Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Audacity of Snowflake Maxims

"No Two Snowflakes Are Ever Alike."

Well, who the hell decided that? How many snowflakes did we actually LOOK at before we said that? Are we still checking? Did we coordinate internationally to scan as many snowflakes as possible? I bet somewhere in history, two snowflakes were identical.

Now, no two people are alike; I get the appeal of telling the snowflake thing to little children, to demonstrate the uniqueness of the Creation--which then, of course, prompts their reassurance that they, too, are unique in all of history.

But people actually ARE unique. Even if someone in the world had my EXACT same chromosomal structure and born at EXACTLY the same time in history, she would have been born to different parents in a different space. She would have attended a different school. I know, because I didn't see her at Patapsco High School. She could be at Columbia, or could've been at PGCC or AACC, but she definitely was not a Patapsco Patriot. She wasn't a Moonie. I don't think she is from Dundalk. She's not a Sofinowski.

My point in distinguishing those (among many) factors is to say that nuture accounts for a LOT in our personality, how we perceive and react to things, how we choose to be. So even if, physically, there is another Christa Sofinowski somewhere in time and space, she is not the same. I am still a unique being.


So if two snowflakes formed exactly the same--which I definitely think is possible, out of all the snowflakes in history--they would still fall and hit the ground in exactly the same manner, therefore never distinguishing themselves as unique from its identical counterpart.

I just think it is really arrogant for us to assume something about snowflakes that we can't actually prove.

Happy Snow Day, NYC :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Why Self-Hating Americans Are The Most Racist of Us All

Warning: this will be a Rant.

I'm going to tell you a story. One day, while working at my former place of employment, a client came in, and her name was African. I don't know which tribe it originated from, I'm not that learned, but I know it was very African. It was like Mbizi Chukwumereije (yes I had to Google 'African Surnames'). Amazingly, it happened to be alphabetically next to another one of our clients from the same background, because her file was right next to "Mbizu Chukwemare." (Obviously, I don't remember the names, but you get the point, right? Two very ethnic names of African origin filed next to each other alphabetically.)

My coworker grabbed the second file, not the correct one, and handed it to me. When the client did not remember anything listed in her file, I double-checked her date of birth, realized I had the wrong chart, went out and grabbed the correct one, and kindly explained to her what happened. No big deal, right?

WRONG. She was SO OFFENDED. She said (in a thick accent, might I add), "How could you mistake the two? Obviously they are two different names."

I bit my tongue. In retrospect, what I should have said was, "To you, yes, having had cultural exposure to that region of the world. But I am not so familiar with your name, and therefore I make mistakes. Kind of like last week, when you called me Kristin, which is actually the name of another employee."

(I have no idea if she ever actually called me Kristin. But it happened all the time, I still get Christina, Christine, Kristin, Krissy, and there was one lady from a previous workplace, legally retarded and from inner city Baltimore, who gave up on remembering my name and very fondly referred to me as "China," lol. It happens.)

People from other countries get offended. But had I said the same thing to her, that would have been insensitive to her culture. That would have been culturally ignorant. But yet, she can get away with being offended, but I can't?

Fast forward to a bigger scale. Americans can say "I hate Americans, they're so lazy. They're so rude. They're so ignorant. They're so dumb." Which I mean, I've said it, too, in some (many) frustrated moments. Today I read a very well-done piece about how Americans (okay, it was from The Guardian, and about rich white Western people in general, but I immediately thought of my own countrymen) are unknowingly perpetuating the poverty cycle of poor nations by this new "volun-tourism" fad. (Google it, it's absolutely true. Ugh, rich people strike again.)

Don't misread my point, critique is fine; or else, we would never get better!

The problem comes, if I follow that sentence with, "And don't get me started on Southeast Asians. What kind of person could exploit orphaned children for their own profit?" or "And Africans! Warlord politicians are living off of the wealth of starving families!" or "South America, come on, just get a legitimate government together already."

I would get punched, or worse. I would punch myself, really.

The problem is generalizing. We're all guilty of it. There are smart people everywhere, up against a cruel history. However, we give the victims the benefit of the doubt; as we should, because colonialism left a pretty nasty history. But while Americans might be getting fat and turning their children into diabetic video-gaming snotnosed brats, we were a people exposed to a consumer-driven culture and overabundance that we just weren't prepared for. And also, there are many Americans out there just trying to do something for the rest of the world, while they--as individuals--have no connection or blame for the plight of developing nations.

But to make it one-sided, to sit there and ridicule America while word-coddling the rest of the world, unknowingly (like those stupid volun-tourists) people are saying, "I expect Americans to be smarter, to have the capabilities to overcome their problems. I don't expect it from the rest of the world; it's not their fault they can't deal with it."

Everyone has problems. Some are bigger than others. Some are more domestically-imposed than others. But everyone has them, from generations before ours. Either get mad at everyone equally, or acknowledge everyone's difficulties and show compassions equally.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trust Issues

Confession: My dear readers, when I said I was an insecure person, that was really an understatement. And when I said I had devised methods for coping with them... well, that may have been an overstatement, haha. But hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?

So, the issue of today (tonight, actually) that I'm going to address is trust. This particular trust that is driving my train of thought is Committed Relationship Trust, although I'm sure it can be applied to other types as well.

First things first, a little bit of grounded-in-reality background. I say "grounded-in-reality" because when I then begin to talk about the trust issues, you will see the contrast of my issues and how I perceive things versus, well, reality.

I have been dating my boyfriend, Brian, for just under a year, and basically, I think he's tops. Despite all the sarcastic remarks and eye rolling and "mad eyes" faces that I throw his way, I am crazy about him. He's smart, he's attractive, he's very competent at everything he does, he is in control of his life, he's funny, he's fun to spend time with, anyway I'm getting obnoxious about it but I really love the guy. He's nowhere near perfect (haha hey babe), but really, in all seriousness, I am completely floored by him and this relationship.

Except for one small problem... I'm a neurotic mess.

I am constantly asking him, "You love me, right?" AND to make it worse, when he sighs and says, "Yes," in an exhausted voice (because it's the fifth time I've asked him in the past two hours) I laughed but that little monster in the back of my brain is doubting. When he gets a text and doesn't tell me who it is, the monster assures me it's a girl he would rather be spending time with. When he rants about some political issue and I have nothing to say about it, the trust monster tells me he must think I'm so stupid. When we bicker over something stupid, that same monster is telling me to get out of the relationship first before he tries to leave me. It's bad. Like, it's really bad.

I absolutely haven't solved it. I like to think of it more as a work in progress.

I'm keeping perspective by acknowledging my "monster" for what it is-- a neurosis. We all have flaws. We all have serious flaws. This is one of my many serious flaws. It doesn't devalue me as a human being, but trusting and leaving myself majorly vulnerable is definitely not one of my strengths. I do have strengths, some very good ones as it is, but this is an extreme weakness. It's okay, though. Doesn't devalue me as a human being, doesn't take away my right nor my ability to develop and grow. It is what it is, and supposedly, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem-- it's not just for alcoholics, folks.

I'm practicing. When I hear the monster, I tell it to shut the F up. Unfortunately for poor Brian, I'm not always successful, and I succumb. Does this make me a hopeless case? No. Which is why I have patience with myself, and I keep trying. Hopefully he's having patience with me, too ;)

Positivity, which I haven't gotten around to writing about (although I'm sure it's self-explanatory). One day, I will conquer the monster, with or without therapy :) It may not go away completely and/or forever, but I will have enough power over it and have developed strong enough habits to keep it locked up in it's corner and not affect me (think John Nash, as depicted by Russell Crowe in the movie "A Beautiful Mind").

This particular entry is part of my "positivity", actually. Even if no one ever speaks up to me about it, I like to think that there is someone out there in the virtual world who will stumble upon this, and find some solidarity. Because my trust issues tend to rear their head especially when I'm emotionally (or physically, even) exhausted, and have lost the patience and positivity to keep trying. It's always refreshing to be encouraged by someone who understands, to feel not so alone, to feel not so abnormal. So, if you're out there, I completely feel your pain. It sucks, but we can beat it, and be even more awesome.

And for the love of GOD, if someone has some advice, pleeeease let me know :)

More on "vulnerability" later. Sleep well, online universe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Forgiveness Kimchi

For those of you who don't know, I grew up in the Unification Church (a.k.a "The Moonies"). This is a major source of inner strength and inner turmoil in my life, which I'm not going to go into too much depth, but try and provide you with enough context to understand my love relationship with Korean food:

The Moonies once placed the concept of lineage at the core of everything they did. The whole point of Rev. Moon being the Messiah and carrying on "Jesus' mission" was because, as he claims, Jesus appeared to him at 15 and asked him to finish on Earth the mission he had originally wanted to accomplish, before he was crucified. This divine mission was the establishment of God's bloodline on the physical earth. That's why the mass weddings, termed "The Blessing" is so important-- it's a part of the process of bringing God into your physical bloodline. When you get into the more inner workings of the church, you will find there is (was?) an immense pressure on those children born from those Blessings (like me) to marry within the same bloodline (other children produced from the Blessings) and not to have sexual relations outside of marriage, because it would corrupt the bloodline.

All fine and good. If you believe that Rev. Moon is the Messiah, it actually makes a lot of sense, in my opinion. I began to part ways with him a few years ago; if I had to choose what exactly it was that really started pushing me out the door, I would "blame" my stance on Gay Marriage. But that's a story for another day. The last of this context you need to understand is that I'm an only child, and therefore, put undue pressure on myself to stay within the church--despite my growing disagreement with its core beliefs--because I did not want to screw up everything for my parents, I did not want to "destroy their bloodline" and throw everything they worked for out the window. (My parents, you should know, were and are amazingly supportive of me and continue to insist that my happiness is their greatest priority, despite any conflict they might have encountered as a result of my decisions.)

So I've had some emotional times in these past few years, and some anger to deal with-- anger at Rev. Moon, anger at his children and his appointed church officials, anger at myself for letting my life get so complicated and out of my own hands, etc. I talked with a good friend last night, and we spent some time lamenting the corruption (religious views aside, corruption happens in any large organization, this should not reflect the Unification Church in any unique way) and the regret we felt about our years in the church. Meanwhile, outside my apartment in New York City, it was freezing rain, and I was also lamenting on going outside to get dinner, until...

I found on grubhub.com that the Korean restaurant by campus had delivery service.

I LOVE Korean food. My mother (especially for being Japanese-American) makes a wicked bulgogi, as does my second mother (a woman I lived with in Bowie for a few years) who is white and Boston-raised. I used to hate kimchi, until I made myself eat it (because it gets served at every church event) and now... well, I just finished eating the leftover kimchi for lunch. Kimchi'd squid is probably my favorite food, I go apeshit for that stuff. Literally apeshit; pardon my language, but there is no better word to describe how much I love kimchi'd squid.

I was joking with my roommate how every time I eat Korean food, I instantly forgive Rev. Moon et al. because there's no way I'd have such fondness for it, had I not been so repeatedly exposed to it. We laughed, but the more I think about it (and the more I eat the leftovers), I really mean it. There are worse ways to grow up than in the Unification Church, and honestly, it has helped shape me into a very awesome person--in my own opinion, of course :)

There are reasons to hold onto hate in the world, don't think I'm some Peace and Love hippie monster. There are mothers who literally have no idea how to feed their children the next day, while corrupt government officials languish in their villas. There are people who encourage children to blow themselves up in the name of God, also because said person is too chickenshit to even do it himself. There are people who kill innocents for money and personal gain, whether it be through violence or deprivation. There are people who acknowledge the moral vacuum of their actions, who have the life foundation to simply opt out, and don't, just because they want a little more profit. By all means, hate them-- they have plenty of remorse to discover, and plenty of penance to earn. It's not your job to forgive them, if you can even find it in your soul.

But I don't believe Moon has malicious intent. I think he's wrong, but I do think he truly believes he is the Messiah. And I never starved at his hands, I really haven't had a bad life. And really, I'm alive and I exist-- he matched my parents, and here I am. I no longer feel like I owe him anything, but hey. Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

There are so many people in my position that just can't acknowledge these things: it wasn't all bad. There are people in my position in relation to other things: other churches, their ethnic bakground, their nuclear family. They just hold onto this blame, and yes--while issues should be addressed, while remedies should be attempted, there is no reason for impassioned hate. There is no reason to not give credit where it is due. There is absolutely no reason NOT to forgive trespasses against us; and furthermore, no reason NOT to acknowledge that, in the big picture, these trespasses did not leave long-lasting damage, if we keep our cool about it.

Korean food reminds me not to make unnecessary enemies.
I hope you have something in your life that does the same for you.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Patience/Practice is something I really think needs to be addressed in the process of improving one's self in any way. I don't know if this is a universal misconception, but I always mentally connect Patience and Practice to developing my external traits. You need patience and practice to get your body in shape, to master an instrument or a sport, to invent the light bulb. Internal traits are written off as "You got 'em or you don't."

It's true that some people are naturally more outgoing, naturally more intellectually stimulated, naturally more self-confident, etc. But hope is not lost if you lack a personal trait that you so very much desire. It just will take extra time and effort to build your skills.

If you want to be more outgoing, you should practice conversing with strangers. Go to a club meeting and make a friend. Go to a bar and learn three things about the person next to you (unless they're too busy talking to themselves... then for God's sake, go to the next bar, preferably closer to Midtown). Look up that awkward "I knew you in high school and haven't talked to you since even though we live in the same city" friend and take them out to lunch. Will it be difficult? Probably, especially if you aren't naturally a people person. Will it go alright the first time? Maybe not. It could be the most awkward lunch of your life. But it's practice. Don't run screaming into your internal cave bleeding from the Ego. Just learn, take note of what worked or what didn't work, and try try again.

If you want to be smarter, read books that you don't understand until you reach comprehension. Go to lecture and/or debate series. Find an expert in a given area and ask them questions. It will be exhausting, and often disappointing and frustrating. But it takes practice, and patience.

Self-confident is a tricky monster, because it's so ambiguous. The way you practice self-confidence spans all sorts of figurative territory. But it's actually, in my opinion, easy to map out: Do things that scare you because you aren't good at them.

If you are out of shape, start going to the gym. Practice and patience until you succeed.
If you are shy and uncomfortable with people, practice and patience with things I just described.
If you think you are boring, find a hobby that interests you and go after it until you are an expert.

It won't happen overnight, and you will probably experience a serious lack of self-confidence when you first start out and see how far you are from achieving your goals. But that's normal. Everyone goes through that at first, and it's more than respectable if you accept your reality-- that right now you aren't good at ____ but after a lot of hard work, you will be-- and get to it.

We live in a society of instant gratification. Text messages bring you a concise communication .3 seconds away from real time. "Lose Weight Now!" programs are flourishing, and liposuction is available to the public-at-large. We are a consumer-driven society: when we want something, we go out and buy it and we have it. If we can't afford it, we can get approved instantly for a ludicrous credit card at any given department store. That's great if you really, really need a carpet cleaner right away because your septic tank just burst. It's not so great if you need to work at something, it makes us extra frustrated when things span over a long period of time. We want results NOW. But to really grow internally (in a sustainable way), it just doesn't happen.

Patience/Practice. It works. Trust me, you'll find out in time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pre-Step: Perspective

If you've read my previous blog post, you'll see I'm about to explain to you my simple little formula for self-confidence. To recap:

1. Practice
2. Patience
3. Positivity

To be honest, I'm not sure that I listed them in that specific order, but as I will come to explain, it doesn't matter. It's a simultaneous process.

But I forgot something major, which, in my humble opinion, needs to be mastered before you can dream of building up your self-confidence.


By this, I mean that you need to understand where you fit into the world and humanity.
(So simple, right? Let me explain...)

The quickest way, in my experience, to build self-confidence and to eventually truly be secure in yourself is to understand where you fit into People. Why is this important? Because as individuals, we get SO caught up in what other people think of us. As a result, we opt to neglect our true self-confidence for our ego. This can misfire in many ways: we get so obsessed with building our ego that we become douchebags who pathetically grab every little opportunity for potential self-promotion, which quickly becomes an "I'm better than you" contest; we become invisible out of fear that we will do something wrong and damage our precious ego, and avoid humiliation (and opportunities for learning and growth) at all costs; we find a niche (which isn't bad in itself) and then get so into this comfortable place that we become one-dimensional and turn our once-limitless personality into a stereotype. We do these sorts of things because we are nurturing our ego, and if something happens to our ego, it is unnecessary devastation.

So how do I explain "perspective"? I'm going to attempt by making my own hypocrisy an example.

Right now, at this moment, at my grand total of two-almost-three blog entries (which, by the way, is one-almost-two more than my blogs usually survive), I have NOT made said blog available to the public eye. This is bad, because my whole goal in writing again is to develop my communication skills, to refine my written presentation, to BETTER WRITE FOR A PUBLIC AUDIENCE. So why on G-d's green Earth would I hide my writing from THE PUBLIC AUDIENCE? Because my ego is scared to death of the possible responses:

"What a typical, empty theme. Self-confidence? What a tool. Who writes about that?"

"She is so full of crap. She knows nothing about what she is saying."

"She. Is. The. Worst. Writer. To. Whom. I. Have. Ever. Subjected. My. Innocent. Eyes."

"She can't even use 'whom' properly. What a tool." (Unfortunately, that may or may not be true.)

Et cetera, et cetera. You get the point. I am scared.

Now, the honest perspective on this whole situation is as follows:

I made this blog to practice communicating, and that's exactly what I'm doing, which is respectable. It's not harming anyone. Some people will read it, many people won't, but that's okay because I'm an amateur writer and it's actually not what I want to pursue as my life's work. Of those who do read, some will like it and some won't, but probably no one will have an extreme reaction like I just described. And if they do have one, they'll have it, and then get up the next morning and go on with their lives. No harm done, for me or them. And I will keep chugging along, hopefully developing my skills along the way, and everyone lives a happy and fulfilled life.


In order to really be secure in yourself, you have to understand that you are one of many, and that's all and everything you'll ever be, and that's an amazing miracle of humanity in itself. You have to really be okay with that, and you should be more than okay, because you are a part of the incredible monster of the human species that gives us all equally valuable DNA. If you are religious, you are one unique child of God; if you aren't, you are a small but individual, irreplaceable member of a species that recognizes your particular, irreplaceable existence.

So, if you have a bad date, if you screw up a public speech, if you flat out humiliate yourself, it happens. Maybe it's okay, maybe it's not, but it happens, and you decide what to make of it. There are six, almost seven billion other people in the world right now; yes, they may see you embarrass yourself, but they are living their own life full of trials and tribulations. Chances are, it affects you much more than it affects them-- embrace that. Be a person that you are proud to be because of your personal honor and integrity, not because you look good to other people. Unless you've got issues beyond what an amateur blog can address, if you live your life in a way that you are genuinely fulfilled by, other people will automatically think you look good. Prioritize.

So, with that said, I'm going to put this out to my Facebook, so I can walk my own talk.
Enjoy :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Get Better At ANYTHING!


I want to write about becoming more secure about one's self. I made a New Year's Resolution to blog 12 entries/month (which would ideally be spread out as 3 entries/week, but I gave myself some leeway). Three popular New Year's Resolutions include:

-Lose weight/Get in shape
-Stop smoking
-Enjoy life more (ugh, how ambiguous)

All the above mentioned things can be achieved, even if you feel like you are currently failing. If you are insecure about everything, you can become more secure in yourself/your abilities/your relationship. Although I am already falling behind, I can make my resolution. If you are super fat, you can get in shape; if you smoke a lot... well you get the point. If you hate your life, you can eventually enjoy it.

But, as people like to say (coming from someone wise, Confucius or someone):
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

They were actually lying. It begins with three. Simultaneously.
(Obviously, now, it can't be a literal journey with a literal step, because humans can't do three steps simultaneously. Try--see? You just can't.)

These three steps and subsequent secrets to happiness?
1. Patience
2. Practice
3. Positive thinking

And here I end my entry.

Suckers. I really am ending it, because I promised myself to blog 3 entries/week, and I'm already behind 2/3 of a week. So, I will explain the specificities of the Three Simultaneous Steps in subsequent entries, for those who need explanation. Until then, happy trails :)