Exhaustion in a time of chaos

Unless you are black, you do not understand what it is like to be black. From being born in an environment that automatically assumes you are a criminal when you’re walking down the street with your hands in your pocket, to walking into a job interview knowing that your chances of getting the job is hindered by the color of your skin; this is the world they live in. The promise of the American dream is as far-fetched to the black community, as is winning the lottery for the rest of us. 

Police brutality. Racism. Looters. Rioters. Peaceful marches. Black history. American History. Modern day slavery. Mass incarceration. Donald Trump. There has been 15 days of nation-wide demonstrations for demands of justice-system reform sparked by the killing of George Floyd. The officers involved have been arrested and awaiting chargers. Yet, everyday, there are more bodies willing to risk the health pandemic to protest in support of #BlackLivesMatter. Some might ask, why are people still on the streets if the officers have been charged? The answer is exhaustion. 

How many people have to be wrongfully killed to shine a spotlight on the broken justice system in the country? The black community is exhausted: exhausted of defending their own bodies; exhausted of carrying the invisible burden of other people’s fear; exhausted of having to defend their own emotions to their fellow countrymen who imposed the experiences that led to those emotions. The rest of us are exhausted: exhausted from a health pandemic that forced us to socially distance ourselves from one another, exhausted from another death at the hands of deep rooted systemic racism, exhausted from the 24 hour news cycle that does nothing to our mental health except enhance anxiety and stress. 

Everyone’s reasoning behind the exhaustion might differ, yet the emotions are the same because exhaustion is a human emotion. We carry the sadness of hate in our eyes, the heaviness of systemic racism in our hearts and the weight of the change on our shoulder. Some write about it, some talk about it, some try to ignore it, and still, the heaviness from the uncertainty and the uncontrollable looms large. 

Austin Channing Brown describes reconciliation as “the pursuit of the impossible-an upside-down world where those who are powerful have relinquished that power to the margins…reimagining an entirely different way of being with one another.”  I want to believe that these demonstrations today are a step towards reconciliation. However, as history has shown: systems of oppression are durable with the ability to reinvent themselves right under your nose. Regardless, we keep fighting. As Brown reminds us: “the march toward change has been grueling, but it is real. And all it has ever taken was the transformed- the people of color confronting past and present to imagine a new future, and the handful of white people willing to release indifference and join the struggle.” 

Joining the struggle has its consequences. It means allowing ourselves to be troubled by injustice, to be provoked by anger when we witness another victim of the system whisper “I can’t breathe”, to have no tolerance of hate, no excuses for racist decisions and no contentment in the status quo. It requires being resilient, sacrificing comfort, taking action and choosing justice, every single day. Despite the uncomfortable truth of political influences on current day policies, we have to continue marching.

Only then can we keep hope alive for all those who are exhausted. 


 TED Talk: Baratunde Thurston – How to deconstruct racism, one headline at a time 
Words spoken by Glenn E. Martin, in the film “13th: From Slave to Criminal with One Amendment”
I’m Still here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. Author: Austin Channing Brown 

The importance of a creative outlet

Austin Texas has a way to seep into my creative soul. I have never been the “creative person” growing up. Writing, journaling on this blog was my way to expressing my emotions and the ever changing teenage emotions. In high school, I dove into novice video production and editing leading to creating a short documentary with some friends on Cambodia.

Somewhere along the way in the last 10 plus years, I’ve lost the desire and the motivation to continue writing. I often find myself every few months thinking “oh I should update my blog”. What does that say about me? Is it laziness? Is it a lack of inspiration? Or did I fall into the traps of expectations of adulthood in which we simply focus on “work” and money making?

Recently I attended a poetry showcase in Austin, Texas with Third Thursday Poetry. This showcase featured a college friend I hadn’t seen or kept in touch with in a few years. I left feeling inspired by his authenticity to express, his fearlessness to be vulnerable, and by the support he received from all the. beautiful souls in that backyard that night.

Once again, I found myself saying…. “I should write again.”

So here we are, my writing has deteriorated. With the constant connectivity in the palm of our hands these days, I find myself struggling to find even a few minutes of time to let me mind simply be. With 20 tabs open on my browser, I find the urge to switch tasks with every breathe.

“I could be doing more. I could learn more. What else do I need to do? Oh I forgot to message this person, let me text them now.” etc etc

These thoughts rumble through my brain at a million miles per hour.

These days, I am the most focused when I’m in a training session with my client. Focusing on them, observing their movement patterns, their mindset, & giving my 200% attention to them.

Perhaps that goes to show that I’m doing what I’m meant to do?

Shared Experiences

First of all, it’s been almost a year since I’ve been here. Tuning out the responsibilities, the noise of the world – and focus on the words on the screen. This was inspired by a wonderful interaction with a fellow artist – one who is not afraid to live his truth, to share his art, and to express through art.

“What do you do for your right brain? How do you express your creativity?”

“I write…… but, it’s been a long time.”

Little did I realize, a long time = almost a year. This has been the longest I have not written since starting this page in middle school. The thing about writing, at least for myself, is that it allows me to process experiences I’ve had through words. Often, these experiences have a way of carrying my energy high for days but at the same time, I have a hard time expressing it out loud verbally. Perhaps this is because of the intricate details of the experience, the emotions it brings out, and how no one else but you were there in that particular moment.

With that said, you are never alone. Experiences are always shared, whether you are with a friend, a family member, or a stranger.

In the last two years, through every country and every culture, we have all had a shared experience living through the pandemic – the lockdowns, the masks, the impact it has had on all our lives. None of our lives are the same today, as they were two years ago. Regardless of where you are today, there is no denying this shared experience – and that’s why it has seeped into every conversation today. We are living an every day shared experience.

However, there are some experiences that impact us more than others. They are often unexpected and inspiring. These are the ones that are harder to put into words. They are the ones that leave you craving more.

The funny thing is, I sat down hoping to put my most recent shared experience into words, but now as I finish off the time self allotted for this post – I realized I have not told you a single thing about my time with my new friend, who was a stranger merely a week ago.

I guess I’ll leave that for another time.

In Memory of Movement: My journey to becoming a Personal Trainer

30 years ago, I stepped onto this vast filled world with eyes wide open.

Sometime in these first 10 years of my life, I learned how to walk, run, crawl and play. Though my parents were not the most active back then, they instilled within me a routine of movement.

20 years ago, I started playing basketball. As far as I can remember, I hustled after every loose ball like my life depended on it. I sucked up to my coaches to get noticed, to stay noticed, and to be the best.

18 years ago in 7th grade, I was recruited to practice with the high school varsity basketball team. I thought I had made it. With custom Reebok basketball shoes, traveling South East Asia with the high school team, and 4-5 practices a week – I was proud.

16 years ago, I made it to high school. Crappy grades and all. Failing the tiger mom expectation of straight A’s but I was thriving with my fellow athletes on the varsity ball team. Throughout high school, we played tournaments in Shanghai, Beijing, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong. I’ll never forget the vivid memories of tournament home games in which we ran out from the locker room to a gymnasium full of family, friends and strangers rooting for us. Nerves running high, we only had one option – to play as hard as with can with class.

14 years ago, I had played the best tournament and game of my life. 30+ points as a high school junior, made 19 out of 20 free throws, and played 90% of every game. We didn’t win, but for the first time in my life, I knew I played well and felt I deserved recognition as a MVP of the team. I didn’t get it. From a combination of being burnt out from practices, and being upset about the MVP award, I quit.

Little did I realize, I had so much to learn. Regardless of how good I was, there was so much more to learn. I had full support in my decision to quit but at times, I wish someone had forced me to stay on the team.

13 years ago, I made varsity rugby in my senior year of high school. And thus, my career in contact sports began.

12 years ago, I played Rugby with the Cambodian National Team playing against other National teams in South East Asia.

10 years ago, I began my career as a collegiate athlete playing Quidditch. In an attempt to get stronger (without any knowledge of strength and conditioning training), I started coaching my team in and out of the gym (early morning runs, weight training days, and keeping accountability). In between crossing state lines to play tournaments, I held wine and cheese parties in my loft with the one rule that the team had to dress up with class. Being a part of the Quidditch community was by far my most vivid memory in my 4 years of college.

Thus prompted my goal of becoming a personal trainer. Or more so, getting a certification for my own knowledge.

7 years ago, I began my sporadic career journey in hospitality and property management living in California and Austin, Texas. Through it all, one thing remained constant – my commitment to fitness, health and movement.

3 years ago, I had to leave Austin Texas due to a lack of visa status. I was disappointed, heart broken, and lost. I had finally found a place I called home.

But the universe molds us in ways we don’t even realize.

That same year, I decided to find a job in the fitness industry while studying for a personal trainer license. It was merely a way to keep myself occupied as I tried to figure out where to move to next: physically and in my career.

2 years ago, I passed the American Council of Exercise Personal Trainer certification and began working as a full time trainer. Despite my fear and anxiety of getting no clients due to a lack of knowledge and experience, my roster built up within the blink of an eye.

I want to say I kicked ass with all my clients and got amazing results, but that would be a lie. As a novice personal trainer, I made mistakes, at times I coached programs that were not individualized and I promised goals I couldn’t help them reach.

1 year ago, I found myself at another cross road. Being burnt out from the personal training hours & having no work/life balance, I was looking for my next move.

I knew coaching wasn’t completely out of my life, but I was definitely uncertain about it as a career.

9 months ago, I rediscovered my passion for coaching. An old friend from 10+ years ago reached out from seeing my training videos about virtual training. She lives in Mexico. Our vibes resonate and vibrate on the same frequency, and has been ever since we met each other. I happily agreed to train virtually. She’s reaching her 100th session with me, and our sessions have blossomed into consistent space in which we build strength physically and mentally on a regular basis.

5 months ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a small group training studio in Toronto with incredibly knowledgable and experienced trainers. I was unsure at first due to my innate fear of burning out, and hitting the same road block I reached just a year before that. However, I was learning immensely from fellow trainers, and with my rediscovery of my passion for coaching – knew I needed to dive in.

TODAY, I am virtually coaching Kettlebell classes, Strength & Conditioning classes, and training 1-on-1 clients on a regular basis. I am sleeping more than I ever have. I feel more mentally focused than I ever have. I feel and look stronger than I ever have been.

I am more determined than ever to inspire and guide you through your journey to feeling strong and being strong. This movement journey has changed my life, and it can change yours too.

I offer strength & conditioning classes for all levels 4 times a week, group accountability sessions to help you reach your goals (fitness and non-fitness goals inclusive), and private 1-on-1 training. Virtual & in-person (Toronto, Ontario). For more information, email jlamcoaching@gmail.com.

Are you ready to take the leap?

15 minute procrastination post

These days, when I’m not working out, I’m studying. I recently started a continuing education program for Data Analytics at The Chang School (Ryerson) in Toronto. As someone without a statistics background, I often feel like I’m playing catch up to everyone else in class. However, that was expected when I decided to start this program.

With data analytics as a profession that is in high demand, there is a certain amount of competitiveness as we speed through the materials in this program in hopes to land the job of our dreams in 8 months. No, I don’t know where it’ll bring me yet nor do I feel like I’m going to be at all competitive compared to everyone else BUT I do know that I will find a way.

I always do.

At the end of the day, it is NOT about a fancy tech job at the end of the tunnel, but about how much we’ve learned. What does the journey look like?

In fact, with a fast track program that finishes in 8 months, my first set of classes are coming to an end in less than 2 weeks. That is 7 weeks for a set of 3 classes. Midterms in the 4th week and finals 2 weeks later. The knowledge I have gained in the last 6 weeks have already been more than I could imagine.

Dedication. Persistence. Humility. Hard work.

Daily values I practice to keep pushing forward.