Hello, my name is Annette Kim. I am a 29 year old American woman of Korean descent living in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. About two months ago, I quit my job in Corporate America and put my Graduate program in Data Analytics on an indefinite hold to create a life outside the box of conditioning and social mores. My passions are science, philosophy, art, spirituality, nature, exploration, health, and consciousness. This is My Story of the years I lived in my head, self-conscious and afraid, and how I got out of it.
Since graduating high school I’ve read all the self-help books, studied psychology, listened to insightful and motivational podcasts, went to therapy, traveled, and sought jobs that forced me to engage with people, all so that I could learn how to live a freer and more expressed life. But this past January, when I turned 29 years old, I found myself still caged inside my own self. Granted, I’ve gotten really good at faking it, but who wants the bootleg version? I want the Real Thing! And I’ve found it! What’s the secret?
The only way to break out is to Share my Experience!
That’s it. It is SO obvious. The way to be more expressed is to share? Duh! But it took me years and years of soul-searching to get this. Maybe I resisted it because I feared it. It is confronting. I spent years searching around it, wanting to avoid it, pulling on masks and faking it till I made it (heads up: I never “made it”), doing everything but the thing I needed to do.
I wasted so much of my time when all I needed to do was Share my experience with the world — Open my heart by opening my voice. I thought it was better to listen. Shh… Be quiet, let others open themselves to me. And I did that. I listened. I learned. And I thought, “Yes, this is the way — Be a Good Listener. This is so selfless of me to be a space for others.”
But it was inauthentic and it drove me insane with all the wonderful (and, I suppose, not-so-wonderful) thoughts in my head that just lay there, rotting and withering away like a raisin in the sun. A thought deferred.
What is actually true is it is Selfish NOT to share my experience!
It is selfish because I am taking and receiving others’ experiences, while never giving back. It becomes tiresome and draining for a person to constantly put oneself out there and to get no substance in return. It took me until now to realize that sharing myself is the bridge by which others can connect with me. It is the oil in a car’s engine that lubricates relationships. And it needs to be an exchange. Like how a tree takes in carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. All things biological have this exchange, it is how life is kept in balance.
Sharing myself means others get validation or support for their own experiences. Sharing myself is how others get to know Who I Am. Sharing myself is how I get to know myself! Sharing myself makes a difference in another person’s life. Here’s a story of one of the first experiences I’ve had with this new lesson.
This past June, I was at a meditation retreat where I met an American who is currently teaching and living in Korea. We exchanged pleasantries and sat down to lunch together. Another in our lunch group was asking about his experience and, although he was polite, he had no good things to say about the country. I found myself feeling insulted and angry. Ordinarily, I would not have spoken up so as to not make the lunch tense for everyone there or hurt his feelings, but having recently stumbled upon this phenomenal lesson, I decided to speak up and share my experience. My voice shaking, I shared that I was hurt by his judgement of the country and that it might help his experience if he learned the language and explored the country.
The rest of the lunch was terse and the man and I avoided eye contact, as I expected, and I silently chastised myself for the outcome. Later, having finished my lunch, I returned my plate and silverware to the kitchen and was walking back to my table, when the man called out my name and pulled me aside. He thanked me for having spoken up and said something. He shared with me about difficulties in the relationship with his girlfriend who is living with him in Korea and how upon retrospecting on what I had said, he realized his feelings on Korea were parroting her feelings. We ended up having an in depth discussion where he was vulnerable with me as I had been vulnerable with him. He said he is so grateful because he has a completely new perspective on his situation. His current life experience had the potential to now be completely different because of my contribution! Wowzah!
So how did it get so bad? How did I forget to share my experience? I want to share my journey with you because maybe you can relate to a life of repression, oppressed feelings, shaking voices, clammy hands, feeling your tongue thick and heavy while forming words, or wanting to DO or SAY or BE the person YOU know yourself to be! And you’re going to DO it! And then… you don’t.
As a kid I was joyful and extroverted by nature. I remember a peer of mine asking me with a big grin on his face too, “Why are you smiling all the time!?” All I could do was laugh hysterically and smile back.
I loved it all. I made myself and everyone laugh all the time. As time went on, I grew up in a home environment that was tumultuous and angry, a place where expression was not encouraged.
Our family fought violently with words, fists, and silent treatments, one lasted almost a year between family members under one roof. In addition, I was prevented from expanding my social life. The fear was I would be exposed to bad influence so while I was caged inside this broken home, I learned an important lesson. The crucial lesson I learned was that to freely self-express is dangerous. Self expression was not free; it cost people anger, criticism, shame, judgement, deaf ears, and beatings.
As time went on, this lesson continued to present in different ways and I burrowed ever inward. I expressed myself through my clothes but otherwise, I was my own worst critic and never allowed for full expression. I never shared what my home life was like with anyone and never asked for help. I never reached out. I dove inward.
I cultivated a super rich interior world through books, music, and art. These mediums were my escape and my teacher. I learned about a whole world outside of the house where people had friends, love, romance, drama, daring experiences, and fearless adventures! I dreamed of the day I went off to college so I could do, say, and be this person I was inside. But it doesn’t work that way.
I thought my external environment was all that inhibited me and that these habits and conditioning would be like stepping out of old clothes and into new. But it wasn’t so.
Despite having my newfound freedom, my inner critic continued to police my self expression to an extreme, so I turned to unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors as a crutch. I abused alcohol, cocaine, and psychedelics in order to get out of my head and speak my Truth. I self-harmed, feeling like I wanted to crawl out of my own damned skin. I was fearless and reckless, because I was SO disconnected from my Inner Truth. It seemed as if I was constantly playing a character. I could never quite be comfortable, never quite known by anyone, and never quite heard.
If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
I was uncertain of who I was even. I’ve never really had an identity that was congruent with what the world knew me as so I’ve never felt tied to one. This allowed me to wear many masks and compartmentalize my world. But if I never speak my Truth, and so no one hears it … Do I make a sound?
A thought is just a thought until it is crystallized into word. A word is just a word, until it is crystallized into physical form by action. These are the growing manifestations that start from somewhere in the ether.
A thought exists, but it exists in that dimension. Transformation into word opens into another dimension. It colors our physical world in a way that brings it to life. Consider black and white cinema versus color versus three dimensional. Essentially, they can all tell the same story, but the experience becomes richer and richer as it becomes increasingly complex. It is reaching out into new planes of reality.
A bit metaphysical so I laud you for bearing with me, but sharing is existential. Without sharing, IT DOESN’T EXIST.
It wasn’t until I met someone who pulled me out of my shell even when it hurt that I realized the enormous strength in Sharing. I resisted, kicking and screaming, telling him, “ I am sharing, I am engaged— Look how good I listen! Look how carefully and intentionally I choose my words! Look, I am just a private person! Look, there’s nothing wrong with me!”
It wasn’t until I dipped my toe in and had experiences like the one I shared that I realized the answer I had been seeking. Sharing is important. Sharing is everything.
Share Your Experience! Bare your soul! Get in front of the camera and talk about what you’re going through! (This is why we love Reality TV, as well as the ever-so-addictive drama of watching dumpster fires in action). We see ourselves in others’ experience. It is how we connect and feel connected. It is how we Learn! It is how we Grow! It is how we make Self-Discoveries! It is how the world evolves!
If this resonates with you, please share your experience here or send them to me. I would love to know you!