I accepted an Instagram challenge (started by Nicole Mehl and Annie Cline of Beauty in the Light) from my big sis, Tania Hussain, to tell the #realandhonesttruth. Throughout the course of three days, I revealed three things about myself that I usually keep concealed. On our social media channels, we tend to post only the good, the happy, and the pretty sides of our lives, and filter out the bad, the sad, and the downright ugly. But in doing so, we are not presenting our full and authentic selves. As Brene Brown asserts in her works, embracing and implementing a balance with the positives, the negatives, and the grey areas is the key to living wholeheartedly, and when we share our stories of harsh reality, we are able to better relate to and find compassionate connection with others. Through vulnerability, we can be stronger and be united, and ultimately make our day-to-day lives so much more bearable and worthwhile.
Here are my three stories of beauty, family, and death (and if you’d like to do this challenge too, join in).
The Ugly Duckling
Growing up, I was very much the ugly duckling. I was short as a garden gnome, skinny as a stick, a four-eyed freak, and a metal-mouthed monster. Many nights, I cried myself to sleep, hoping to wake up to a burst of beauty-filled puberty, Swan princess style.
Eventually, I lost the glasses and braces, gained some shape, embraced my petite stature, and stopped the tears, but in my eyes, I was still a plain Jane. It wasn’t until well into my twenties when I looked in the mirror and thought, “Hey, I’m not that bad-looking, face-wise. In fact, I’m actually kinda pretty, sometimes” (though the recent breakouts all over my T zone aren’t helping matters).
Besides finding confidence in other areas of myself, I think this shift in my perspective has a lot to do with the recent push in diverse representations of beauty in the media. When I was younger, I was exposed to a very one-sided view of what a beautiful woman looked like. So of course, as a small, average-looking, and quiet Asian girl, I felt inferior to the tall, curvaceous, gorgeous, and blonde white girls with magnetism beyond my comprehension. There weren’t models like Chanel Iman, movie actresses like Lupita Nyong’o, TV actresses like Mindy Kaling, or singers like Adele in print or on screens to look up to.
I am so glad that teen girls today can find role models in stunning women like them, as I hope one day, girls will never feel as ugly and unwanted as I did at that age, but Western culture still has a long way to go in accepting and projecting different ideas of what beauty looks like.
Christmastime is my favourite time. Merriment, memories, and mint chocolate everything. It’s also a heightened time of dread and envy for me. Seeing everyone sharing gifts, smiles, and laughs with their big, joyful families during their holiday reunions makes me happy for them, yes, but also green as an evergreen tree.
You see, my family dynamics are what one would call… abnormal. When it comes to special occasions, it’s just my Mom and I. We are not close with our network of relatives, and the few family members who we are close with prefer to do their own thing. As for the other figure within my family (or the elephant in the room under my own roof, as I’ve dubbed it)… I’ve come to terms with it being what it is. There are two songs by Kelly Clarkson that can speak on my behalf: “Because of You” and “Piece By Piece”.
As I matured, I came to realize that I’m not the only one out there with complicated family dynamics, and I found comfort in that shared pain with others. Sure, there are still times when I wish I was that kid who listened to grandpa’s stories of the olden days, who rolled her eyes at Uncle Joe’s terrible puns, who played until the wee hours of the night with her cousins, and who had the full, unwavering support of both her mom AND dad, but nowadays, I can fully appreciate the small family unit I have. I am grateful to have one loving Mom to share all of life’s treasures with.
That’s why it infuriates me when people dare to contest the validity of families consisting of a single parent, adoptive parents, parents of both genders, or no parents at all. As long as a child is raised in a caring, supportive, and positive environment, what gives someone the right to argue whether that’s a true family or not? Blood bonds aren’t the be all and end all. If love is at the foundation of family, then it can and will transcend all boundaries.
If I Die Young
In my lifetime, I’ve attended more funerals than I have weddings. I’ve had to say goodbye to many sweet souls, the grand majority of whom left this world too suddenly and way too before their time.
I experienced the tragedy of a shortened life very early on in my childhood when my brother died (I was 7). His life ended right as he was about to start an exciting new chapter in his life. During his time with us, he was able to leave behind a lasting impact on his loved ones through his generosity and huge heart. Still, it is so wrong that he was robbed of the chance to see me grow up, raise a family, create amazing art, and contribute more to this world.
Young death sucks. All of that growing potential, prevented from reaching its full bloom… it’s saddening. No parent should ever have to bury their child and go through the excruciating agony of that experience. It’s unfair and no matter how much people try to give it a positive spin to ease the hurt, it will never make sense nor be okay. I can learn to appreciate life without having my family and friends taken away from me. And the worst thing is, there is nothing we can do to stop it from occurring.
I am 26 now, the age my brother was when he passed away. I’m not even close to accomplishing what I thought I would have achieved by my mid-20s. It terrifies me that, if were to leave this earth tomorrow, my life would have been a waste.
After tragically losing someone very dear to me (and who was a major catalyst in shaping my early-20s) last summer, I had a huge awakening that completely altered my perspective forevermore. He was dynamic, daring, and a do-er. He always wore his heart on his sleeve, and I want to honour his legacy by approaching life in the same way.
The only way to beat Death at his own game is to go live your Dash as fully as possible. And as God is my witness, I choose to die trying!
Thank you for reading. ❤