The boy who ran away from home with me.

JamesI took this picture of him nearly 10 years ago.

When I first met James, I thought he was so cool. He was the kind of cool that only a severely-sheltered girl of seventeen with zero worldly experience could imagine was cool. He had this sort of rebellious flair, this laid-back demeanor that made him stand out without having to say or do much at all. He had a presence, and when I first laid eyes on him, I immediately had a crush.

James was tall, fit, and had long legs. He had this mess of blonde, curly hair, and the other boys sort of flocked around him, naturally deferring to him in all matters requiring any sort of decision-making: where they sat, what they did after school, where they hung out during lunch — James was their leader. And when he spoke, it was always with purpose, always in that same deep rumble. He sounded like a man. He never seemed to vie for attention, and I suppose he never needed to, because everything he said made anyone within hearing distance stop to listen, and any small joke he made in passing cued belly-full laughter with ease.

From the first day he arrived at our little school, it became clear the other teenaged girls attending collectively believed that he was the guy to “get”. I remember seeing my female classmates walk by his desk during class to subtly pass him notes, letters he would unfold and read when the teacher wasn’t looking, then quietly smirk to. I remember seeing the school slut (yes, we had one of those) perch atop the edge of his desk and bunch her cleavage together between her arms while leaning toward him, striking up a conversation with him and laughing loudly at everything he said.

Though he was the object of many a girl’s affections, James remained cool. He never gave any one girl more attention than any of the others, and if anything, he ignored most of them to focus, instead, on his “boys”. They worshipped him for it.

For my part, I was never much of a flirt growing up. I was shy, incredibly well-behaved, nerdy, could barely dress myself, and a total tomboy. My idea of a good time was hanging out with my baby brother (still the coolest kid I know, by the way), playing video games, drawing, and writing in my diary. I didn’t exactly have much going on for me in the boobs department (and growing up, I actually believed breasts were everything), so when it became clear that what stood between me and James was a sea of young, hormone-driven teenaged girls all experienced in wooing and all eager to win him over, I gave up on the idea of us ever becoming an item and contented myself to merely fantasizing about what it might be like to date him.

Essentially, he had no idea I existed, and I was much too meek to assert myself and let him know I was alive.

Then one day, he talked to me.
He actually talked to me.
And us formally meeting completely changed my life.

*

We were in art class. My art teacher was a gentle sort of man, the type who quietly laughed off misbehaving students and very much wanted to be everyone’s friend. He never criticized our artwork even when it was truly terrible, but instead praised every chicken scratch doodle and encouraged us to keep practicing, raining down compliments on us at any sign of improvement. He was a major comic book nerd, and amidst the gaggle of delinquents surrounding me, I was his favorite student.

“Does anyone know who the X-Men are?” He asked us excitedly. There was a general but half-assed murmur of acknowledgement from the class, and I could see his shoulders slump a bit at the lack of energy.
“Yes,” I said, loud enough for him to hear over the mumbling and hoping to perk him up. He brightened at my response, continuing.
“Today, we’re going to invent our own superheroes! Does anyone have a favorite X-Man or superhero?”
“Sailor Moon!!” I squeaked enthusiastically, because Sailor Moon is the shit. Duh.
“WEENIE!!” Someone yelled at me from across the room. The class erupted in a fit of laughter.

Incensed, I swept the sea of giggling classmates for the source of this insult, surprised when I saw that it was him. James. His buddies were laughing and patting him on the shoulder, and he was looking at me with this triumphant smirk on his face, reclining back into his chair.

I couldn’t believe he just called me a “weenie”.
What the heck?!
Who even says “weenie”?!

… But it was such a harmless insult.
And he was just so cute.
And when I locked eyes with him, I couldn’t help my face getting hot.

I smiled nervously, then dropped my gaze to the pile of doodles on my desk, suddenly fascinated with the eraser on my mechanical pencil.

*

When class ended, I was far too eager to get out of there. Mortified at the idea that he had finally acknowledged my presence and faced with the potential opportunity to actually have a conversation with him, I did what any inexperienced and scared-shitless little girl with a crush would do: I stuffed my things into my backpack quickly, clutched my heavy three-ring binder to my nonexistent chest, and ran away! * To this day, I still suck at getting hit on. But just as I exited the door and had made it a few steps into the hallway, I heard him call for me.

“Hey! Hey, wait!” His voice was so recognizable. I knew it was him. When I hesitantly turned back toward art class, I saw him struggling to stuff his own papers into his backpack and hurrying in my direction. I quickly glanced around me, unsure if it was me he was speaking to.
“Uhm, me?” I asked shyly.
“Yeah, you,” he said, finally slinging his bag over his shoulder and standing next to me.

Oh god.
This was happening.
He was talking to me.
James was talking to me.
My brain short-circuited for a second, and I found myself staring. I had never seen him this closely before.

He had blue eyes. These really pretty, almond shaped eyes. And such long eyelashes. Wow.
And I mean, I know I’ve said it enough at this point, but man. He was so cute, and seventeen year old me was absolutely smitten.
I blurted the first thing that came to mind.

“What’s a weenie?”
He laughed, brushing his fingers through his mess of blonde curls before shoving his hand casually into the front pocket of his navy Dickeys, hiking his bag up higher on his shoulder. “You don’t know what a weenie is?”
“I mean, I know what a … Weenie is,” I said, sort of whispering the term in embarrassment, “but what did you mean?” I smiled shyly. I felt kinda sweaty. Man. Talking to cute boys is hard.
“Y’know. A weenie.” He glanced toward the ceiling and tipped his head from side to side, as if the movement would knock the definition out of his brain and onto his lips. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like, ‘dork’, or something.”
“Why did you call me that?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“Because you’re a weenie. You gave a weenie answer.” He was smiling.
“Okay… I guess.” I said, not really knowing what to say to that.
“It was just a joke. You don’t really seem like a weenie,” he said. And I was relieved, for some reason, even though I didn’t know what he meant by weenie, because y’know, he was cute, and I wanted him to think I was cool just like I thought he was cool, because that’s how the teenaged mind works, okay? “What’s your name?” He asked.
“Cheri,” I said, still in disbelief that we were actually speaking to each other. “What’s yours?”
“James.”

I forget what we talked about after that.

And I guess it doesn’t really matter because the next thing I do remember doing with James was packing a bag and running away from home together, then going on one of the craziest adventures of my life living as a homeless teen for over seven months on the streets of Stockton, California, one of the most dangerous cities in the nation.

But y’know.
That’s a story for another time.

~ Sherilynn

How I Deal with Anxiety and Stress

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Ahh … Yoga is so refreshing. I wish I could explain how it makes me feel in a way that accurately depicts just how [insert positive adjective] it is. But all I seem to have at hand are stories and memories. So, here’s a memory that makes me feel the way that yoga feels.

Stressed out, near tears, and very much frustrated with a situation that seemed beyond my control, I reached out to someone close to me. He listened, or at least, I think he listened (he gave me the appropriate acknowledgements to assure me he was). And yet, there was nothing he could or would tell me specifically about what my problem was. Instead, he gave me a piece of advice that made me feel… Confused at first, but after meditating on it, centered.

“Live in the now,” he said. “Don’t get ahead of yourself. Take things as they come.”

Fuck, I thought. Is that my problem?

do get ahead of myself. I do get excited for things. I also get worried about things. The amount of times I’ve felt let down by reality is stifling. And sure, sometimes things have actually worked out better than I hoped, but realistically, the percentage of “awesome things happening” versus “actual things happening” lean heavily in the latter’s favor.

Ugh.
I hate that.

… But I know I shouldn’t.

Hating the future means we are so blinded by what might be or may be that we forget to see what is.

So, I asked myself, “Where am I now? What is happening to me in the present? How do I feel about my reality?”

And I answered, “I’m alive. I’m healthy. I ate way too much at San Francisco Oysterfest yesterday, but that was yesterday. Not now. Right now, I am refreshed from an early yoga class, a shower, and a nap. I’m breathing. I feel clean. The sunshine is warm. I am okay. Everything is okay.”

Then, I felt thirsty.
So I reached for my glass, drank my fill, and I relaxed.
The water tasted good.

Stress is powerful and overwhelming.

It can come from anything.
It is painful, and scary, and because of that, we often work furiously to eliminate it.

But what we seem to forget, and what my friend reminded me through those simple words, is that by focusing so intensely on the stress we are feeling, we bring more focus and attention to that stress, and the cycle only continues because of it.

Doesn’t that seem like a waste of energy? And how relieving does it feel to know that alleviating stress can be as easy as intentionally focusing on something else? Changing our perspective — not to something not necessarily positive or uplifting, but real! And if that still sounds hard, well … Let me explain it through yoga.

In yoga, the rule is this: breathe.

Everything you do flows around your breath.
“One breath, one movement.”
Breathe in.
Breathe out.

When you find yourself in a challenging pose, with your body twisted or bent in such a way that you feel your muscles quivering, your legs about to give out, or your arms apt to collapse beneath you, you train your focus instead on your breathing. It might come ragged, but you focus on it anyway.

Bring intention into your breath.
Follow the air in.
And out.
Slow.
Steady.
Full.

Give yourself permission to breathe loudly.
To sigh with relieving purpose.

Beads of sweat leave salty trails down the surface of your skin, and still, you breathe. And your body feels all the better because of it.

Breathe, and forget, for just a moment, the challenging thing you are striving to overcome. Release that intensity and focus on your breath. It will get you through it. And if you fall, or if you fail, it’s okay — because you’re breathing. So climb again, working your way intentionally back to where you were through the guidance of your breath.

Yoga teaches you to let go. You release the tension from your face and loosen the muscles that don’t need to do any work, conserving your energy only for the things that matter in whatever pose you take, all while stretching and kneading and returning your tightly-wound body back into this limber, flexible state, feeling yourself grow stronger every day, more relaxed every moment, able to do things you couldn’t before, thriving on that growth. And you focus your intention only on the things that deserve your attention at that very moment.

And you breathe.
You always breathe.

Yoga and the Present.

* Doesn’t that sound like it would make a really great stress-relief book title? Like some kind of self-help book to meditation and healthy living? If someone steals that from me, you’re welcome.

My secret to stress relief is as simple as that.
But it can be different for anyone.

It can be as simple as giving myself permission to give myself a shoulder massage, reaching back to squeeze my tired muscles. My stress relief has sometimes been as simple as boiling a pot of water to brew a peppermint tea. I’ve even found relief in enjoying a walk down the street to drink fresh young coconut water straight from the fruit, scooping out and chewing on its fleshy white meat, loving the sunshine.

And it can be as simple as breathing. As simple as living in the now. The present.

So, okay. I get it.
I stress out easily.
But I’ve been working on it.

Age and experience have taught me that life is stressful. It is a daily practice to center myself, and to remind myself not to get caught up in the little things. It has taught me not to waste my focus and energy on things that simply do not matter to my reality, my now. It has taught me to accept when I fail, and to learn from my failures knowing that I always have the present to try again. To become stronger.

Failure only teaches you what not to do. You still have to learn what you should do, and the future is, in reality, intangible. You’ll never know the future as your present if you don’t keep trying. And all we have is today.

When I think about that, all of that, I stop caring about the nonsense. The external struggle. The stress. I remind myself to look within, and I remember how happy I am there. And I think that sense of feeling present, owning who you are at that moment, reminding yourself of your strength through something as simple as your intentional breath during one of the most difficult things your body has ever done — I think all of those things work together and give me a sense of … Well …

Control.

I admit it. I can be a total control freak sometimes. A lot of my own sense of personal stress comes from feeling out of control. My life is planned around that feeling. I don’t mean that I spend my free time cracking whips or telling people what to do (although that does sound kinda’ fun in that freaky kind of way), but I do mean that I am accustomed to constantly studying and adjusting to my changing environment, preparing for inevitable things that I might never have seen coming. Wanting to remain in control.

I tend to micro-manage. I like to know that the things I invest my time in are things that see a reasonable return. That means understanding every sensation that comes into my life and appraising potential or pending energy spend like some kind of robot. But I’m not a robot, I’ve learned, and I need to give myself permission to breathe.

In the past, more often than not, I would become frustrated when things didn’t turn out the way I hoped they would. In the present, rather than dwelling on a situation that is out of my control, I accept it as it is, take a breath, and move forward. That is all anyone can do.

One upon a time, I was stressed out over a relationship that seemed to be failing, and it tore me apart. I couldn’t do anything about it. I felt I was at my lowest emotionally. Everything felt out of my control. Another time, a man flashing a knife accosted me at work, yelling at me from across the counter while customers watched in shock. I was terrified.

In every situation, the best thing I could have done and did do for myself was to remain calm, breathe, and remember to take things as they come, moving through my present one step at a time, flowing from this moment to the next, being honest with myself and making my choices based on truthful rationalizations. Remember:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” – Bruce Lee

TL;DR: Remember to breathe and live in the present. When things feel overwhelming, pull your focus away from the stuff of your nightmares and remember where you are at that moment. Place intention in your breath, and give yourself permission to be. Stress is not a thing you need to overcome. Don’t waste your energy on things beyond your control. Let it go. To let go of your control is to be in control. So, exhale it out. Then, give yourself permission to breathe in the new, filling up your lungs to the very top, urging yourself to take those very last sips of air, expanding your chest. Then, let it go with a great “haaaaaaaaaaaaa.” How do you feel?

… Now do it again.

Namaste,
Cheri

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This website wants to feature me as a Hot Babe. Should I do it?

I was just asked to model for a website very much like theCHIVE. It’s ranked fairly high globally and in the US as far as websites go, and after a bit of research, I’ve found it has a primarily college-educated and male readership. The spread they want to feature me in would label me as a “hot babe”, and we’d do an interview of sorts to help their readers get to know me.

Hmm.
I don’t know, guys.

A couple of things:

  1. Do I really want more dudes fapping to and following me online? Does that matter to me? Will it matter to me in the future?
  2. What sort of doors will this open for me, and are they the sort of doors I want opened?
  3. Is this the sort of exposure I ultimately want?
  4. My poor parents and family. -_-“

A buddy of mine joked recently that the number of men who have probably fapped to the thought of me is most likely numbered in the hundreds of thousands. My response was an immediate “GROSSSS WHY WOULD YOU EVEN SAY THAT TO MEEEE” — but also, with the amount of comments I get on Facebook as well as messages or emails begging to talk to me, I can safely assume his assessment is true.

And c’mon. I watch my analytics. I am fully aware that when I post photos from any sort of modeling gig, the traffic on my website jumps substantially.

Sigh.

Let me first just say: I’m grateful for my fans. Really, I am. If it weren’t for you guys and gals, I doubt I’d be anywhere near where I am today. I consider myself lucky to have reached this level of Internet “stardom” (though I admit to putting in a substantial amount of work to achieve this) as I am absolutely a “regular” girl next door — I go out with my friends, hang out with my family, have a day job, date, work out, slum around in pajamas all day, have bad hair days, acne breakouts, and experience the various ups and downs of life just like anyone else. And I wouldn’t say I’ve hit the genetic lottery or anything, especially in comparison to actual pro models out there, but I am perfectly comfortable in my own body and enjoy the way I look both with and without makeup. And if the swarms of positive and uplifting emails and complimentary messages flooding my inbox every day are any indication, I’d say I definitely have a reason to strut with my head held high and a perpetual smile plastered to my face.

But it’s not always fun and games. As an Internet-popular persona of sorts, the pressures I deal with in trying to satisfy everyone’s needs can be really daunting.

For example, some people expect me not to curse, and expect me to be this submissive, servile, docile little Asian girl who doesn’t react inappropriately to bad situations and always minds her manners. And I suppose, for the most part, I am those things — but I am also a passionate woman, and in rare instances, I do blow up.

Some people also expect me to respond to each and every single one of the comments or emails I get, and y’know, maybe when I was like, 19 or something, that was fine, because no one really followed me back then and I actually had the time to get back to every single person as well as the ability to write about whatever-the-fuck I wanted without people blowing up at me over stupid things like how I felt uncomfortable with a guy who went to prison touching my hair and telling me I smell good but who also happens to be blind and supposedly that makes me “ableist” even though as everyone who’s anyone will recall I dated someone with ONE HAND for like FOUR YEARS so maybe someone needs to get their facts straight.

Ahem.

Now that I have a gajillion people reaching out to me over the web, it is a lottery chance that I respond.

I’m sorry about that.
Really, I am.
I wish I could get back to all of you, but I just can’t.
I often find myself wishing I had my own manager to just tell me what to do, direct me this way and that way, manage my fan mail and coax me along — ugh. That would make everything so much easier!

:/

I get offered work and random gigs like the modeling feature I mentioned on a pretty regular basis, but I like to pick and choose between what I do based on the legitimacy of the folks I’d end up working with. I have worked with more than enough shady people in the past (the modeling and photography business is full of creepers), and after the experiences I’ve had, you can’t blame me for being more choosy with the work I accept.

Plus, c’mon.
If a website is going to feature me, it means I’d be advertising their stuff to my followers as well. That’s like, 40,000 people on Google+, nearly 300,000 on Facebook, plus wherever else people manage to gobble up my nonsense online (though not Tumblr anymore, obviously, since I accidentally deleted it like an idiot). So, when I’m offered work, I have to consider how that will affect my current following as WELL as the inevitable following to come. And, assuming I plan on doing the “Internet-Famous” thing forever, well …

Ohh decisions.

I think the biggest thing holding me back from modeling 24/7 is the fact that I am smart, and that I don’t want to be known for just my looks. It’s sort of a lowest-hanging-fruit thing — I can take the easy route and smile for the camera and rack up them dollas just being pretty, or I can try to become well-known for the things I actually enjoy and feel make me me.

It’s the reason I push my art so much. It’s the reason I write so much. It’s the reason I participate in business panels and consult startups and companies to help them better plan their social media strategies — I don’t want to just be a “pretty face”, and it really bothers me to think that this is the image I might be projecting to the masses. But it’s tough to find that balance because I do enjoy modeling, and I do enjoy being in front of the camera. So what do I do, y’know? How do I handle that?

Guh.

I’ll figure it out.
Also, I need food right now.

So, uh …
Peace.

peace

Later gators,
Cheri