Author Archives: Sijie

the Journey of Self – Finding My People

I am dedicating year of 2021 to a year of self-journey, a year of looking inward to understand myself better and to grow. This is part 5 of the series.

Washington is the fourth state I lived in in the US, not counting my short summer stint in California. For someone who has moved around with no close family in the US, my least favorite part about moving is having to give up all the friends in that city and to go through the process of finding a community again. On a positive note, I am lucky to have some close friends living all over the country who I stay in touch with and have paid me quite a few visits already. As I reflect on my experience of moving, I realize that I can be good at making new friends, maybe due to the fact that all my family lives abroad, so my friends become my tribe.

After living in Washington for two years, 60% of the time was during the time of a global pandemic, I am happy to report that I have slowly found a group of likeminded people, the connection with whom I am grateful for. Coming to Seattle with a large number of business school classmates definitely made my first year easier, especially when a few of my good friends from business school moved here too. In my second year, I put more effort in meeting new people outside my usual circle and joined a running club! I am not sure why the running club idea did not occur to me earlier, since this was the same thing I did when I moved to Houston! I really enjoy going to weekly runs with my club and being able to explore some new trails on the Eastside and some old gems on which I can now run at a faster pace. Thanks to motivation from the club, I’ve pulled off the longest distance I’ve ever run in a month and today I ran close to 12 miles and still had a bit left in my tank. Running more combined with hiking has definitely made me feel my body is at its prime right now.

1.5X to my previous monthly max!

Speaking of hiking, I have also found more friends to explore trails with. We are able to push each other, me being pushed more often than they are (:P) to take on the trail less traveled. Some great fun were had on the winter trail of chain lakes loop, Kachess Beacon, and wright mountain traverse. Last year, I saw hiking more as a way to stay fit, but ended up not enjoying the process as much because I was too focused on going at a speed that my physical fitness could not sustain and on the goal of bagging peaks. This year, my fitness level improved significantly and the hikes become more a way to catch up with friends while sharing the gorgeous views of nature. As I lower my monthly hiking frequency, I am more and more looking forward to each hike. I am really excited to go on two backpacking trips the end of the month with Washington friends and out-of-town visitors!

Chain lakes adventure featuring walking on the frozen lake in the background and snowshoeing up a hill!

Lastly, I am also lucky to have friends who can show me the ropes of bouldering (but no literal ropes involved)! Because I have fear of heights that might stop me from taking on more scrambling challenges in the mountains, I’ve started indoor bouldering and it is a fun physical and mental challenge. Since then, I have taken the skill and experience to outdoor trails and I can say that I am becoming more comfortable with navigating large boulders!

All in all, I am just grateful for all the old and new connections I am able to make while living in Washington. These are the people who have inspired me to take on more and taught me new skills and experiences that I will always treasure. Cheers to Year 3 in Washington and finding more of my people!

the Journey of Self – Freedom vs. Control

I am dedicating year of 2021 to a year of self-journey, a year of looking inward to understand myself better and to grow. This is part 4 of the series.

Late last December I came across a book ‘Nonviolent Communication’, which described how we can connect with others in a more compassionate way, expressing ourselves without casting judgment and receiving others’ feelings empathetically. I was immediately enlightened and started practicing what the book advocates for in daily life. Since I am the kind of person who enjoys sharing what I love and have learned (this blog is a natural extension), I frequently talked about this book at holiday gatherings and FaceTime sessions and even bought copies of the book as holiday gifts. I also emailed the emotional intelligence interest group at work and recommended it as a book club topic. After some ‘aggressive’ promotion of the book, later on, I checked with my friends to see if they read it. I got a bit frustrated when my friends did not take my recommendations seriously or when they did not feel as strongly about the book as I did.

When watching the video of Yung Pueblo, whose two books and weekly newsletters are amazing, I realized everyone is learning at their own pace (video starts at 36:15) and I can only help those who are open to changes and actively seek out help. Because each person holds the key to his/her own heart, we need to be kind to others and let them grow at their own pace. We can provide all the support we think they need, but nothing will change unless they are committed to making the change themselves. We can provide resources but should not get frustrated when they don’t do anything or when they pick a different way to get assistance. If we realize we cannot help any further, we can set boundaries, communicate that, and step away from the issue at hand if needed. However, there is no need to be upset if the results don’t turn out the way we expect.

Upon realizing that, I am able to let go of my desire to control others’ reaction a lot more easily. I also wonder whether my wanting others to react or solve problems the same way I did was just another form of me seeking external validation. Luckily, I have grown a lot sure of myself over the past year that I care less about getting validation. I still enthusiastically share what I love. If they enjoy what I have shared, that’s great. If they do not, at least I feel good about having done my part of trying to be helpful.

the Journey of Self – the Mountains

I am dedicating year of 2021 to a year of self-journey, a year of looking inward to understand myself better and to grow. This is part 3 of the series.

Before I started hiking in Washington, I knew I would enjoy the nature and outdoors because I loved running outside and was ready to put in the hard work in endurance. I thought hiking would be one of the excursions I do every once in a while (aka, a few times in the summer). Thanks to the good company and mentors on the trail and the stay-at home order of Covid-19, I turned to the outdoors a lot and became hooked, to the extent I would call a slight obsession (another thing I noticed on this self-awareness journey). I would spend hours poring over trip reports, mapping out new hiking routes, and dreaming about my own adventures after being inspired by pictures posted on Facebook and Instagram. I have fallen in love with the craggy mountains and the sparkling blue alpine lakes.

This winter (starting from November 2020) marks my second winter on the trails. I’ve explored some new ones and returned to a few old gems. Stepping on the same trails the second time helps me see the two distinct stages I move through in hiking.

The first stage of my hiking was very ‘peak driven’. Since I usually took on somewhat strenuous hikes and sometimes went with folks more fit than me, there was pressure to move at a faster pace. Thus, forget about ‘it is the journey that matters not the destination’, the only thing I could think about was to keep myself moving to get the peak. I would set a rule to myself that I could only break every 30 minutes for water and huff and puff up the entire time. As a result, some of the memories before reaching the summit were blurry to me. With the Hoh River trail to see blue glacier last summer, I relied on the pictures taken to remember the glories of the glacier rather from my memory bank, as I was exhausted and distracted in dreaming about the Mountain House dinner that I would eat at camp rather than basking in the awe of the glacier.

Luckily, as I built on my fitness level, I slowly moved to the second stage of actually enjoying the adventure outside. This became especially clear as I set foot on the Kachess Beacon trail earlier this month. A lot of the memories from a year ago came back to me – of how I was scared of falling on the trail in the treeline, of how awkward I felt using the trekking poles to keep my balance while ascending in snowshoes, of how uncomfortable I was descending from the ridge line. This time it was totally different. Instead of feeling sketched out and uncertain, I supported my friend’s suggestion of taking the shorter and steeper route up the ridge line and was breaking trails ahead in snowshoes (my snowshoes had superior grip than his, lol). Despite the hard climb, we were laughing and joking the entire way and occasionally stopped for pictures. In the end, I even climbed up the beacon for views of surrounding peaks, which was another thing I was afraid to do last time.  Oh what a long way I have came since the first ascent! As I looked back, what I loved about this second time was that I was able to enjoy solitude (did not see a single soul until 1 mile away from the trailhead), to experience the road less traveled, and to have the privilege to be the first to connect with the mountains and nature on that sunny day. My curiosity and adventure tank were full. I was at my happiest.

Heading to the beacon on untouched snow!

Will there be more stages for me and what would they be? Yes and I am starting to notice the theme emerging. Third stage is to to enjoy the journey more than just focusing on the destination on new adventures (not just trails that I have completed previously). Fourth stage is to share the joy of getting outside with others. This process of looking inward to my own development in hiking will help me tremendously to get to those stages. A stronger sense of how I get to who I am today allows me to be more compassionate towards both myself and others. Whenever I feel defeated that I cannot keep up with others, I will tell myself that practice makes perfect and it always take time to build up the fitness. I will remind myself to stop and take in the view around me more often even though I might be super focused on mustering my physical and mental toughness for the summit. Whenever I take my friends on an adventure that is a bit outside their comfort zone, I will remember to slow down for them and not be too pushy, because everyone is developing at their own pace. I will also not turn down requests to go on easier hikes or hikes that I have already completed, because I will still experience something new and it’s rewarding to go through the journey from the friends’ eyes and enjoy their company. 

My big hiking goals this year are to complete the day through-hike at the Enchantments and backpack in the High Divide/7 Lakes Basin in the Olympic Peninsula. Now that I said ‘practice makes perfect’, be right back as I will be going out for more hilly runs to be prepared. 🙂

P.S. In my last post, I promised for a breakdown of the self-compassion podcast. It is still on my topic list. At least I was learning to practice that more in this post.

the Journey of Self – Compassion

I am dedicating year of 2021 to a year of self-journey, a year of looking inward to understand myself better and to grow. This is part 2 of the series.

I used to be my own worst critic. I set really high standards ahead of time and beat myself up when I do not meet them. When that happens, I am usually floored with all the negative emotion – regret, guilt, followed by self-skepticism and shame, which set my mind into a negative spiral. 2020 was a year when starting a new role when working from home completely heightened these feelings. I felt stuck in this cocoon, unhappy and not confident. I suspect these feelings were ignited by my motivation to be perfect, to get it done right at the first try. As I have written in my previous post ‘Keep Iterating’ last year, the perfectionism mindset is something I recognize in myself and have been actively working to change to ‘keep iterating’ mode.

Understanding the ‘why’ behind the emotion is the very step toward changing it. However, what should I do when I am hit with the wave of negative thoughts again? By chance, I stumbled upon a solution by trying meditation. A couple of months ago, I was introduced to take on a 21-day meditating challenge, in which I had to meditate every day for 10 minutes. I had heard of meditation a while before, but still had been a skeptic. Since it was the beginning of the new year, I thought to myself, why not try something new. Thus, I stuck to the challenge and started listening to the podcast. One episode of the podcast is on self-compassion. It was through listening to the podcast that the lightbulb in my head went on! In fact, I was ecstatic when I finally found a way to pinpoint what I had gone through. I realized how demanding and harsh I had been with myself and why I was not happy. This episode has so many nuggets that I want to go back to and share, but I was just happy that I unlocked something new.

Carrying the awareness of showing self compassion is important, but I still find it ‘easier learned than done’. For my next post, I will share what I find to be useful. This is also a good incentive for me to revisit to the podcast. Stay tuned!

Note to blog readers – I was a little ill-prepared to write this post tonight, not exactly sure of my structure. Nevertheless, I committed to the writing process. As a recovering self-critic, I know there are so much more I can do to edit this post and to describe more the emotions I had, but I am still happy to share because the feeling of finally understanding clearly one’s own emotion is worth celebrating.