people > places > things


Jessie Ma2 Comments

I’ve always lived out of boxes.

“People come and go.” I’d say.
“We could all die tomorrow.”
“I get sick of things easily anyway.”


“If things aren’t changing all the time, then how could I possibly grow?”

So I never stayed in any one place long enough to unpack. Survived paycheck to paycheck. Lived only in moments, interactions, and highs. I became a junkie for easy Instagram likes rather than an aspiring novelist. I played the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to a number of guys for a few episodes at a time, and fell in love with none of them. Every day, I cycled through a million thoughts and feelings, leaping on to the next set before my brain could encode any of them into my long-term memory. I kept my apartment as bare as possible.

This was all normal to me. This was how I’d always lived.

But I started to wonder—

“Is it actually normal to do so much, work so hard, feel so deeply…

and at the end of the day, have nothing?”


Last birthday— ON my birthday— AT my birthday party

My ex and I broke up.

Okay fine. He broke up with me.

Our relationship had long been dying out, but that was still one hell of a funeral. A gorgeous setting, an audience of my closest friends, tearful dialogue, and even a dramatic dance number.

It was such an intense event that I remember exactly how I felt:


It hurt, of course, but I didn’t feel pain as much as I felt relief that it was hurting as little as possible because I hadn’t given too much of myself to him while we were together. And look— he’s leaving now anyway. Good save… Right?

Sobered up after the party, we decided to talk— openly, respectfully, honestly. By this point, it was clear that our breakup was definite, ergo, neither of us had anything more to lose.

I told him exactly what I went through during our relationship— what made me insecure, the secrets I kept, the ways that he’d hurt me, all the words I wished weren’t for naught. Everything. I unpacked it all.

I think I loved him most that day.

By January

I began to heal.

I think I was just too tired not to. Tired of life boating from guy to guy and never learning how to swim. Tired of putting energy into things only to put more energy into forgetting them. Tired of lying and hiding. Tired of chasing things I didn’t even want. Tired of losing things that weren’t really losses. Tired of not even feeling like a real person. Tired of the emptiness.


In February

I almost lost one of my best friends in a car accident.

I can’t describe how terrifying it was. How destroyed I was at the possibility of her not making it. When I wasn’t with her in the ICU, her dad would send me updates on her condition. Every time I saw his name on my phone, my stomach felt like it flipped itself inside out. I moved through those few months in a daze, unable to focus, crying quietly, praying to any and all Gods that were listening,

“Please... I can’t lose her. I love her too much.”

In March

I got Pepper.

I had a pet puppy 3 years earlier (that I got with a different ex-boyfriend) when I was broke and depressed. A friend needed to find him a home, and we said yes without thinking. I ended up giving Entei away after a few months. Once in a while, when I can dig past the guilt, I let myself miss him.

This year, I finally felt ready to get the specific cat I wanted: a young grey tabby with green eyes. And I decided I was going to name her ‘Pepper.’

I looked for her at dozens of shelters all over LA, scoured websites, and stalked adoption agencies on social media. I bought a litter box and feeder to prepare. In early March, I went to a pet adoption event in Silverlake. Pepper wasn’t there, but I described my dream cat to the someone from the adoption agency. She showed me a photo of this ‘young grey tabby with green eyes’ that I would love.

I contacted Pepper’s foster mom that day.
Visited and met her that weekend.
Filled out adoption forms and paid the fee.
Then took her home the week after.

Pepper kicks litter all over my floor and scratches up my headboard and sheds on my clothes… but I love her. And I’m aware that I will likely outlive her.

I’d still rather love her, than not.

In May

I started to exercise.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but listen… I… really… hate physical discomfort, which is what working out is. Self-administered physical discomfort.

Up to that point, I’d gotten away with using dance as my only form of physical activity. But I stopped dancing as much and knew I needed to make more conscious lifestyle changes for my health.

I got a ClassPass membership and tried different fitness classes. I met people who invest time and energy into their bodies— not so they can dance better, not because they have a photoshoot the next day— for no other reason than because it is good for them. I realized you need more than just discipline to exercise regularly. You need a certain amount of self-love.

I started to enjoy the burn. I work out at least 3 times a week.

In July

I let go of dance (as I knew it).

For the last ~10 years, my entire life revolved around dance. I’ve always been on a team, in rehearsals for some show, or busy choreographing to teach a class or film a video. And I still love to dance. I just don’t think of myself as “a dancer” anymore.

Dance has given me so many valuable gifts over the years, the most significant of them being my friends, my confidence… and my job.

I’m so thankful that I get to write about dance— but first and foremost, to write— for a living. Dance is my muse, but writing is my craft. Once this realization started to seep in, I started to actively seek resources to help me become a better writer.

I didn’t re-audition for Culture Shock LA in the summer. It was bittersweet, but I was able to do so with full trust that I could better contribute to the organization and community that I love so much— as a writer.

It’s a weird feeling to shift my focus this definitively, but I know that dance is one of those things that I’ll never really “lose.” I’m glad to keep loving it in whatever ways I can.

In September

I went on vacation by myself.

I had a week off of work and the freedom to go anywhere in the world (STEEZY was funding my trip)— but I just could not decide where to go or what to do.

Sadly, I wasn’t in the mood to backpack through Europe and experience all these different people, cuisines, and cultures. I didn’t care about any of that. Everything felt arbitrary, like I’d be just as apathetic walking the streets of Tokyo as I would be at home. I was so burnt out that I had no appetite.

So I spent a week completely alone at a resort in the Dominican Republic. I read, wrote, tanned, and binge-watched The Good Place. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t feel any more at peace as I would have in my daily routine.

I wasn’t there for any real reason. I wasn’t going toward anything, fueled by love or curiosity or ~wanderlust~… I just wanted to get away from home.

None of that was worth it.

But it did echo of this year’s repeating lesson: Do things out of love, or not at all.

This month

My company closed our seed round. (Woo!)

We’re now in the middle of expanding our office and looking for new hires to join our team.

And I’m so freaking excited for our future. I don’t feel daunted by the changes, however unpredictable they are sure to be. I have full trust in what we’ve built.

And personally, if everything were to crash and burn here (knock on wood) I know that I am a great candidate for another position. If I helped build this company from nothing to what it is now, I can do anything.

I’m gonna be okay.

You know, not much in my day to day was different this year than in the previous year. I live in the same apartment and have the same job and core group of friends.

But I was different. Everything about me.

And my (for once) stable environment gave me a chance for me to actually notice my growth. I see things differently. I react differently. I appreciate differently. I make different choices.

I can’t believe how much I used to break my own heart for no reason. I wasted so much time trying to please everyone, repressing what I wanted and who I was until I couldn’t even recognize myself. I used to force myself to feel good about whatever was in front of me, rather than doing things that actually felt good. I didn’t even feel loss because I didn’t let myself love anything enough to feel attachment.

Now, I seek only things I truly love. Because all the things I did love, stayed. And if they didn’t stay, they’ve still been worth it.

And I’m not scared anymore. Of anything.

If it’s real, then I deserve it all.

This past year

I started to unpack.

Life finally felt secure enough for me to do so.

And now that I have a home to come back to, I feel even more free to move— wherever my heart takes me.