At the P40 Launch Party/Meet and Greet, I went around the room to network and welcome colleagues. In the process, I bumped into several friends from high school. We have become a generation where we see people in passing and keep up with them on social media; however, there is a nostalgic and warm quality about catching up with an old friend in person. As I hugged and greeted a high school classmate, she said to me,  “Melody, it’s so great to actually see you.  Your name came up recently in conversation about how you have your life together.”  At that moment, as I struggled not to choke on the water I was drinking due to my body’s shocked reaction upon hearing that people think of me “that” way, all figured out, I immediately responded with, “No, no, no.  I thought I was open and transparent about how my life is NOT all together.”  I went on to expand this thought, but in retrospect, I should have been thankful that people see me like “that”.  

I remembered when I started my PhD program; I was working 15 hour days, balancing coursework, teaching, counseling, working, and volunteering. I felt like a duck floating on water.  At the surface, it seems to be calmly sitting on top of the water.  However underwater, the duck’s feet are furiously moving in order to stay afloat.  That’s the beauty of being like a duck.  From the outside, they look so peaceful, however, in actuality they are exerting a lot of energy to be “still”. And in the process of balancing all my roles, I’ve accepted my identity, I’m a duck.

When I got home from the launch, I asked myself why I reacted so strongly to such a simple statement that was probably meant to be a compliment. Sometimes when I look at my life, I remember the moments when it was just hard to balance it all. There were so many points where I struggled to get by day-to-day, and simple tasks seemed so overwhelming. They say when it rains, it pours. Life is just like that sometimes. It doesn’t wait for us to be ready; it’s continuously happening regardless of our situations and obligations.

But I am duck hovering on water.  Even though I don’t always know my direction and sometimes I feel frazzled in my inner world, most people don’t see the stress and pressure I am under because to them, all they see is a hardworking, passionate, encouraging, and happy person. It took years for me to get to this point, but I discovered somewhere along the way, that when life got hard, to simply go back to the basics. I learned to default to the coping skills that work for me. And although we all have different ways of living, to me going back to the basics meant doing the things that make me, me, such as:

Writing down my daily to-do list and scheduling everything from meals, to adding unique quotes to my personal quote book.

  • Relishing in the heart of nature- Sometimes I walk and other times I sit on the beach while inhaling the sun and waves.
  • Expressing my thoughts on paper- journaling, poetry, or art.
  • Physical emotional release- a combination of running, playing piano, cooking, crying, singing, or screaming.
  • Positive affirmations and mantras-  I am beautiful, I am worthy, I am sunshine, I matter, etc.
  • Reconnecting with loved ones- friends, family, mentors, role models, etc.
  • Cleaning and purging debris from my personal space- my desk, room, closet, and mind.

I’m finding that adulthood isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Time seems to go by faster with age, and also with age, I’ve collected my fair share of loss and disappointment. Ironically, however, I’m also finding that I’ve always had the answers within myself to deal with what life throws at me. The positive thing about distress is that it reveals your blessings- personal fortitude, loving friends and family support, and the one we forget about, the opportunity to overcome it and become stronger and wiser.

For the record, I don’t have my life all figured out.  And it’s ok.  But one thing is for sure, I am constantly amazed that even when I feel like a mess, I am still able to be an effective and productive citizen. It’s all about being myself authentically, going back to the basics.  

Ask yourself: What are your basics?  What makes you, you?

“Anyone can give up; it is the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone would expect you to fall apart, now that is true strength.” ― Chris Bradford


Disclaimer: When life feels like too much and all your best coping methods don’t seem to work, I highly encourage you to seek professional help.  We can’t always do it on our own, and no one deserves to. 



-Melody Agbisit-


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