Inspiration, Dreams, and Mental Health 灵感,梦想,精神健康

After what feels like months or years of feeling “bleh” and unable to be fully happy or excited, I observed feelings of inspiration surface within myself after I began to following the journeys of Olympic athletes and after attending a few virtual community storytelling events.

This inspiration is similar to what I remember feeling after cheering on runners in the Boston Marathon — the feeling of “wow, they are incredible, and maybe I could strive to be as disciplined and work towards a massive goal like this too!” Although the immediate desire to run a marathon is short-lived, the feeling of being inspired and being open to possibilities is something to be cherished.

As I sat on the couch watching athletes skate, ski, jump, spin, and twist, my heart beat faster, my palms got sweaty, and alternated between holding my breath and releasing my breath out of relief. This adrenaline rush is something I haven’t experienced in a long time. Watching athletes chase their dreams and passions reminded me of what it’s like to feel genuinely excited and to care about something in a simple and direct way, as if I was a child. Moreover, watching the Olympics unexpectedly motivated me to go outside for walks more often and as a result gave my mental health a boost too.

In sports, there is obviously a clear connection between performance and mental health. But, mental health is not often discussed in public. Trailblazers like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka have really taken a stance in recent years to show that it is ok (and it is important) to prioritize their own mental health. In the Winter Olympics, Vincent Zhou did the same as he shared about his mental health with such honesty and vulnerability after he tested positive for COVID-19 and could no longer compete. Vincent Zhou’s video made me emotional, realizing just how big of a deal the Olympics are and how challenging it has been to train and to compete during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health cannot be separated from the world of sports when recognizing the amount of pressure and isolation that the athletes have all endured in the recent two years in order to chase their dreams. Even though it is exciting to cheer for my favorite athletes and hope that they win gold, I have gained much more appreciation for all of these athletes (whether they are competing or had to withdraw from the games) for the ways they’ve taken care of their own mental health as they pursue their goals.

I also found that mental health was alluded to in the commentary on women’s snowboarding, as the announcers highlighted the amazing amount of peer support that is present in the snowboarding community. The women exhibited sportsmanship and peer-support throughout the competitions, and I hope that other sports move towards this model of community in the future.

During the same time that the Olympics were going on, I attended a few virtual story-sharing events where community was also the main theme of gatherings. I was again surprised by my own reactions to being in these meetings. I felt as though a weight was lifted from my shoulders as I listened to individuals share their stories and their artwork (poetry, songs, digital art, videos). In these soul-touching stories, themes of violence, identity, joy, reclamation, loss, and friendship, emerged. Although these stories were very sad and disappointing when connecting to the structural circumstances that caused so much harm, violence, and death, it was also so powerful and amazing to see how people reclaim their own voice and identities. It was beautiful to witness this unique type of healing.

I was inspired by the honesty and the authenticity of everyone’s experiences. One person described how their grandmother collected drops of water from the faucet in a bucket over time because this type of flow would escape the detection of the water meters and thus would save their family money. In hearing them share this detailed story, I realized for the first time that this is why my grandmother would collect water drops from the faucet too! It brought back memories of me as a naive child, not understanding the cost-saving purpose of this and in turn dumping out all of the water my grandma collected. I thought it was better to use “clean” water and turned on the faucet on high flow whenever I was washing dishes in my grandma’s kitchen. I wonder what else I was naive about or still am naive about…

Other thought-provoking topics that were brought up included how people lived out love in their lives, how erasure is a form of violence, how to find peace in the things that matter in life, and how arguments in marriages and relationships are normal. Going to these storytelling and art-sharing events helped me see how people were finding the strength to tell their own stories with honesty and real-ness. These community events are not traditional mental health services, but they cultivated a really special type of peer support and supported personal growth for everyone.

As I write this, a few weeks have passed since the day I was attending these community virtual gatherings and I also stopped avidly watching the Olympics due to other life/work things. My original levels of inspiration and excitement have dwindled, but it is still beautiful to let myself recall the feelings I experienced in those days/weeks because it reminds me of what is still possible. These experiences have provided evidence for me that I can still experience those childlike, simple, and pure feelings of being inspired even if they feel out of reach to me most of the time.

Perhaps some people have dreams to become X, accomplish Y, or create Z, and on their own journeys they inspire others to also have dreams and to believe in what is possible for them, whether that is competing in sports or healing from trauma. It’s incredible to think about how we all influence each other’s mental health in subtle and powerful ways.

P.S. if you want to attend similar storytelling community events, both the ones I attended take place on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. Pour One Out is organized by Dr. Ada Cheng, and CreativiTEA Open Mic is organized by Chopsticks Alley Art.



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