how I stopped feeling sorry and how I became carefree

I would say I’m empathetic by nature, maybe too empathetic. Even though I try my best to ignore this fact about myself. I can’t help but feel deeply for others and the difficulties we’re all faced with sometimes.

It might’ve been the main reason why I decided to study what I study the first time ‘round. I wanted to help people and make them better, but not in a way a trauma surgeon would. Except, I’d be suturing wounds that are invisible to the world, the kind that often go unnoticed and in turn are left to foster.

Except, then I realized. Things are not that simple.

We cannot use yesterday’s eyes to see today’s problems.

Let alone solve it.

First, I recognized that there’s something distinctly more difficult about mental care – as the first step, the patient themselves must want to change. Because they too could be under the impression that nothing is ‘wrong’.

Second, then what’s the optimal state they’d would be looking to achieve? Functional? As health care professionals, how do we determine that? It is after all very hard to quantify certain behaviour and derive meaning from them.

Third, there isn’t one way to live your life and my perspectives are too limited from what I know and what I’ve grew up with. My corner of the world is just a corner. My powers are limited. Even if I did try my best, there are concepts and ideas, I find hard to grapple. And it isn’t because I’m intellectually deficient but like I had observed and summarized.

“We’re all trapped in our versions of reality.”

In the end, I realized I had wasted time on something, figuring out that this isn’t for me. All the while wasting resources, while I could’ve just done what I always wanted to do – like Art and Design (but Art and Design, of course, according to those around me, wasn’t proper. There isn’t actually a market for it over here.)

At first I was devastated I had wasted so much time on something that wasn’t what I wanted and wasn’t even going to be something I want to do and back then, I got into a loop of thinking this was the worst thing that’d ever happened to me.

But then I realized. That’s just life.

There are no guarantees.

Every good emotion you experience, enjoy it, savour it, for those are often fleeting.

The times you spend with family and friends, those moments you make with the ones you love – you should cherish it and let it make you into a more loving and better person.

Every negative emotion, every hurdle, crossroad you find yourself on. While invariably nerve wrecking and sometimes painful, get through them and let them go.

There’s nothing gained from beating yourself up over what went ‘wrong’.

Don’t feel sorry that you were hurt, feel glad you survived and can continue on.

Time wasn’t wasted if there are lessons learned.

Life isn’t about hiding from pain, or learning a lesson from tough situations and never trying again.

Quite the opposite, life is about knowing the pain, overcoming it regardless to get to where you need to be.

Then it’ll all make sense, the hurt and the pain were there to prepare you for something greater.

So don’t give up now. Fall down, get up, recoup, try again.

time versus money debacle, would you spend extra to save yourself grief?

So, recently I realized, I made a dumb mistake – possibly because I found a more efficient way to accomplish the task and I should’ve researched better before I hastily made the decision.

It is way cheaper to fly out of Los Angeles LAX than Seattle Tacoma, wow, I should’ve realized that before…considering LAX is a much bigger airport. But given the flight time and the distance, I had naively thought shorter distance on a flight would mean lower airfare, again, very naive of an assumption as I just found out that is not the case.

It actually costs less to fly home from LAX than from SeaTac, even though flying home from LAX would be more lengthy of a journey.

The reason is possibly because, “it’s a popular route thing,” people fly in and out of LAX all the time to all sorts of places, hence supply vs. demand vs affordability. Simple economic principle I had not remembered when I was booking.

The sad thing is, I already booked with Virgin America during their flash seat sale and the seats I booked are non adjustable, hence that $$$ on the return ticket, I may not even end up using, is already sunk cost.

If I booked direct to fly back on the 21st instead of the 22nd. I could be in my bed recuperating then getting back to work sooner. Even as I write this, I want to ask myself, where’s my sense of adventure? However,  on the other hand, I’m just imagining myself crying on the trip back, not out of exhaustion but out of the stupid realization the excursion’s over. The airport would be limbo space. Sure, I could easily rough it out in the airport or mingle in the Los Angeles night life if I wanted to. Alas, it’s not where I want to be.

Still, do I want to hand over an extra $150, for the swift trip back home? Or do I actually want to stew in the airport and further contemplate life?

Which one would you choose if you were in my shoes?

49 days until I leave for my trip, because I missed the 50 days mark…opps

49 days! I’m so friggin’ excited!

You might be thinking, isn’t it too soon to be excited?

Nah. 49 days is actually not a long time.

I’d actually forgotten all about the trip since the last time I talked to my friend which was approximately a week and a half ago. Instead, I’ve been putting the trip calendar aside for now in favour of work and life. And it turns out, one of my coworker just might be the most down to earth guy I’ve ever had the chance to known.

Yeah.

We just have so much fun at work other people seem to ‘not get it’? It’s possibly because we can both be very out there, but also reserved at the same time. We’re able to laugh at our own mistakes and shrug it off. Not take things too seriously, but at the same time, be very dedicated when called for.

You know, just two kids trying to figure life out and somehow ended up working for the same company. I can’t say that happen a lot, though I can see my coworker is definitely destined for better things. I do wish him the best of luck when ‘we’ (oh yes, we, though he might be later than I. But who knows) get the hell out of there.

We’re big kids with big dreams, just refusing to grow up!

Now, Copenhagen. There’s still much to be done in terms of booking. So yes, I got all my flights, but I haven’t even looked into other amenities such as if I should invest in another Welcome to Copenhagen card (ahem, something I didn’t even use the last time I was there. I essentially wasted $60 because the museums are either closed or close very early during Christmas season, so please don’t do that while you are there. I also didn’t bother to activate my card and just bought tickets with my credit card everywhere since it’s much more accessible. So, check museum hours and how the card actually works when you purchase.

Other than that, I’ve also done really good with penny pitching, after picking up a few extra gigs here and there, so that I might be able to update my wardrobe (that is IF I see something I ‘needed’ and not just ‘wanted’, plus I skipped out on the checked luggage option on my flights to deter any heavy shopping, yes. Smart!)

Still, I’ve noticed a few of my shirts are starting to come apart and its no surprise why – I got them for really cheap or so I’d thought. For five dollars, because I thought I was ‘saving’. No. Never again. I’ve sense realized why things are that cheap and to think that I supported the process. Definitely not. What I’ll end up doing is reorganizing my wardrobe and look for ways to repurpose those shirts to see if I can make something out of them. I’d definitely prefer that than sending them to the landfill.

Where does the time go? Long commutes are killing you, slowly

The other day I found myself on the same bus route I took in my college years. It then hit me: “Wow, how did I manage to do this for 4+ years, every weekday, and NOT expect to have a mental breakdown…”

Now I can explain.

At the time, because I didn’t know any better.

I didn’t see any alternatives to shutting up and swallowing my discomfort.

Actually, my parents were pretty good in raising me that way. “If other people’s kids wouldn’t have a problem with it, so why would you have a problem with it.” – aside from that, their ‘suck it up’ parenting style also made me realize I never want to have kids, ever.

I just accepted that commuting for 1.5 hours every single one way (which amounts to 3 hours everyday) was the necessary evil to get a higher education. ‘To be someone’ to prove that once and for all that ‘I’m smart.’

But you know what’s NOT smart.

A 3 hours loss for every weekday of the school year for 200 Days out of a year.

600 hours!

And times that by 4?!

2400 hours.

Say what?!

In hindsight, there was just so many things I could’ve done with that 2400 hours rather than commuting to and from school and being miserable for it and not achieving my true potential even though I tried my hardest to make things work. Because you have to realize, when you are young and foolish like I was – you also skimp out on sleep over other stupid things (sleep is critical to memory and learning. It helps us retain information. And getting a restorative night’s sleep boosts our otherwise impaired and caffeine dependent cognitive abilities). Who knew how much time I lost back then.

And the thing is, the other day, I didn’t even go the full route from my house to my old school. It might’ve taken me an hour instead of three, but still that was enough. I only went half way between work to a meeting to well a nice coffee shop in the area to work. On the way home, I was squished among strangers in an sweaty, foul smelling, overcrowded bus. Just like how I remembered.

I can only imagine how many have to put up with it on a daily basis and how lucky I am that I just had to endure the occasional ride here and there. Which is probably another good reason why I’m looking for digital alternatives to further my education.

Opps. I’m a tabs hoarder, do you do this too?

I have too many tabs open, too many things bookmarked…too many things to read, to do.

And I don’t even know where, or how to start!

Talk about information overload. Do you often feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information you need to process in a day? I sure do. I recognize this with myself as I’m subscribed to maybe too many media feeds and by the time that it’s 11:00 AM, I find myself with…

41.

Yes.

41 Tabs.

No wonder I’m always complaining my computer’s too slow…and I’m always thinking I need to get a faster laptop…

When I actually counted just how many miniature thumbnails there were on my screen. It shocked me. Things I’d saved over from three days ago, plus two days ago, plus yesterday overflows into the collection of tabs.

Each tab representing an article, an email or snippet of information that’d grabbed my attention. And here is where it gets tricky, while all of those things might be ‘work’ related, they don’t rank the same in importance and there are those that might seem important but actually are not.

So, what to do? How do you manage? How do you distance yourself from the little herd of tabs you find yourself shepherding? I came up with my own system.

Direct your focus for 10-20 seconds: I’m known for systematically demolishing information and processing them, but I’m also known for having a wandering mind. Hence saving my tabs seem to make sense – except it doesn’t in the long run, because it alludes to that I’m going to spend more, which further alludes to A LOT of time on each and every one of them. Don’t. Give yourself 10-20 seconds to skim the article, if its really engaging, or if you decide it is truly worth your time. Read the whole thing, or else, hit ‘X’.

Devour the content immediately: To get to the root of the problem, we save because we think it’s gonna take a long time to read. That’s often not the case, as you can probably get a feel for the article in 10-20 seconds, so again, if something is worth the read. Devour the words immediately and hit ‘X’.

Decide if the article deserves to be bookmarked: so if tabs are a problem, you don’t even want to know what goes on in my bookmark folder…I used to bookmark everything because I thought I needed them, but most of the time I really didn’t. So, defence is your best bet against bookmark folder cleanup surprises – like why did I save this page of a funny LOLCAT. What was I thinking?

Discover smarter ways to compile material: there are many apps and gadgets out there that make our lives easier and for web browsers you could find extensions. I personally use Pocket, the widget lets you save links to articles and add tags to them for easier retrieval in the future. The service is also easy to use. Now whenever I gauge something is definitely needed for future reference. I pocket it.

And there you have it productivity hack for Monday’s first world problems, staying organized for those who, like me, end up with a disproportion number of tabs that sometimes make me wonder if I should sign up for the show hoarders for hoarding tabs as if my life depended on it. 

the mind and body dualism of health and happiness

Without one, you can’t have another. Though I often wonder, which one is more important, the body, or the mind?

Before this get too chicken and egg, let me explain by saying that I believe in science.

I also believe that there are things science has yet to uncover. Things like, how positive thoughts and self love potentially influences the body (don’t quote me on this, but perhaps, your thoughts also influences the chemicals in your brain and visa versa). Or perhaps, it’s the will and decision to put yourself first that sets the stage for a healthy mind and body, or body and mind.

I find myself intrigued on this topic, as I’m always searching for ways to improve in every aspect of life. And of course, one of them involves happiness.

What is it?

What is happiness?

Is it the rush we get when we accomplish something great? Or is it the steady flow of contentment?

I think it’s both with the latter being more prevalent in life.

So how do I achieve this happy state more often? Here’s what I’ve noticed from my day to day and summarized.

Bodywise:

A healthy balanced diet: meaning, cut the junk, note to self: no more cocopuffs in the pantry. Focusing on protein, healthy fats, fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Shop outside of the grocery store and make your own meals. Keep things light, so you’re more energetic.

Get moving: do you know that numerous studies have shown that just by walking 20 minutes per day puts you into a better mood. And that exercise is the most under utilized anti-depressant? I also noticed that I become more alert when I go for a walk, so I do that often.

Get enough sleep: yes, unplug, unplug unplug! I used to get so nervous when those straggling emails flood my inbox when I’m not at work, do I reply, or do I sleep? SLEEP! Just because society has advanced and your inbox is exploding doesn’t mean we’ve evolved to handle all of that. Yes, you heard that right. Although we don’t live in caves anymore, we’re not used to this constant exposure to electronics and stress. Wait was that a bear or was that just a mountain of emails? Prolonged exposure can seriously disrupt your sleep cycle (and there’s been no study ever done on what the long term effects are, I guess they’ll know in twenty years or so when the millennial start to go grey, yup we’re all lab rats)… Radiation, light, and noise pollution. Sorry, you still need your sleep.

Schedule ‘me’ time: I like to pretend my day only has 23 hours instead of 24 hours and I give 1 hour to myself to do whatever I want, meditate, read, go for a long walk. Give your body the chance to relax. What I don’t recommend is being a zombie in front of the television or Netflix (c’mon this is 2015)…blue light, radiation, techno-overload.

Have a sit down meal with your loved ones: or cook them a healthy sit down meal and enjoy it with them. This borders on the mind aspect of health, but social connection, even simple things like hugs and human touch are overlooked. When’s the last time you hugged your loved one? Told them how much you appreciated them? I’m not big on hugs, but hugging releases oxytocin, the human bonding hormone, and releases stress. So okay, maybe this should’ve read. Host a home cooked dinner party and hug the guests when they leave. Remind them how much they mean to you and remind yourself how lucky you are to have them.

Mindwise:

Choose your thoughts: I think this is the most important, rather than letting whatever in your outside environment ruin your mood, or cloud your judgement. Be clear with yourself that somethings are out of your control no matter how things turn out. And rather than worrying for something you can’t control. Act on what can be done and do a good job on that instead.

Become curious about everything: I’m not a big fan of kids (say what?! But that’s story for another time.) I do admire one thing about them though, they’re curious about everything! To the point they ask about how things work to the point their parents get annoyed of answering. There’s only so many time you could sagely go, “Well you see,”  before you run out of answers. I’ve done that too when I was a kid. And I remember my parents telling me I was being annoying and I should learn to be quiet. Especially, when they found their knowledge base insufficient for my curiosities – but I suggest, be curious, about everything again, like you’re a kid again and what you find might surprise you!

Feed the mind with thoughts from great thinkers: I’m currently reading up on philosophy in my ‘me’ time, something I’d never thought of in the past – but why not? It’s probably the only way I’ll get to time travel. And although I can’t agree with everything they say, since they too are products of their time.

Pick up a new hobby: Or learn a new language, a new skill, pick something you think you’d enjoy, even if you haven’t tried it before, try it – this protects against the aging brain. Really, the only way to stop those neuron from dying off fast is to seek out new experiences. And then you end up with a new skill you could brag about too.

And finally, “Don’t forget to love yourself.” or as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard puts it:

  • Above all do not forget your duty to love yourself; do not permit the fact that you have been set apart from life in a way, been prevented from participating actively in it, and that you are superflous in the obtruse eyes of a busy world, above all, do not permit this to deprive you of your idea of yourself, as if your life, if lived in inwardness, did not have just as much meaning and worth as that of any human being in the eyes of all-wise Governance, and considerably more than the busy, busiest haste of busy-ness – busy with wasting life and losing itself.

So there you have it, my honest guide to happiness. 

cut the crap: weekend edition

“Do you realize how much crap we have in our lives?”

I say this as I down a bowl of cocopuffs…yuck, I’m eating cocopuffs again like I’m 7. Yuck indeed.

What did that past 18 years teach me?

High fructose corn syrup and other preservatives are not things smart people would ingest. And at that exact moment, I rebelliously shoved another spoonful of cereal plus chocolate coloured milk into my mouth.

I didn’t feel particularly smart at the moment.

I just wanted to get eating done.

And the difference is, I wasn’t smiling like I had been when I ate the cereal at 7 years old.

Cocopuffs were not a form of nutritious, balanced breakfast by any means – but as someone who was too busy with her life to get proper food and too stingy to throw the half eaten box out (probably out of concern that would mean her money on the box of cereal was wasted and that at least ingesting more of the cereal she bought, she’d at least get three quarters back before she threw it out.)

The adult life, where it’s much easier to come home to a bowl of cereal or something quick than actually cook. I’ve also seen thirty something year olds settle for ramen noodles and gummy bears at work and of course who can forget the lunch hour rush of businessmen in dapper suits heading for the nearest McDonalds?

I’m no exception to the rule. If healthy food is not in the house and by in the house I mean visible when I’m hungry, I’m probably not going to go, “Hmmm Hummus and Veggies!”

Yeah, that’s just not how life worked and because of what’d happened with being ‘semi-fired’ but not really as it turned out, that’s just work’s way of saying, ‘you ought to be ultra flexible, you might get 40+ or 5 hours, depending on business needs.’ Um still, at least you could’ve given me a heads up in the beginning of the week? Talk about respecting and treating your employees like people.

And this is just one of those weeks where it leans on the 40. Despite the fact, I’d only learned about this on Friday and I had to cancel my weekend plans…again, crap.

It’s like the domino effect, only in this case – the negative version. 

And I really noticed – when one faucet of my life starts malfunctioning, the others will sure follow, though, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. There’s only so much improvising, patching up we could do – if something takes too much effort to maintain or something demands too much of our precious time, something else will sure fall apart. Before you know it, you’re standing in a mess and you wonder how you get there.

Here’s a trick I’ve learned.

Pretend you only have 23 hours in a day and give that 1 hour to yourself to be mindful.

Cut out whatever crap you have in your life.

Turn off the computer, tablet, phone, the TV, unplug landlines if you still have them. There will never be enough time to make those calls, answer those emails and check those accounts in an hour anyways – beside, notice you are home now? Why are you still in work mode? And you better turn off your phone before someone calls you from work at some…insanely late hour.

Just for an hour – be quiet and let yourself rest from everything. There’s no rush. This is your time to freely enjoy. Because if other people don’t give you the respect you deserve, you’ve got to give it to yourself. Make yourself feel that you deserve the rest you so desperately needs. Unplug and reflect and love yourself.

Do it daily.

And notice then, there’d be enough clarity in you to steer clear of the junk food crap aisles and that box of cereal, bag of chips and bar of chocolate. Because you’ll be giving what your body desperately needs instead.

A well deserved thank you, instead of another load of toxins.

instead of asking yourself what you want to do with your life, break it into increments

“What do you not mind doing for 12 hours a day, or 16 hours a day straight, if you had to, hypothetically?”

I suspect the answer, despite the variations is gonna boil down to:

“I want to have fun!”

Or in my case: “I want to be having fun creatively, absorbing knowledge and understanding the world around me better than I did yesterday.”

I really do. On top of that I want to keep on learning, keep on growing. There’s a reason why we do the things we do. Why we subscribe to the news channels we subscribe to. Me for example, pay attention to the following:

The Economist
Time
Thrillst
Discovery News
Forbes

Just to name a few.

These news channels are relevant to my interest out of the million of channels that are out there. I want to be informed about world issues, I want to look further and know what’s going on in the world and make those connections. I think that’s another reason why I started this blog as well. I want to reach, probe and prod through the network and reach out to others I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Yes.

So from all that, I already summarized. I want to be informed, I want to reach out to people. I want to be expressive, creatively so. I believe in possibilities, innovation, improvements across the board in every industry. There’s always something we could be doing better. And that’s the founding ingredients of something I wouldn’t mind doing for 12 to 16 hours a day.

Notice how this exercise had nothing to do with:

Employability
How much other people like me
Making sales calls.
Hitting sales target.
Lead generation.
Know more than one languages.

Because…well, that’s bottom down processing from someone else’s idea what works and what doesn’t – orders issued by the top that trickle down to you, for you to receive the orders and carry on. The thing is though – you’ll always feel that something is missing if you just settle, or you know ‘consume’ your way into happiness but really it’s a vicious cycle of hedonistic treadmill that gets no one anywhere.

So how can I achieve that. How can I portion out my time so that I’m in control of most things?

Reverse the top down process, into bottom up process.

Be organic about what you want, negotiate your head off. Don’t stop until you get what you deserve and nothing less.

there’s a reason why ‘desserts’ is ‘stressed’ spelled backwards

I’m an addict.

In attempt to not fall to the floor, curl up and cry, I headed over to the nearest Starbucks for more coffee and…sugar.

Yes, yes. I’m sure by now we’ve all read our fair share of articles promoting healthy eating and if there’s something I’ve learned in my years of schooling – Theory =/= Practice.

And of course there’s the dreaded correlation factor, and before you think you could make it as an exception to the rule, statistics would have your self assessments hammered down flat: case and point, I was standing in line at Starbucks, wondering if I should get a grande Frappuccino and maybe a sugary glazed lemon scone – sugar.

My brain was under fire from the morning and parts of the afternoon. So much to do and so little time – suddenly, that packed lunch just didn’t seem palatable at all.

As I stood there, I noticed:

Everyone looked as tired as I was, if not more so.

And everyone’s so disconnected.

As if they’re automated cars just doing routine refills.

They take their drink, the first sip, like an addict getting that routine hit.

It played across my mind just as it was my turn in line.

I gave the barista a meek smile and turned around back to the lunchroom and congratulated myself for my lunchtime stroll.

don’t aim for ‘more’ aim for ‘growth’

This is partly a reflection on my last post, partly a reflection on how my week and more so two weeks went since I was semi fired. Ah yes, I say semi-fired because well it turns out due to some management screw up they wanted to be nice and keep me on board for the next little while as a very very casual type of – hey maybe you could come in and do someone else’s work for a day or two – you know be the toothpick that picks and dislodges unwanted food particles from our teeth, but you know you’re also not important enough to be a toothbrush, or a bottle of mouthwash so we won’t keep you in the bathroom. 

You get it. And I get it better, hence, I became busy just working on myself for these two weeks. Coming up with all sorts of ludicrous plans on what I’m supposed to do for the next 56 days of my life before I hit eject button fully and ditch it for Denmark for – well a weekend and get some much needed cross-cultural advice, face to face, and maybe a few bottles of ‘thinking juice’ to smooth it all out.

Yes. I always think better there, but maybe that’s just the ‘thinking juice’ and good company talking.

That. And I realized I’m also supposed to be back in school.

That. I realize, is also uncertain. What I am supposed to go back to school for? So that I can robotically become that toothpick again and dislodge unwanted food particles…get a job…house…no. That almost feel like I’m taking even more steps back!

I must be crazy to do so? Why do I have to pay so much, and not only that, spend 3 months of my life proving that I can write. When I’m proving it on a daily basis, I can do just that? Should I just, perhaps, email receipts from clients whom I work with?

I think I can already answer that, because in my head it looks like this:

“Look, she can write professionally, so why does she need this course?!!”

“For the wonderful piece of paper that looks great framed on a wall. But really, we only provide the paper so people won’t have the right to scream robbery, and legally we hold no obligations. You pay us for the paper.”

Such bureaucracy.

And if you ask me, what I would’ve done with the money from my first foray into post secondary. I would’ve just ran off with the money and well…who knows. Now, it is as if I’m faced with the same dilemma and then some because it can’t be like the last time, I don’t have a second shot at anything, so it’s now and nothing (as it always should’ve been) but when I was 17, I was propped up to believe no matter what you studied…well, just like people my age that I met after, while working some mundane job I didn’t care for…

So, going down that road again is not an option.

What is an option and it really tickles my brain is:

1. Self Education. (Mostly Free, if not, for a very low fee compared to having to haul myself to school from available resources online).

2. In any location. (As long as I have Wi-Fi)

3. Keep up on the work I actually want to do while I’m over here and build on those skills while I’m here to save save save. (And I totally feel like a grown up…because I made my first personal finance spreadsheet the other day…I even put my net worth in there rather than eyeballing my bank balance and my credit card balance every month, though can I say I have excellent credit due to the fact I never miss a payment and always pay it off in full? But now I feel like a total grown up.)