The "Wu Word" Blog
On a sweltering
summer day in 2017, I was sitting in the passenger side of a Tonka truck of a
car with a guy that I had originally met at a meet-up event. It was my third time meeting up with him. This was not a ‘date’
or anything romantic. In fact, this his
guy proceeded to berate me for how nice and naïve I was.
“Mary,” he said
frustrated like I was a stupid child, “you cannot be so naïve to think that
meet-up is a place where people just want to make friends! It is a cover up for lonely souls who are
looking for that soulmate! It is a façade
of a dating website like Match.com or EHarmony!”
I bluntly said to
him, “I do not believe in dating websites.
Dating websites feed off of people’s emotions that if you are single or
alone then you are lonely and need to find someone because of this stupid
societal thought that a single person is incomplete. Also, think about this—if you are getting a
list of people then that person and all the other people are getting lists of
people. but I do not list people. I have a shopping list of eggs, milk, and cheese,
but I do not have a human people list of Billy, Bob, and Ben.”
“Well, now you make
me feel bad for going on dating websites.
I once dated eight women at the same time,” he said sheepishly.
“I do not think that
is anything to be proud of,” I said.
Then, I felt bad
because he had all shades of shame colored on his face. So, I said to him, “I can’t tell you how to
live your life. It’s not my place. If that’s your thing to go on dating
websites, then go on dating websites. But,
that’s not my thing. And, yeah, maybe I
am naïve and nice. I just want to
get to know people and then whatever happens is whatever happens. It takes a long
time to get to know people. Relationships and people are not instantaneous
and are not supposed to be treated like garbage.”
He said, “Well, that’s
a nice and naïve thought this day in age.”
I rebutted, “What a
sad society we live in where nice is seen as weak. What a sad society we live
in where people are treated like ‘test runs’ and then tossed aside like
yesterday’s news and thrown away like garbage if you do not meet unrealistic expectations.”
Before he dropped me
off at my place, his words echoed many people who have said to me: “Single opposite sex individuals cannot be
friends with one another. There will
always be an attraction or a question wafting in the back of the mind of the
potential of being with that person. Singles versus couples with children or
couples around the same age who do not have children cannot really be friends
because they lack common ground in a society that praises having a family over
My response: “This is
all bullshit. You cannot categorize and
box in people and relationships. You
cannot put yourself in places like dating websites where you can be thrown away
like garbage. Just take people and
relationships and relations as they come.”
I decided long ago
that I would be treated like a priority and not an option, and vice versa. It feels like we live in times when people
are just options and objects rather than priorities and people. I am not a saint—I surely am guilty of having
thrown out garbage when it was toxic and rotting to me, and I have been treated
like garbage. It is a very vicious
cycle. The bottom line is to always
realize and stay true to your worth and respect yourself because no one else is
going to be your worth or give you respect otherwise.
We live in times
where we treat people like garbage. It
seems like people are treated more disposed off, disregarded, and are discarded
than ever before. We even treat objects
better than people and people like objects. When have you been tossed aside,
thrown away, or just a back burner and option rather than a priority? When have you taken out the garbage, and is
it difficult for you to do so? Do you
think singles of the opposite six can be friends? Do you think singles and couples with and
without children can be friends? What is
Keep smilin’ until we
About 2 to 4 years
ago, I learned the backstroke. Mind you
that I am a late swimmer that learned at roughly 10-years-old. I was petrified and had two nearly drowned
episodes before 10-years-old. I never
learned the ‘right’ way to swim. As long
as I was not sinking and staying above water then I was OK.
I developed a huge
fascination with the backstroke. It was
the only stroke to breathe above water while hearing the soothing and rhythmic
breaths in our plugged ears. It was the
only stroke to swim backwards without seeing anything or anyone forwards, only
to look up and above at the moving images that we were in motion with. Finally, it was the only stroke where we had
to develop an intuition and dependency on counting to not smack right into the
wall. The backstroke was the last stroke
for me to learn, but it was the first stroke that I had a serious kinship with. It was the stroke that had me throw caution
to the wind and do it in a team relay for the very first time at the Transplant
Games of America 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.
P.S. We won a bronze for that team
Without fail, every
two years, I reunite with my swim coach, Coach K, to train me once again for
the Transplant Games of America. This year, it will be held in Salt Lake City,
Utah. As usual, I was all about
improving my comfort zone freestyle when Coach K surprised me when she asked: “How’s
As a part of my swim
routine, I do roughly 100 meters of back stroke in between my freestyle and breaststroke. I never thought much about the backstroke. Therefore,
I did not think twice when Coach K had me on my back and requested that I do
almost 200 meters of backstroke in a row.
shocked me when she boomed, “Your back stroke form is excellent! Have you signed up for it at the games this
I removed my ear
plugs and spouted, “No. I never thought
“Well, you gotta think
about and you gotta sign up for backstroke!”
My long-lost last back
stroke was now suddenly front and first up with Coach K teaching me to try to
sprint upwards and out backwards from the wall without seeing anything in front
of me. Session after session, pool water shot up my nose. I sputtered and coughed up chlorinated
water. My lungs felt like they were
burning. I kept trying to keep my head above water when I sprinted backwards
off the wall, but as Coach K said, “No, when you sprint back, you are going
underwater and you have to breathe out of your nose!”
I was utterly confused. Here I had believed backstroke was all about
being above water and me not having to depend on breathing under water and now I
was being coached differently. I was
starting to seriously doubt back stroke.
I went to my other swim guru: My
sister. If there is anyone who knows
swimming, it is my sister. She has swum
in open water swims in Hudson River and under the Brooklyn Bridge. She has gotten stung by jelly fish and lived
to tell about it after surviving rough and choppy waters. When I told her that I kept inhaling water up
my nose from backstroke, she said to me: “You are supposed to go ‘hmmm’ or ‘mmmm’
when you do backstroke. Synchronized swimmers
who are underwater and upside down do it all the time. Your body naturally reacts to exhale and blow
bubbles out of your nose when you go in meditative mode of ‘mmmm.’ You should hum, too. It reminds you to breathe.”
“No way!” I tested
out her tip, and it worked! I couldn’t
believe it! She was right! I am still getting water up my nose, but a
whole lot less!
The backstroke is my
last stroke that has turned out to be my most favorite stroke and first
understanding of many factors of breathing, our bodies, and of being. The backstroke and all involved has shown me
the power of breathing and being and of inhaling and exhaling in a way that
comes down to the strength and nature of our bodies capabilities and abilities. I made such simplicity into difficulty. Yet, it often feels like doing the simple is
the most difficult of all to do. When
did your last resort turn out to be your first and favorite? When have you made simplicity into
difficulty? When has practicing simple
been so difficult and complicated for you?
When are you are in a place of
being and breathing and in awe of your body and all its natural strength and
Keep smilin’ until we
At least three days a
week, I go swim. I am such a ‘regular’
that the lifeguards know me by name and my favorite first swim lane. Nearly all these lifeguards are in their
early to mid-20’s and going to school.
The lifeguard gig is for them to make some extra pocket money. One lifeguard told me that she has known
since she was a tiny tyke that she was going to be a nurse. Her eyes light up when she talks about
learning about the human body. She clamored,
“I can’t wait to be a nurse!” I said to
her, “Good for you, because I never knew what I wanted to do with my life!”
shared with me that he was going back to school to be a Paramedic after being
in film school for four years, only to learn that there was no way in
heck he was going to be able to make a living with film. I got the sense that he was not the biggest
fan of academics and said to him, “Some people have their *hit together. Others have their *hit splattered all over
the place. But, it’s OK. You learn as you go. Everything always has a way of falling into
place, even when it feels like everything and you are just falling apart.”
Some people know what
they want to do what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Plan everything out perfectly. But as we all know—life happens and keeps on
happening when you are making plans. There
are many interruptions and detours that happen that can bulldoze those
perfectly prepared plans right down.
Some seem to get bulldozed more than others. Others appear to have the most manicured of
lawns and lives.
I was never one of
these people. I was also NEVER one who
wanted to ‘climb up the ladder.’ I never wanted the pressure and stress. I never wanted the money that I have found
more often than not brings out the very worst in people. I never wanted an advanced degree. At a career panel that I attended recently,
about six of the speakers shared how they knew what they wanted to do with
their lives and had basked in one promotion after another with more schooling
and more money. One sole speaker shared
that he had followed the same upward climb just like everyone else, but, unlike
everyone else, the upward climb sent him into a downward spiral.
He confessed, “I was
not happy. The money, the pressure, the
stress…this wasn’t me. I climbed up the
ladder because that’s what everyone else does, and that’s what you are expected
to do in life. I ended up speaking with
my supervisor and returning to my previous role. I realized how important it was to be honest
and humble and show humility to yourself and to others and when you are not
like everyone else. What may one or all
may not work for you—and you do not always and will not always know and that’s
okay as long as you are humble and have humility to then find out the answers
that work for you.”
I think about these
20-year-old lifeguards that I’ve become friendly with who are just
starting. I remember how I was when I
was there age. I think about this young man
on the career panel whose story really spoke to me. I look at the now and my supposed ‘career
path.’ I’ve come to know that most of
the time, I did not know. I do not know.
I just learn as I go. I am just “HUM”-ing as best as I can—staying true to me with HUM-ility and HUM-bleness in a world where seeming to know
everything and everyone is the way to go.
It appears to be much easier to
show off our public successes than our private struggles in this day in
In life, it is very
important to hold on to ‘HUMS'= Humility and Humble. It takes great strength to be humble and show
humility. To admit and be honest about
your weaknesses and truths to ourselves and to the world and particularly those
that we love the most takes a certain kind of character. Are you about showing your successes rather
than your struggles? Have you always
known what you want to do with your life?
How were your perfectly plotted plans in life ever bulldozed? Do you know any know-it-alls? Are you HUM-ing?
Keep smilin’ until we
“Why are you so loud?”
I have been asked
this question many times in my life.
People have also said
to me: “You are the loudest Asian I know of.
Most Asians are quiet and timid.
But you are loud. Really loud.”
My response, “That’s
right! And, damn proud of it!”
So, yes, I admit
it. I know it. I am loud.
Really loud. If I could count the
number of times someone asked me why or commented that my voice was really loud
then I would be a filthy rich millionaire.
I was told even more times to soften and lower the volume of my voice. No matter how hard I tried to lower the
volume and lessen the projection of my voice, my voice would turn up yet again. Alas, I can’t help it. I can’t help being loud.
I was not always
loud. Or, maybe I was, but then I got
even louder throughout my life. Although
I always sat front and center like the diligent teacher’s pet I was, I was that
student that would not ask questions or speak my mind. I was fearful that what I said aloud would be
deemed as stupid. I was always loud in the
volume of my voice, and would not say what I thought. Then the dial of my voice was turned up and catapulted
when I was in middle school and high school where I would dictate classroom
lessons and lectures to one of my friends who was hearing impaired. In college, everything began to change slowly
yet surely. I listened and heard. I asked.
I spoke. I got loud.
When I somehow fell
into the world of public speaking and presentations, my face crinkled up in
dislike for the microphone. Why use a
microphone when I could use my own voice and had the power to make my voice
loud? The first thing I would say before
picking up and leaning into the microphone was: “Can you hear me? I have been told I am loud!” Audience members chimed in that they heard me
loud and clear. I ended up pushing the
microphone to the side as a mere unused prop, depending on my own voice and
volume. I got even louder.
Some may say that I suffer
from a Napoleana complex. After all, do
you ever notice that it is the short and small who tend to be REALLY loud? I think because we are closer to gravity and want
to make sure it is the world at large and high up that hears us rather than the
ground beneath us that we walk on and do not want to be walked all over on. As my sister says, “I watch out for small and
short people. They are ferocious!”
But, it is not just
about my short stature or the height of anyone.
It is that I demand to be heard.
I need to be listened to. Above
all else, I strive to speak volumes with how I live my life loud. Mind you, living and being loud is not the
actual and literal volume of high or low, but it is about the volumes of living
your life as you want to in the highs and lows.
No one is born being loud. You learn
to be loud and about loudness in the lessons that we live through and to tell
about and share. What is the point of
living if you cannot live it loud?
Living loud lies in the volumes of the ways we live our lives throughout the
highs and lows of life. No one is going
to be loud for you. No one is going to
speak up for you. No one is going to
listen or hear you. No one is going to
live your life for you except for you and only and solely you. Make some noise with your voice and your life,
because, honestly, no one is going to do or say anything on your behalf. Are you loud?
Was there a point that you got loud?
When was that time you got loud? Are
you living your life LOUD?
Keep smilin’ until we
I consider myself an
avid reader. Bookworm, if you will. Step into my apartment and you will see
Readers Digest and animal and cat magazines and stacks of fictional and
cookbooks all over my coffee and kitchen tables and even on my bed. I often read two books at the same time. I go to the library religiously at least two
times a month just to get lost in the aisles among all these authors,
writers, and creators and lovers of words and stories. As everyone picks up their Kindle and
Tablet, I love nothing more than the feel of the pages to flip through and the
intoxicating scent of a book in my hands.
I am ashamed to
confess to you that the one reading material you will never find in my
possession is the newspaper. I rarely
ever pick it up. I find shuffling
through the pages cumbersome. Sure I can
scope out the latest news headlines and bulleted factoids on the Internet, but,
again, I love nothing more the paper and pages over keyboard and mouse
clicks. However, lately with my sister
as a journalist for a newspaper, I find myself drawn to and picking up the
newspaper much more often. Immediately,
I target my two favorite sections: The Comics and The Obituaries. Such polar opposites, right? I just think that The Comics and The
Obituaries summarize life. There is birth
and death, laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, and living life as loud as can
be or as quiet and calm as can be in the chaos.
The Comics is only
about one page or half a page. Garfield
and the Peanuts/Snoopy are my favorites.
The Obituaries take two or three pages or even more. Nearly all the obituaries are wrote in third
person and hone in from the reporter’s perspective and research of where a
person was born, age of the person’s death, remaining loved ones, interests and
hobbies, perhaps even passions and purposes, and how the person died. I devoured reading these obituaries that I
felt was much more about life than death.
I was very surprised
when I came across an obituary that was written in the first person. It was a
woman who went into full detail about her life, her loved ones, her purpose in
life of how all she wanted to do was help people, and how she wished for her
funeral to be fun and full of laughter rather than tears. I thought how smart of this woman because the
best person to write about his/her life was the actual person, but how very
difficult it is to actual write about our own lives from an unbiased point of
view. The one missing piece in the
obituary is HOW she died. I read the
obituary aloud to my sister and asked: “How do you think she died?”
My sister said, “Maybe
she was suffering and wanted to make it a point to write her own obituary. It could have been an assisted suicide.”
I gasped and
sputtered, “That’s terrible! I hope she
didn’t kill herself or assisted suicide because she was suffering!”
I thought about this
woman, knowing that I will never know how she died and came to write her very
own obituary. I thought about pain and
suffering, and how we all go through it.
I thought about the fight for life and hope, and how we all may not have
it to hold on to. If it were not for pain and suffering, how would
we as a society and people birth and grow compassion, purpose, character,
strength, and, above all else, hope?
struggles, and pain are essentials in life to develop character, strength, and
hope. By no means am I going cheerleader
on anyone going through the worst or the bad, but if it were not for these and
if everything was perfect and just dandy, how would we appreciate what we do
and do not have? How would we come to
know and grow into ourselves and into life?
Would we ever see the beauty of hope, faith, and ourselves in the face
of adversity? Would we ever taste victory when we overcome our obstacles? And, if you were to write
your very own obituary, what would it say?
Keep smilin’ until we