about it. Like, I wish I could inspire people to change for the better, and convince them that thinking about others sometimes is better, but people always tell me that it’s human nature to be greedy and put ourselves over everyone else. But for my entire life, ever since I was little, I have always felt like that was so wrong. It just never made sense to me.

I know people always say “don’t try to change others, let them be who they want to be,” but what if they don’t realize that they’re hurting others by being that person. I feel like sometimes people do need to be criticized, and I feel that people need to learn to accept criticism and be able to learn from what other people try and teach them, instead of becoming angry, hurt and offended.

I have never meant to hurt anyone with my words, and if I found out that I did, I would feel so guilty, but sometimes I just want to help, but they don’t realize it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe that it’s human nature to be greedy. I think that’s just what society has made us believe, and warped our minds into thinking that way. I know that it’s important to take care of ourselves before trying to take care of others, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t try to help others to the best of our ability.

If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll be able to understand my thoughts and share them with others, or at least take it with more than just a grain of salt. Because, I believe that there are still kind humans out there, and I just don’t want them to end up becoming a victim to society’s harsh world, and having lost another person who contributes to what little faith in humanity I still have.

When things get tough…

Stress is something we have all been through, and will continue to go through. Stress is inevitable. You can’t avoid it and you can’t escape it. It’s a part of life, and so instead of letting it take over our lives, tackle it head on and take it down before it can do its damage. Whatever you do, don’t give it the power to control you.

As someone who has never dealt with stress very well, I wanted to write this post to share with everyone what I try to do to avoid succumbing to the suffocating grasp of what we call stress. Especially since us students are now entering midterm season.

Dealing with Stress

  1. Meditate. You might be scoffing at this, and I did too at first, but trust me on this one… it works wonders. All you have to do is sit, close your eyes, and try and clear your mind of anything and everything. Don’t think of anything for 5 minutes. If your mind starts to wander, just immediately start thinking, “oh no, I’m thinking!” and just try clearing your mind. It might be difficult getting used to not thinking of anything, but once you become composed enough to just sit there in silence, and even out your breathing, it feels really wonderful. Stress is one of the main factors that cloud our mind from thinking straight and cause us to do impulsive things, and so for me, I found this to be a good way to stop my negative thoughts and cleanse my mind.
  2. Take a break. Do something you enjoy, like going to the gym, watching an episode of your favourite tv show, playing an instrument, going out for a short walk, or you could always meditate. Whatever you do, do not work until you have a mental breakdown and fry your brains. You can do chores, if it helps take your mind off of the stress for a while!
  3. Think to yourself, “what will stressing out do for me?” The truth is, it really does nothing for you. All it does is impair your thinking, slow you down, and cloud your mind into thinking depressing things. Instead, try and think about the present, and less about the future, for the moment. Time is an independent thing, that won’t slow down for you or speed up for you. You can’t fight time, so just let it be. If you have something due in 2 hours, don’t stress. It will only slow you down. Just try your hardest and do your best, because when that time comes, at least you will know that you tried your hardest.
  4. Cry, scream, whatever. Just let it all out. One thing that’s hard for me, to do is to cry, especially in front of other people. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s showing weakness in front of others, but just know that it’s okay to cry. Go home, sit on your bed, grab a box of Kleenix, and cry until your eyes are dried out. Your eyes will feel puffy after, but after a while, no matter how hard you cry, your tears won’t spill anymore. That’s when you realize, “what was I crying about?” When you cry until you can’t cry anymore, that’s when you realize you have stuff to do and can’t waste any more time crying about it.
  5. Take a quick shower. Shower time is thinking time, and also a great time to clear your mind. Not to mention you’ll feel instantly refreshed afterwards.
  6. If all else fails… nap. Sleep is such a beautiful thing. When you wake up, you might even forget what you were stressing about.

Preventing Stress

Of course, it’s good to be able to cope with stress, but it would be even better if we could avoid it altogether. Here are some tips, from my own experience, of minimizing stress:

  1. Manage your time wisely. Set priorities. Don’t wait until the last minute. I cannot stress this enough. As someone who has always left things until the last minute, I have gone through way too many close calls until I finally learned about the joys of getting something done early. Just because there’s a due date, doesn’t mean you you can’t finish it early. Once you get into the habit of starting things right when you get them, or getting your assignments done early, you’ll be able to feel more relaxed when the due date approaches, because you know you’ve already got some, or most, of your work done. Trust me. Handing in something early feels amazing and the fact that you don’t have to worry about it anymore means you can start focusing on other things that matter.
  2. Create incentive. Restrict yourself from turning on your brand new PS4 until you’ve finished what you need to finish. This gives you a goal to work towards, and the reward feels 10x better once you know that you’ve finished what you need to finish and can enjoy your new Final Fantasy game to the fullest, without having to worry, because you earned it!
  3. Surround yourself with positive people; cut out the dead weights. There is nothing worse than being surrounded by negative people. These types of people want to drag you down with them, and will morph your thoughts into negative ones like their own, but don’t give them that satisfaction. You are different. You have hope. You want to change for the better, and there are many people out there who would love you have you as a friend. I used to have a friend who was always causing drama and constantly complaining to me about everything from teachers, to friends, to little things people did like tap their pencils on the desk, and eventually, I found myself thinking like her. All the things she found annoying, I started to find annoying. I realized before it was too late, and cut ties. I know it sounds awful, but I don’t want to turn into that kind of person, who can’t enjoy anything in life because they’re always worrying and stressing over what other people you, you know? Surround yourself by those people with goals, who look forward to things in their life, who are living every minute of their life to the fullest. When you’re surrounded by smiles, you will find yourself smiling as well.

And one last thing. Know that there are people out there for you to talk to. Friends, family, teachers, even your pets. Talking about something is a good way to relieve stress. I used to bottle everything inside, and I always felt shy or ashamed to tell anyone, but eventually, I started to confide in my sister about stuff that stressed me out, and surprisingly enough, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders, and it sure helped by talking to someone with a clear head. She offered help and advice, and slowly, I started to feel hopeful again. I knew that whatever I was going through right now, at least I would have my sister… and my friends and family, and everyone else important to me.

Just know that when the going gets tough, no matter what you are going through, you will always have someone there for you. If things turn out badly, that’s okay. That’s life. It’s not the end of the world. Let go of that stress and move on. There’s nothing you can do about it except try and fix it and learn from it. Hold on to hope and stress will never be able to get the best of you.

Emily