Never Too Late

Sometimes I behave like a hot mess. For example, I have a few regrets about how I handled the AWLOB shenanigans of 2019. He messaged me, we started talking, I developed a crush on him, we stopped talking, then he messaged me saying he broke up with his boyfriend and had a crush on me and needed space to heal from his relationship ending. Looking back, it’s clear what I should’ve done: accept that he’s emotionally unavailable at the time, wish him the best in his healing process, and give him space while moving on with my life.

Instead, I literally messaged him three separate times across the span of six months. I remember sitting in my office in March 2019, trying to study for a biopsychology exam and failing because I felt so bored by axons, neurons, and synaptic clefts. I thought to myself, Thomas, what you clearly should not do right now is Google AWLOB’s actual name and feed your desire for this man. So, of course, I googled AWLOB’s actual name, found one of his essays, read it, obsessed over his beautiful writing and vulnerability and self-reflection, and messaged him telling him how much I loved his essay.

I judge myself a decent amount for my desire for him. Like, one, desiring a man is so much less interesting than any other facet of my life, including dancing to Itzy’s “Wannabe” while brushing my teeth in the morning. Two, I should have left him alone. Just writing about how I messaged him last March makes me cringe and want to throw on a pink blanket and then hide under my couch for the rest of eternity.

When I practice self-compassion, however, I recognize that I did the best I could at the time. First of all, if I were to have a crush on any man, it would be him: he’s a pretty solid writer, he’s into social justice, he opened up to me beautifully and vulnerably. Also, I literally had just never met or felt as intensely toward any man as I did toward him – like, he was the first though not the last, lol guy who wrote me ten paragraph messages about his family, organizing, and love life. Also, though I loathe to admit it, he was cute and I wanted to know what he tastes like.

harvard book store in 2020 aye

A pic of one of the bookstores I visited in Boston before social distancing intensified! While I have learned now that men who go to prestigious schools like Harvard are in no way actually more emotionally intelligent, social justice-oriented, etc. than other men, I still stan independent bookstores. 

Eventually, later last year, I cultivated the strength and self-preservation to move on though I did send him a pretty mean message about leading me on and proceeded to burn one of his essays with one of my best friends while dancing to Ariana Grande, but you know, whatever. Even then, I still wondered about him, like if he ever actually liked me, did he get back together with his ex-boyfriend, etc. Though now, I am happy to report that I honestly don’t care anymore. While I still find what I know of him attractive and would potentially be curious to taste get to know him if he ever did the emotional work, I’d also be totally fine knowing that he never actually liked me, that he’s dating someone else, or that he was actually just three chihuahuas in a trench coat learning how to navigate human relationships by playing with my heart.

I guess my point with this blog post is that it’s never too late to grow and to heal and to change for the better. There are more substantial things in my life I wish I had accomplished sooner, like going to therapy and working through my trauma, or politicizing and radicalizing myself to fight for social justice. But I literally didn’t know how to access therapy as a queer Vietnamese American teen trapped in my abusive household, and no one ever taught me about organizing and advocating for social justice until I myself opted into that content and those friend groups in my late teens and early twenties.

I reflected on this a lot the other day while I provided therapy through phone check-ins while sitting in my apartment. I felt so moved and inspired by my clients’ resilience and progress in the face of devastating adversity. I felt proud of myself, too, because around a decade ago I still struggled with how to process my emotions in healthy ways, assert myself through direct communication in relationships, and understand how my parents influenced how I behave. Now, though, while I have more to learn as a therapist, I am confident in my capacity to guide others to guide themselves through challenges of all sorts related to emotions and relationships and family. As a teen I didn’t know where life would take me – through years of therapy, one painful friendship and several iconic ones, a dramatic hair color change – yet I’m happy where I am now. I still have many ways I want to grow and I know it’s never too late to do so.

greenbelt lake wow so beautiful

This is the beautiful lake I run around every day or every other day. Over a decade ago I used to workout to maintain a certain weight and body shape. Now I do it because it feels good for my body and so I can have the energy to stomp on the face of the white supremacist patriarchy. Ah, progress. 

What areas have you grown in over the past decade and how do you want to continue growing? How do you make space for emotions like regret that emerge when you think of your past? How did I develop the audacity to write that I want to taste a man on the internet? General reactions to this post? Until next time, ya’ll.

7 Comments

Filed under Personal

7 responses to “Never Too Late

  1. My goodness you have done SO well. You accessed things as soon as you were able and started your journey to healing as quickly as you could in the circumstances, and had the self-knowledge to know what you needed to do. That took me decades. At the moment, I am concentrating on learning how a natural self-isolater can live in a house with another person 24/7 …

    • Aw, thanks so much for your compassion and perspective Liz! I feel like the overall healing and growing process will take me decades as well. (: Yay for bloggers who have accessed resources at some point in their lives. Sending lots of strength as you navigate living in a house with another person 24/7 – do ya’ll have access to some separate spaces at least?

      • We do – I’m in my study on the top floor, he’s on the ground floor (with a floor in between: we don’t live in a mansion but a tall, thin terrace) at the back of the living room but it’s just having someone a l w a y s t h e r e. He does go for a walk with his audiobook in the morning and I do my walk or run later in the day so that helps. But it’s hard after being all alone here in the daytime for 9 years! The cats are enjoying it, though!

  2. (this is Cat!)

    This past year in particular, I’ve started going into therapy with the specific goal of addressing my various traumas growing up, and wanting to tackle those traumas/unravel how it affects my reactions to things in my daily life. In the first couple of months, I remember talking about my frustration to one of my close friends, talking about how I always found therapy so difficult since it wasn’t achievement-based; there’s not really a good way to tell if you’re improving until you look back, but oftentimes when I look back, I feel like there’s just too much to come back from.

    But she said something to me that has stuck, and I think you probably know as a therapist and your own experiences, too. Unraveling the past takes time, and especially so when it’s unraveling 18+ years of childhood development and learned trauma responses. Despite knowing this, though, I still find it really, really hard to be kind and understanding to myself, haha.

    As far as making room for feelings of regret, I try to remember that in the moment, I did what felt best for then-me. I was trying my best! I sometimes (quite often during depressive episodes) find myself dwelling on them again, but it’s increasingly with a sense of ennui, for the feeling of the time rather than the person or situation itself (does that make sense?)

    Hope you’re doing well and staying safe. In just the short time I’ve gotten to know you online, I think you’ve always been a steadily growing and self-aware person, and I think it says a lot about you about wanting to continue that growth in all aspects of your life. You are a truly iconic and inspirational person!

    • Awwww thank you for sharing so vulnerably. Yeah, I think therapy not being achievement-based can be difficult especially in a western society that so much prioritizes upward mobility, awards, external reinforcement, etc. I’m glad though that you have the courage to go to therapy and explore yourself and your past even when it’s felt difficult and not progressing in the way you may want.

      Unraveling the past taking time = so spot on! I actually just published a post about a dynamic with my old therapist from a few years ago that I didn’t really understand until now. And it’s been about three years since I saw that therapist. Yet, I’m still proud of myself for reaching this point in my emotional development even though it’s taken awhile, and your comment helps me reinforce the importance of celebrating those small, long-awaited victories.

      Yay for remembering that you did your best at the time and that it’s never too late to continue to grow, imo! While I don’t often experience that sense of ennui at the past a feeling of “wasted time” sometimes emerges for me related to years I spent not eating as much as I should’ve, so what you share is relatable. Thank you so much for your positive and compassionate words, haha I don’t think I’m *that* iconic or inspirational, yet if I was able to elicit such a meaningful and real comment from someone such as yourself I’ll take the compliment. Hope you’ve been able to stay safe during this turbulent time.

  3. x

    Hi Thomas,
    Thanks for all of your warm greetings and thoughts to me. Yes I am in China but I’m one of those lucky people whose cities are safer and i’m not as stressed and worried as last month. Hope you are safe and have all the stuff you need for the in-door times, and be able to continue to do awesome works for your clients:)
    I can never get tired reading about this AWLOB guy. Three messages in 6 month?! I’ve done way worse! believe me. haha!! good news is that now I’m in a place where I feel mutual, and even amused thinking of those (100 or more) situations, in which I liked a guy who led me on and didn’t like me back. I used to be so ashamed. Thinking of those times I wasted in my teens, twenties, and early thirties! Yes, in my freaking thirties…. However, something really changed after my therapy. I start to see the positive impact, about 2 years after I finished it: I no longer send messages i regret, and I finally had the kind of relationship I want. Though it didn’t last and I had my disappointments, but it started and ended the way I want. I feel like I had the healthiest, most clean and respectful breakup ever.
    I was very frustrated before, asking my therapist that why I kept seeing other people find love and trust much easier and sooner than me? I still remember that frustration, but I’m in my mid-thirties now, and no longer feeling bad about the past. My past are the true stories I have been through, and they didn’t hurt me anymore.
    Also I wanna say I’ve been enjoy your blog even more during these past two month. Reading and reflecting, and seeing those beautiful pictures are good for my mind really. (Even more fun knowing you want to taste something other than cakes…hahaha!!! Hope the laugh is not too much. In my opinion this reflects you are just a very young and healthy guy.)
    xin

    • Xin, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I’m glad to hear that you’re in a city that’s safer and it sounds like this month is better than last month. Yes, I’m able to work with clients remotely, which I feel grateful for even though it brings its own challenges.

      Haha I appreciate you validating that three messages in six months isn’t actually too awful, even if it feels like it to me. Thanks for your vulnerability too in sharing how you’ve grown throughout your 20’s and 30’s in terms of relationships! It’s inspiring that you’ve had the strength and courage to go to therapy and to generally investigate how you relate to others so that you could create the type of relationship you want, and more importantly, the self-awareness and the self-knowledge to not lose yourself in any of it.

      Awwww I appreciate you saying you’ve enjoyed reading my blog over the past few months! Your comments have been a big factor in keeping me consistent with posting about once a week. (: Yeahhhh haha I’m definitely relatively young and healthy so I’ll take that for what it is. Hope to hear from you soon and that you’re doing well!

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