to have meaning in life, you have to know yourself

Do you ever ask yourself the question: what am I all about?

And based on that question – where do you find ‘you’ – how do you define yourself? Where do you draw your conclusions?

I’d been thinking about this question due to a random conversation with a well-traveled friend, on traveling, good food, love, life and just about everything else under the sun.

I found myself enthused to speak to her due to her worldly nature – it is something we both share. I dare to say, we don’t see the world from our ‘parts’ of it, but we see the world as a whole, closed, functioning system. The earth as far as we know, is all that exists to be habitable by human beings. And our roles are the thinkers, the problem solvers, those people who want to solve something in order to improve the world’s daily functioning.

A few things I’ve realized is that – what happens on the other side of the world is no longer something distant – the fact that most flights take under 24 hours is something to be noted – because we live in a world where mobility is easily accessible and gentrification in large cities are erasing old customs (this has both pros and cons of course) – for example, my friend was a tinge disappointed in the ‘development’ in Asian countries that erased some cultural gems and that the push for economic growth had severely polluted the environment.

Once again, it made me realize that everything carries a cost and things are fast changing, the coming years will be challenging and a lot of the issues that ought to be dealt with now are being put on the back-burner for more ‘urgent’ issues – of course there’s always going to be issues – but a lot of pre-existing issues have been put on the back-burner for so long that it’s already having long lasting effects…

And I feel like, in our conversations, we discussed everything. Pulling from historical examples, and comparing them in a cross-cultural perspective, we aren’t too optimistic about what’s going to happen – but then we also realize there’s not much choice to be had here, we could only do our part and contribute and hope all of our desires and efforts would be realized one day.

No. I don’t mean desires as in material goods.

But having our desires realized, like seeing certain places on the planet before they’re lost forever, and always be in service of others, always aim to connect, always learn through the exchange of new ideas, take on new perspectives (because without connections and perspectives and values, who would you be? Remember that question, how do you define yourself?)

I define myself by my memories, values and thoughts.

Yes, I define myself by my being knowledgable and passionate on certain topics and completely indifferent in others.

My friend is like a mirror – through her I’m starting to see all the pieces of a puzzle I’d never been able to make sense fall into place and what is painted is what I’ve struggled to define in all these years.

Our conversations had me go on and on about things I care about, and give no more than an one word answer to things I don’t. Our conversations had made me realize why at age 19 I tried to pick up a language that would be of no use to me in North America…it was kind of my way of exploration without having to go anywhere – after all, a major component of culture is language, after history and many of its intricate customs. Our conversations made me realize the things that mattered to me before anything else and because of those things, my life has meaning, because of those things I have things to look forward to.

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running in autumn, dealing with colder temperature

I live in a city with very distinct seasons and with the weather getting colder and daylight hours shorter, I’ve been less and less enthused about going outside for my usual runs.

1) colder temperature

2) rainy weather, or the ground might be wet

3) sidewalks are filled with fallen leaves, it’s gross and potentially slippery

4) add insult to injury the ‘usual’ excuses

So how do you get yourself to run outside after ‘just do it’ doesn’t quite cut it?

Solutions:

1) Update your running playlist: find new running music and put them on your iPod and enjoy while you jog!

2) Run somewhere you have to go to anyways, like the grocery store with a backpack, get your groceries, put them in your backpack then run back.

3) Visualize post-run effect: yes, think about how great you’d feel post run!

NOW GO RUN!

one day you will make sense of all this confusion

Time.

Time is something you don’t have right now.

You work too much, but you don’t think you are doing enough.

He texts at 1am, when everyone else is supposed to be asleep.

He texts and you’re still on your way home.

He texts and you feel the corners of your mouth lift, but you don’t want to think.

He tells you he’s just arrived in a city to avoid the rain.

And you tell him, it’d rained all day…

Except then you realize you don’t have the time.

You tell him you have to go so you can sleep.

He lets you go and you wonder, 2am, are you really that lonely, or is he different than the rest?

You

Reducing meat consumption for sustainability, yes, I jumped the bandwagon.

Two headlines grabbed my attention this week. One, Processed meats do cause cancer – WHO and two, Disturbing Aerial Photos Show What Killing Billions Of Animals For Meat Is Doing To The Environment – the latter of the two moved me more than the first – okay, not to say I don’t care about my health, I do – but, the latter article gave me more reasons to stop eating meat than the former.

Why?

What we’re doing to the environment is going to last for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and it is a collective issue of the previous generations, this generation and many generations to come.

And quite frankly this is an issue I can’t quite ignore anymore. In the past, I’ve tried to be ‘vegetarian’ for various lengths of time, but it never seemed to have worked out as I’ve either gotten lazy or the vegetarian options just didn’t seem that appealing to someone who grew up on a omnivore diet… I was always told that you need ‘animal protein’ for optimum health. Now I think about it…do we really need to eat factory farmed and medicated animals for optimum health? And sure, there are organically raised and humanely farmed animals as well, though I’m sure the methods used are healthier and more sustainable, but wouldn’t solve the problem either (or at least, I can’t see a way that it would.)

In the meantime, I’m going to slowly wean myself off of meat while I research this issue further, and consult my vegetarian friends (who are happy that I decided to join them.)

Sunday is best for Cappuccinos and Conversations

Treat yourself, or better yet, treat the people in your life that you appreciate. I volunteered to get brunch with mom this weekend, why? Because we’ve both been working hard and it just feels like we don’t have time for each other anymore, that and because I’m running off again in 50 days, so I had to make a priority to sit down with her and treat her to some tiramisu in this gem of a cafe I found in the city as of late. Yes. I liked the cafe so much I went there for lunches often and still make visits on weekends, usually with friends, or in this case, with my mom.

We talked.

About a lot of things.

But mostly she talked about things her generation cared about and I listened.

Sure there’s a bit of a generation gap going in the conversation, but I let my mom talk and listened on as she polished off the entire tiramisu we said to share.

Do it anyways: what to do when you just don’t want to.

I tell myself to: “do it anyways” when I just don’t feel like it.

For example, yesterday morning I almost did not get up early enough to go where I was supposed to go – but then I started thinking. I’d made a promise to drop something off before work, yes there’s extra effort involved, but I’ve already made the promise – so now, my laziness would not only affect myself, but another person, and cancelling on the last minute would require even more effort at a later time, because of hassle of rescheduling – we’re both very busy.

“You might not get another chance.”

Just do it anyways.

And so I did.

I got up, put on no less than six layers (yes it’s gotten ridiculously cold here) and headed out. The air was damp and chilly when I opened the door and because it was so early, I was surrounded by half darkness and half light – it would be easy to turn back then, but I didn’t. Why? Because, all that I’ve done before hand wouldn’t have made sense if I just turned around and slid back to the warmth and comfort of my home – it would’ve been counterproductive – undoing all my work from getting up in the cold to getting myself out the door – so I proceeded just to fulfill that little promise I made.

Afterwards, at work, I realized the little change up in my routine gave me an extra boost, because I’d already accomplished something small despite the resistance, rest of my day was more productive than usual – why? Because I already did something I didn’t really want to. I felt that I’d accomplished something – even though it was very small. I felt more open and ready for challenges that headed my way. So, really, the point of this blog post is not really celebrating I kept a promise – but more so that once you start by doing something small, you could eventually build yourself up to face bigger more daunting challenges.

And then my experiment went, so not according to plan…

On October 18th 2015 I blogged about the control of my experiment, why is it that we fail to efficiently use our time, even if we have free time? Yesterday, 3 days into the experiment, I was still having trouble – yes, my time usage looked a lot like the picture there. When I would set a plan, it seems something else would intrude into that set plan, and I’d either have reschedule or I would run out of time doing the things I’d set out to do because I’d been too ambitious.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Give yourself the priority – other people can take care of themselves and should be able to take care of themselves, don’t feel bad if you’re scheduling ‘you’ time.
  2. Schedule much less than you would – yes, this sounds counterintuitive but leaving yourself time on the schedule to handle emergencies is a really smart thing to do.
  3. Stay calm – this is not a race, you actually want to be in productive flow and not eyeing the clock every five seconds to see how much time you have left. The clock is not a ticking time-bomb, it won’t explode if you don’t finish on time.
  4. Come back on time – from your well earned breaks.
  5. Repeat – steps 1 to 4 until habitual.

self actualization: outrageous promises that isn’t so outrageous after all.

Today I did something a little outrageous, even for me.

I made a promise, but not to myself this time, as this ‘promise’ was a thought I’d entertained, again and again…and again, but never told anyone.

Except today, one of my best friends who resides on a different timezone/continent messaged me out of the blue.

We started talking about life, and inevitably the topic of work came up.

What astonished me was that how much she sounded like she needed a break, and of course, I just casually suggested that if she had any time off or if she decided to say eff it, ‘I’m going on vacation now’ – that she should:

“Come visit me in Europe next summer.”

There. Said and done.

I had a strong notion that I will be over there again and this time for way longer.

What was once a date on the calendar with a question mark behind it, now became reality. Because now, this is not what I think is or isn’t possible, but because of what I said and suggested, it immediately became possible – in fact, it became a must – and to think of it – what happened earlier today, it is almost impossible for me to not go back to some of the cities I’d visited.

As I’ve explained to another friend. “For some reason, all the creatives seem to cluster in those cities. I keep going back, meeting people, and through the people I meet, I meet more people who inspires me to do things differently.” By this logic, I’m not only networking, organically, but also learning about myself and the world around me.

As one of my friend would say: “Being curious about the world is what gets me up in the morning and productive.”

Note there isn’t overt objective to her goal, just being curious and asking questions and learning is enjoyable in itself – rather than ‘abc’ must be done for its own sake to achieve ‘xyz’. Curiosity, thought processes, and learning on its own right seem to be the simple pleasures we’ve all forgotten in a world where everything is commodified into either a good, or a service that one must pay for and certain outcomes must be met for it to be seen as ‘success’.

If we stay curious and remember that there’s more to ‘learning’ than just the classroom sitting, then we’re more likely to enjoy the experience. Likewise, if we remember that there’s more to life than ‘making a living’ the standard simplification of the modern human experience (i.e: what do you do? well…I do many things.) then we wouldn’t be boxed in the fine lines we drew for ourselves and others.

So what was stopping me from actualizing this desire to be over there next summer in the first place? It was a mixture of purpose, fear of disappointment and fear of risks that came along the adventure – but now I realized, traveling – or at least traveling to be ‘inspired’ energizes me and gives me purpose (for now) and for that I can draw a plan to focus my energy to make that happen accordingly.

Day 1: the control, how would I use my time if I was given time freely to do anything…

So, have you wondered how you’d spend your day if you were given absolutely nothing to do? Or, in other words, if everything was up to you? Well here’s this little experiment I’ve come up with myself. Yesterday, I devised a very strict time management plan and today I put it to the test…with well, one glitch.

You see, how I even came up with the plan in the first place was due to a mixture of imported cider, radler and boredom. Oh yeah, apparently getting tipsy for me means opening up a document on my Mac and putting ideas down, making a spreadsheet of it, then graphing it out…(I’m so fun, I know.)

Anywho, so yesterday I posted something crazy like devoting 8% of my day to reading for leisure, today however, all I have done is 10 pages or so of a book that’s taking me forever to finish. Where did all the other time go?

Unlike all other days where I’d have no idea. Today, I started tracking what I do.

Note that the wake up time is drastically different from the projected 07:00, since I went to bed at 00:00 after a few drinks…I woke up before 11:00 but didn’t get out of bed until 11:06…(-4 hours lost right there, 4 hours I could be finishing that book, or practicing German. Opps.) I went for a quick bite of breakfast downstairs, and then when I came back to an assortment of messages via messenger on my phone so…I decided to log into Facebook, dun dun dun. The greatest time waster there is, especially when all your friends decided to be uber social just then.

Eventually, I realized the time at 14:00… (-7 hours of time lost) so I decided then I need to stop and packed everything to go to the nearest bus stop with the goal of heading to a coffee shop to get some work done (because home with internet and no one watching is apparently too distracting, I needed stranger around me to judge me if I was there and on Facebook all the time) soooo began this trek away from home by walking which took around 15 minutes.

But when I eventually got to the coffee shop of choice, I realized everyone else had the same idea. The place was jam packed to the point I wondered if it was feasible to move to Greenland…yes. So after a quick stroll around the place, I gave up on the idea of waiting around for a seat and decided to beat it – I got home at 16:16 (-9:16 hours of time wasted) and by 16:28 Facebook sucked me in again…until by 16:30 I realized what I was doing (-9:30 hours of time lost) and decided to be a responsible human being and read for 1 hour and 30 minutes…until I got hungry and made some dinner … but then by 18:15 I was distracted once again and ended up with 3 movies on queue for tonight.

So, there I have it. Why am I always out of time and non-productive?

Here’s what I summarized: failure to prioritize, too high of expectations, inability to focus on important things at hand and failure to plan… or at least that’s what I got from day experiment, because, 1: I didn’t wake up on time, early enough. 2: I changed my mind quite often throughout the day as to what I was going to do. 3. The myriad of choices around made everything else highly tempting. 4. There wasn’t one time I was only doing 1 thing, it is as if I was used to a world of constant stimulation, the baseline for boredom has been heightened…

So what can be improved? Pre-plan everything and stick to it – and that’s exactly what I’m going to do for tomorrow.