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“How I Left a Lifetime of Expectations to Pursue a Lifestyle that I Love”-Dream Interview Justine TF

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REBEKKA LIEN x JUSTINE TF

Dream Catcher Interview

This is a new segment on my blog about people who conquer all odds to live an unconventional life and dream that is unique to who they are. My first interviewee is Justine TF, a lifelong friend I’ve known for over 14 years.

Enjoy and please check out her work!

R- Tell us about who you are, your story and how you came to live your dreams? (How you quit dental school, etc…what was your process, what spurred on the idea).

J- My parents were both born and raised in Taiwan in the 1950’s in poverty and as adults moved to the U.S. to start a new life. Given that there were so many opportunities compared to anything they’d seen back home, it was paramount that I take advantage and study everything, get the best grades, go to the top schools, and secure a great future. They came from very little, and so their vision for us was to become ridiculously financially wealthy, but not without reason. Our stipulation was to do good for others in a respectable career, and so medicine was the most logical route.

I studied my ass off. As a kid, I rarely had free time. My mom was constantly shuffling us to extracurriculars and after school classes. In middle school, I took my first SAT class. In high school, I took a bunch of AP’s. I got into UCSD, one of the top science universities, and majored with honors in biochemistry. Clearly, and thankfully, I had the brains to do all of it, but whatever it was that was missing didn’t become apparent until I was already half way deep into a doctor of dental surgery program.

I remember the first time I felt a calling to be an artist was in high school. I was watching Heidi Klum’s Project Runway with my cousins and announced, “I want to do that. I want to just make stuff.” I didn’t know how significant that statement was then, but before that, I had always been a very creative child. Almost too creative. Notebooks and art supplies were my favorite presents as a kid, and I would immediately fill my notebooks with doodles, plans, and short stories. My parents were terrified of letting me explore creative avenues, and I remember having to hide my notebooks. Yes, I would get in trouble. And yes, I would get beat for “wasting my time”.

In college, I doodled in just about every notebook I had. Other people’s notebooks, too. I filled every inch of every wall in my apartment with my own art and even painted a mural. My creativity was really starting to overflow and I needed somewhere to channel it, so I started a shiny new Tumblr blog called “Doodles and Things” (which is probably someone else’s username/domain now). Tumblr was very new then. I posted my doodles and illustrations everyday and built a portfolio of thousands of images. From there, I was able to obtain some freelance work as an illustrator for music albums, a book cover, and local newspapers.

Keep in mind, I was still on my way to becoming a doctor. My view around making art for a living was so skewed by the way I was raised, that when people were throwing money my way for me to make art for them, I would see it as just a temporary favor. Never once did it occur to me that, “Hey, I never took an art class, but I’m still making art. I must be an artist.” Nope.

I remember very distinctly in an MCAT class once, I had just had enough of the bullshit. This was when I was still on my way to going to medical school before I diverted – not far enough – toward dental school instead. As the teacher droned on about test taking techniques, I took out a red pen and just started drawing all over my workbook. It was quite obnoxious, but it felt so good to just be free in the moment.

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Anyway, this is a loaded question. Where was I…?

Oh yeah, How I Quit Dental School:

I was depressed and felt out of place as all hell in dental school, but I pushed through because I believed what everyone else said – after the first year, which is heavily didactic, things should get better. It didn’t get better for me. In fact, when I got into the clinic, things got worse. Even though I had the hand skills to work in millimeters, I just couldn’t see myself working on another person’s tooth for the rest of my life. I needed a canvas. I wanted to paint walls.

It took a lot of guts to leave, for sure, but so many more nights of insomnia, feelings of hopelessness, and pure exhaustion from trying to convince myself to do something I didn’t want to do.

Thankfully, through working with my school counselor and amazing clinic professor (who are now both good friends of mine), I was able to systematically withdraw from my program without making a scene. Most people in my class who found out were surprised by my leaving. I didn’t tell anyone until after I left.

Leading up to that point, as I said, I was depressed as all hell. I had already been practicing yoga everyday, but my counselor recommended that I try meditation as well. One night, I was so tired of feeling so impotent as a dental student whose future was grim and set, that I simply imagined what it would be like to be something else, anything else. Immediately, the fog cleared within me and in that instant, I knew another life was possible. Such was the real opportunity my parents had given me.

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R- What were some of your challenges? How did people respond to you wanting to pursue your passions?

J- The biggest challenge was to not succumb to the pressure to stay. So many people were terrified for me. Many asked if I was sure I wasn’t going to regret it. But I had prepared myself for these naysayers. They weren’t not believing in me, they were just trying to look out for me. No one had the vision I had for myself the way that I had seen it in my own head. I mean, duh. It’s my life! I had to do what I had to do.

R- What keeps you going?

J- I’m committed to exploring this inner psychology that I have as a human being and communicating that with others through my artwork. Part of the reason that art is so powerful is that it represents things and ideas that words alone could never do justice. It’s an amorphous language all on its own. I think through the practice of yoga, where so much internally is explored, I’ve really discovered what I could do with art. It’s truly a special form of communication. What is communicated in my work is the recognition of internal human experiences that exist universally.

Similarly, with yoga, I’m committed to assisting others with the exploration of their own internal journey. I have learned so much through my own practice, and want for others to see for themselves!

R- What inspires you?

J- Nature for its insistent stride in the cycle of birth, growth, death, and re-birth again. Nature is such a great teacher.

R- Who has been supportive and encouraging in your walk?

J- Thankfully – my mom, my brother, and lots of friends and family. But my therapist is the real the MVP. Love you, Monica!

 

R- Love that artwork- trust the process- can you explain why you created that piece?

J- I made that on a whim, like most of my pieces are, because human experiences are equally fleeting. I was feeling antsy about not knowing what to make next, so I just sat down and let the words come to me. All I could think of that evening was to just trust the process, since I’ve learned from so many pieces before that the end products never turn out to be the way I imagine. And in fact, they almost always surprise me in a good way. So, I dipped my brush into ink and made my first stroke, which ended up being the top of the first T.

6R- What do you envision for 2016 or even the rest of your life?

J- For 2016, I’d like to really learn how to run a business. For the rest of my life, I’ll probably be making art! Hopefully write a book. Publish a coloring book.

R- And feel free to add anything you’d like to tell the readers about following their dreams!

J- If you have a dream, what’s the very next step you need to take to make it a reality? Figure it out and do it. Then repeat. That’s it! It really is that simple. We often see living our dreams as this giant mountain that we can never get to the top of, but while the grand view is daunting, all you can do right now is the next step anyway. So what’s the first next step? Figure out a way to do that and do it. Then ask yourself: What’s the next step?

 

Heal The Heart, Not The Symptoms

Today I was talking to a homeless teen who was outside CVS and she asked me if I wanted to drink, I said I’m okay. Then this man came out of CVS and strictly said if the police found her drinking outside CVS, she would be put in prison and basically to stop. He said the company would get in trouble because they sell alcohol.

I felt really sad after because the man just looked at the condition of her drinking outside, but not at her heart.

Because as I was praying for her broken leg, I felt that she had a lot of shame. I said that God loves her very much and there is no need to feel shame.

After I went for a walk to process my emotions and it was a lot. I’ve been back in Los Angeles for almost a week, and I definitely feel different from 5 months ago. After leaving my dad, coming back to LA felt so sad, I felt that a huge support had been taken away from me.

The truth is, sometimes I feel very alone in my journey of following the spirit. I’m at my wits end a lot of the times, because I’m led to do things that are crazy, unconventional, wild, scary, and I feel alone a lot of times. I know there are others like me who will stop at the end of the world in following spirit, but I feel like there needs to be more people next to me.

The truth is, following your heart is not an easy thing. The biggest hurdle is getting over what people think, like when I’m talking out loud walking on the street, that must look crazy. But I feel more at peace than I’ve ever felt.

I want to stand on the authenticity of my true feelings. Everyday.

I know I’m not the only one, but even after conversations with friends and I’m standing on the street with a bag on my back, I question myself sometimes.

And sometimes you just have no idea where you’re going but you have to trust completely with no reserves.

Because even though it looks like I’m living a joyous carefree lifestyle, I’m actually living in intentionality, following every instruction which spirit beckons me, to a life of freedom and abandon, a life that has no boundaries of fear, limitation, judgment, brokenness or unforgiveness. 

And so when we see human beings I hope we look into peoples’ hearts and not their symptoms…if its addiction, alcoholism, violence, brokenness, somewhere deeper there is a heart which longs for love, and so sometimes its unworthiness, the lie of not being enough…there is always more in there.

Even if they are the perpetrators of pain, they are more broken than we think. But at the end of the day, when they come into awareness, they are also responsible for their own pain…if they choose not to get help.

And so we can lie our whole lives and say we are okay, or we can humble ourselves and say, I don’t know, I’m just a human being and sometimes I’d like some help, sometimes I’d like to be encouraged, sometimes I’d like to know I’m not the only one. jesus-with-kids-god-the-father-has-transformed-my-heart-by-his-precious-holy-spirit-301731

You’re not alone.

 

 

Grateful

rebekka

I’m grateful, beyond words.

One of the best things I’ve done for myself is to forgive myself. But also to forgive the closest people in my life, for a long time it was my dad…for not being there for me. I took the last month of my journey to really spend time with my dad in Taiwan. For the first time in his life, it has snowed in Taiwan. Taiwan also has a new president.

I’m turning 28 on February 11 and it has been a hell of a journey. As I look back on the photos of going to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan, I am just in awe of the divine connections I’ve made, the lifetime friendships I’ve made.

I am filled with gratitude.

I lived with so much apprehension and fear when I left. There was a huge paycheck that was intended to be used for my trip, that fell through (and there was no way I could chase it down being so far away). I had to let go and trust the process. I left with a very small amount for such a big trip- a trip that meant simply following the spirit and seeing where God would lead me. 

I didn’t have any plans, I knew that I had a few countries in my mind. Vietnam because I love pho. Bali because of Eat Pray and Love. Taiwan because I wanted to spend time with my dad.

But little did I know what the trip would look like….and maybe if I had known I’d never have taken that step. The truth is the whole trip was meant to heal my heart. And I’ll be journeying my whole life, I’ll go where spirit leads me. 

Thailand flew by. Vietnam came and went. I made life time friends. I saw a new friend of mine get hit by a car right in front of my eyes after a late night out. It was such a shock to both of us, she was okay but it really opened my eyes to the fact that travel could be life and death. 

I also made friends that I thought I’d be best friends forever and within the next month, she had become co-dependent to the point I had to unfriend her and cut her off for my own well- being.

Many times I didn’t know where I was going to sleep the night of….it was scary sometimes. Sometimes I would just trust the process, trust that God had something in mind and I can say that after 6 months, God has never lied to me. 

I’ve been stranded on islands, seen God do the most miraculous things through STRANGERS. I’ve met strangers at clubs that basically picked me up from the train station and hosted me the very next day. I was showered with provision.

In Bali, I got into a moped accident, not what I planned yet again. I had feelings for sweethearts, I’ve confronted them, I’ve wept and had breakdowns in front of people I’ve met 3 days ago…leading us to talk deeply about our lives.

I’ve cried an awful lot, but again the journey started years ago…

Years ago, when I tried to put my life together in a neat respectable box and realized that I needed to live in grace instead. That it’s better to vulnerable, it’s better to be authentic, it’s better to be loved than to be strong, it’s better to love than to be perfect. 

I also didn’t think I’d get my belly pierced.

I have so much to share with the world and I’m just waiting for the right time and the right platform which will come at the perfect aligned time.

So I continue to trust, as I see my life unfold into a beautiful painting of love.

2016 Love Blog

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OK, I’m starting a new segment and this one is called the love blog, so if you search categories on my blog search “love blog” for all the relationship related blog posts.

I just got out of dinner with my aunt and uncle.

And well, they told me how they met, basically it was an arranged marriage. Now their 3 kids are also married with kids. I was like omg (to the arranged marriage part).

Here’s a picture of my aunt on her wedding day. She did not look happy.   
Anyways, she went on this whole rant about how I should not have really high standards but I shouldn’t have really low ones either to which I reply, “I’m not at all worried, I just haven’t met the right person and it’s not like I have to marry 10 guys…geez”. Plus I believe if it is the right time, God will bring the right person into my life. Like the whole concept of when you’re happy being single, the right person will come along.

Let’s just say her rant got me kind of annoyed so I said goodbye and came back to write this blog post. Because she was kind of implying that if you are old then you have less chances of finding a mate…which I replied, “what’s the point of marrying just because you are old..like for what?” Basically you’re day old pie that nobody wants, is what she’s implying.

I straight up said “whoever marries me is lucky as fuck”. Minus the fuck part, because I don’t know how to cuss in Mandarin.

Because I just have standards and I only need one man, not a million. So yes, I’m an amazing and awesome woman and I don’t need to stoop down to appease societal standards of when I should marry.

So there’s your first love blog post. Enjoy!

Moral of the story- don’t give into societal standards just because you’re the last one in the family to get hitched. You have to know your own worth. 

I think she was just jealous that I had a choice to pick.

Why Traveling Is Difficult

rebekka

Just a catchy title.

But this blog post is about the reality of traveling…for those that admire that I sold and gave away almost everything to be homeless for a few months, half a year. Guess what, I didn’t do it as an escape, I did it because I felt the spirit leading and I needed to prioritize what I valued in life. 

Traveling IS actually NOT easy (Specifically talking about solo travel). 

Yes, I know you see people posting these HD photos of oceans and mountains, but it’s not easy because…if you’re not “vacationing” and staying on an island for a week, and you’re actually straight up having a coming of age, spiritual awakening, journey of growth and healing, it will fuck you up good. 

If you want to grow and you’re not just there to get drunk and make out with random backpackers….then yes you are going to have a difficult and AMAZING time growing as a person.

WHY is TRAVELING not easy: 

  1. If you don’t like yourself, you will need to spend time with yourself like a lot. I spend about 95% of my time by myself. So if your thoughts drive you mad, and you can’t control it or find peace, then you might just go mad. Get ready to face the shit that you are unwilling to face back home.
  2. It’s uncomfortable- obviously. Like when people yell at you or grab your arm when they’re trying to sell you t-shirts on the streets, this happened to me in Bali. So no, I don’t like Bali as much as I like other cities on the earth. So no, not everyone will like the picturesque places that people keep posting on instagram.
  3. If you’re on a budget…it’s uncomfortable: yes hostels are great, but when there are 24 beds in one room. I’ve had to grow some boldness by telling a guy to turn down his fucking music because I need to sleep.
  4. It’s all about healing the junk in your heart- If you’re ready to face some prejudices, racism, uncomfortable situations, tiredness, weariness, sleepiness, bug bites, being stranded on an island when your card stops working, trusting God to save your ass, not killing the guy who keeps pervertedly staring at you, healing the prejudices in your own heart, healing from past breakups, letting go of past unforgiveness, forgiving people, forgiving everyone who wrongs you on the trip, try to not be a jackass when people don’t serve you with the same politeness that people serve you back home….
  5. Accidents and shit might happen- I got into a moped accident and couldn’t walk for two weeks (AND YES I was crying, it hurt like a mother fucker! and I was ALONE but thank God this dude came and took the heavy moped off my foot. I was in my hotel room for the next 5 nights showering alone with a plastic bag around my leg, room servicing, watching MTV, and resenting that I couldn’t swim but then….learning to rest) this is when God told me to slow the fuck down and rest. Some stomach uneasiness in Thailand, being harassed by men in all of southeast asia.

So when people ask me “how is__________?  (insert city)

I don’t reply, because it’s not going to be like one sentence “oh it’s beautiful”.

My answers are always going to be about what God is doing in my life…so my answer is more like “I had some shit going on back home, and it was unresolved, and I was worried about it while I was traveling and I had a fucking hard time letting it go because I needed or thought I needed to resolve it before I got on my flight, but it was unresolved….anyways, I spent the next month learning to trust God and letting it go…and I’m still learning after 5 months”.

OR….

“So while I was sitting at a hostel in Singapore, my friend and I skype and then she said these magical words…’you know it wasn’t your fault. None of what has happened in your life, or where you are is your fault’- specifically pertaining to how I felt like I wasted 2.5 years dating a guy that didn’t have the same goals in life….those words magically broke the self-judgement I had placed on myself and suddenly, I felt free as a bird..”

And the inner HEALING has been the best things that have happened to me when I travel. Learning that:

  1. Everything that has ever happened in your life had to happen for you to become the amazing person you are today.
  2. You meet the people you’re supposed to meet at the right time and at the right place.
  3. When you let go and just have fun, amazing shit happens.
  4. It’s not about where you go in life, it’s about learning to cherish the moment because you are always here and now. 

XOXO BEX.

And look there were REALLY AMAZING TIMES, but I also want to clear up some weird misunderstanding that leaving everything is easy and fun. It’s hella not. If you saw what I had to go through, learning to let go of the couch that I LOVE and spend so many nights WATCHING netflix no, crying on my bathmat about letting my career go…

Dude. Yah.

 

 

 

How women can help men to help women

In my 27 years of living, I went from hating men to loving them. I went from thinking all men were the same to loving them as individuals, sons of God. 

The first time I really saw men as equal to me was when I made an equally stupid mistake in my own life that I hated some men for. That’s when I realized that I’m human too. I’m the same, humans are all capable of making mistakes. None of us are perfect. 

Anyways- this weekend my dad told me that a relative killed himself because he became jobless and his wife (a mail order bride) said he was useless, like trash because he had no income. 

That drove him to deeper depression and he ended up hanging himself on a tree. 

My dad also vented about how his wife yells at him everyday. 

Yes there probably are just reasons for it but I wonder how relationships are a two way street. 

Men want respect and women want the security of knowing they are loved. 

Women sometimes are unable to get that security and the disrespect happens. It goes both ways. 

But it made me wonder….though feminists are always saying men have not treated women equally…are women treating loving themselves to begin with?  Are we accepting less than, have we remained quiet when injustice happens to us, do we let others step on our boundaries, do we continue to accept the kind of treatment that a man who does not love himself will induce? 

And are the acts of violence that is spewed through words enough to kill a man on the inside? 

So I wonder could we love men by seeing the limitless spirit they are and encouraging them with words? 

Because aren’t we all human? Imperfect? 

And maybe if more women could see the gifts inside men, could we create a cycle of love? Because when men are loved for who they are, maybe their manliness comes out, the hero comes out, the responsible one comes out, the adventurous defender comes out. 

Just maybe. 

Because words are powerful, life changing. 

Choose positive ones. 

Even when you talk to yourself. Encourage your heart.  Because it’s not about blame, but how can we positively change the world? 

Taiwan 

    
 

My father 

My father for most of my life remained a mysterious, absent entity. It has been a difficult, rocky road to recover my relationship with him. It has been filled with heartache, bitterness, anger and resentment. I’ve learned from past relationships that I needed badly to heal my relationship with my dad or else I was not going to have a healthy relationship with my significant half. I also realized that my heart had problems trusting God’s heart for me because my earthly father had not been there for me.

I had a Heavenly Father, spirit God who guided me. 

Today I’m proud to say I’ve gotten to know my dad more and it’s shown me what kind of God God is. When you learn that God is a good father who wants everything for you and hand picks things that you love in your life….

You learn to trust God. 

And then you have faith that can move mountains because you know that with God all things are possible. 

Even though I had to initiate a lot of reconciliation in my life, I’m healed for it…I hungered for wholeness, and with wholeness my heart is filled with love. 

Is it worth it? Yes. 

Forgiveness is everything, letting go of my pride to forgive…lets just say my heart is softer, I don’t have a wall around it anymore; I don’t have to fend and defend myself as I used to as a kid.    

  
Recovering everything I didn’t have as a child. Learning to be a kid again, learning to receive, learning to let my guard down. 
For God is for you and not against you. His plans are to prosper you in every way. If you didn’t grow up with your father, know that there is a Father who loves and wants to protect you. 

You are worthy and enough in His eyes.