For the Love of Balance

What do you do to better yourself? How do you stay healthy and happy in your own daily life?

One morning during the usual commute, I was listening to Shankar Vedantum on NPR’s podcast Hidden Brain. In the particular episode I was listening to, he had on Elizabeth Currid-Halkett who was discussing her book ‘The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class’. As she delve deeper into her theory of this neo-elite societal class that expressed their status through cultural capital instead of conspicuous consumer habits, it dawned on me that we are all not so different in our desires to be “happy and healthy”, but it’s something only able to be achieved by those with a certain level of money. Correct me if I’m wrong, but does this sound like you?

Listens to NPR for your news and podcasts, and reads the Economist when you can.

Loves to shop organic and visit farmers markets to get food straight from the source and support local business.

Practice Pilates, Barre, or Yoga at a very nice gym or studio to be healthy, to stay fit and to find some inner peace in your hectic day.

Can be spotted walking to work or to a cafe with a New York Times or The Economist tote bag with a lunch meal-prepped over the weekend, with your Apple computer and a book that can be found on the NYT bestseller list.

If with kids, definitely plans on breastfeeding for the first year (maybe into the second), and began stocking away money into a college fund the moment they found out they were pregnant.

Does this sound like anyone to you?

In life’s rat race, there’s always been this drive for the perfect life. A happy self, a loving marriage with cute kids, a fulfilling job, and a body that doesn’t give away one’s age. Nowadays, the idea of perfection is more in line with Walgreens’ tagline “the corner of happy and healthy”. This plays into the whole work-life balance idea that’s been much more prevalent in today’s workforce. The expectation of 60hour work weeks when you’re only being paid for 40 has dropped significantly, and the idea that your job is your life is no longer working for today’s millennial workforce.

So what does it mean to be “at the corner of happy and healthy”? This has been going through my mind a lot lately, and the ideas listed above seem to be the common understanding of how to achieve health and happiness. But I come to understand that there’s so much more to it. It’s not just simply eating a homemade salad and posting about it on instagram, nor is it the obligatory muscle pic to show that you’ve checked off going to the gym.  Nor is it staying relevant to what podcast is cool or the netflix show everyone should watch (stranger things, I’m looking at you).

It’s about understanding the relationship between the mind, the body, and the soul, and how to care for each of them.

As intelligent and mindful human beings, it’s our duty to keep our minds sharp. I’ve found that, like a blade, left alone without a tool to sharpen it, it becomes dull and ultimately useless. One must continuously take care of it by putting it to things that challenge it, whether that be through new ideas or simply ideas that challenge your previous notions of normality. Nowadays, this is in the form of what media we choose to consume. But it’s something that each of us must choose wisely, and for our own good.

If there’s one thing I’m glad I learned early, it’s that there is no miracle diet that will change your life. Just by understanding your relationship to food and what your body needs is enough to stay happy and healthy. Exercise is good for everyone, and we all could use more exercise in our lives, but not everyone needs to go to the gym to get ripped. And certainly not everyone can. It’s about what your body can handle and what you are looking to achieve, and how to keep your body healthy, inside and out. You’d be surprised how much the use of sunscreen can do for you, more than any juice cleanse.

As for the soul, this is the most personal of the three, and it is speaks to each of our own sense of purpose. Why are we here and what greater purpose do we serve by being here? That answer might be found through the work that we do, or the relationships we keep, physical or divine, or simply how we choose to spend what little time we have here. In any sense, that is how we measure our impact, and our greater goals.

Now, I’m sure it seems like these things are simple, and it can all be done by anyone and everyone and we all should be ashamed that we aren’t living up to our potential. Newsflash, this dedication is much harder than I ever imagined. We all live incredibly busy lives. There’s work to be done, papers to write, the never-ending supply of emails that come in, and man, do we hate the commute. But in the end, it’s our well-being that takes the hit when we don’t care for it, like a garden without a gardener.

So, those who want to get that 8 hours of sleep, eat vegetables every day, maintain a healthy social life, exercise daily, take care of your skin, drink 8 cups of water a day, have a fulfilling career at work, and still find time to keep up your hobbies, remember this. Take it one step at a time. Keep your chin up, your head held high, and remind yourself that you’re doing your very best. That’s all anyone can really expect, from others or yourself.

As always, keep stirring that cup of curiousity 🙂

person holding white ceramic coffee cup leaning on brown wooden table
Photo by THE 5TH on Pexels.com

 

Translation Attempt #1

Hihii! I hope all is well in your universe and you are happy 🙂

Ever since I was young (think 7-8), languages have always been something I enjoyed studying. From the beginning, I had a knack for learning them. I would try to learn Korean the best I could from the short visits I had from my halmoni and the korean dramas we would watch, and I could pick up on the phrases and accent pretty quickly. It was the same with Japanese when I began to study it on my own (I hated waiting for the subtitled versions of the anime episodes and the english versions of the manga I would watch and read, so I decided one morning to learn a whole new language all because I was impatient). Then came french, (my strongest language as of right now), which was so much fun to learn I was obsessed with french music at that time. Finally came Arabic on a whim in college, since I thought the writing was pretty and wanted to know more about it.

There’s something special in each language that speaks to me, kind of like the feeling you have when learning to ride a bike. Once you have the basic rules down, you can ride smoothly without training wheels. Then, with some bravery and practice, you’ll get to the point where you can lift your hands off the handlebars and still keep your balance. I get the same feeling when learning a new language. The grammar is your rule book, and the vocabulary is your bike. A little bit of practice and determination will get you far.

Because of this love of languages, I’ve dabbled in translating things here and there for my own enjoyment. When I read or listen to another language, I’m automatically translating things in my head, but I don’t typically write it down. So, this is something I’d like to try to put out, and see how they turn out. Please please comment and let me know your thoughts on how you might translate these passages, and if you enjoy learning languages too, let me know! I love practice buddies.

For the next few months, I’ll be working through the book Féline by Bu Hui-ryeong, which is a book about a stray cat and a lonely kid who learn to go through their solitude lives together, learning from each other. It has been a wonderful book to read and I absolutely love the story. It’s a very sweet book, and I highly recommend for those that would enjoy a short yet profound book to enjoy on the weekend when you have the time (and you can read french).

Ch. 1 (part 1)

Longtemps, j’ai hésité. Allais-je continuer à mener une vie errante et vagabonder dans les rues à la recherche de ma mère, ou bien devais-je apprivoiser un humain pour me faire nourrir et héberger en toute sécurité? Et puis j’ai rencontré cette fille, et toute mon indécision a fondu comme neige au soleil.

Après la brusque disparition de ma mère, j’ai dû me battre seul contre la peur. Le manque de nourriture, je pouvais à peu près le supporter, car même au temps où je vivais avec ma mère, je mangeais rarement à ma faim. Je ne suis pas comme ces clébards hirsutes et goinfres qui léchent servilement les bottes de leurs maîtres. Moi, je mange pour vivre; je ne vis pas pour manger.

Lorsque le lait maternel n’a plus suffi à me remplir le ventre, ma mère m’a appris à chercher de quoi me nourrir: éventrer les sacs en plastique, ouvrir les poubelles, dénicher les endroits fréquentés par les souris, repérer les ruelles où abondent les déchets alimentaires. Pourtant, même après avoir appris toutes ces techniques de survie, je n’ai pas chassé en solitaire. Ce n’est qu’après le départ de ma mère que j’ai dû me débrouiller tout seul pour trouver le gîte et le couvert. Se procurer de la nourriture s’avérait plus difficile que je ne l’avais imaginé, mais j’arrivais tout de même à survivre tant bien que mal, car chaque quartier offrait ses poubelles, et parfois des gens déposaient au coin des rues des restes de leur repas pour les chats de gouttière comme moi.

Chapter 1 (translation)

For a long time, I hesitated. Was I to continue leading a life of a vagabond, wandering through the streets in search of my mother, or should I be content to taming a human to feed me and provide me a safe shelter. Since I met this girl, all my doubts had melted like snow in the sun.

After the sudden disappearance of my mother, I fought my fear alone. The hunger for food, I could almost bear it, since even when I had lived with my mother, I rarely ate my fill. I am not like these shaggy and gluttonous mutts slavishly bootlicking the shoes of their masters. Me, I eat to live; I don’t live to eat.

When my mother’s milk no longer sufficed to fill my belly, my mother taught me how to find things to eat: to cut open the plastic bags, to open the trash bins, to unearth spots heavily frequented by mice, to spot the streets with an abundance of leftover food. However, even after having learned these survival techniques, I had never hunted alone. Only after my mother had left did I learn to get by on my own to find safe cover. Procuring food was a lot more difficult than I ever imagined, but I came to survive all the same to the best of my abilities, for every street offered garbage bins, and sometimes people would toss their leftovers to the sides of the street for alley cats like me.

Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle

Ever since I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was puzzling. Jigsaw puzzling. Being the home body that I am, jigsaw puzzles were the perfect thing to do over summer vacation, especially on those days where you didn’t feel like changing out of your pajamas. Extra points for rainy days.

I fondly remember working on jigsaw puzzles on breaks or over those long summers. Starting with the easy 50 piece ones, then 100, then 500, and reaching the 1000s by middle school. From then on, my goal was to complete at least one 1000 piece puzzle every summer. Having a jigsaw puzzle going on was perfect for those educational lags in the year, as it kept your mind busy and sharp. It was a perfect solo and group project for the family, as progress could be made by one or multiple people at a time. Lastly, it was inviting, as it’s hard to pass a puzzle and not have the desire to complete at least one piece, since it’s such an easy source of that “I did it” feeling. There were so many great lessons I learned that were about topics bigger than just a jigsaw puzzles, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. This is a step-by-step approach to how to complete a jigsaw puzzle, and the lessons one will learn on the way.

When starting work on a puzzle, what is the first thing you do? Past opening the box and smelling that waft of cardboard smell with the dust falling out of the bag as you dump the pieces on the table, what do you do? I start separating the edges from the middle pieces, then grouping pieces by discernible areas (sky, grass, large objects etc). This makes tackling the puzzle much easier, as you break it down into smaller and smaller puzzles. So, instead of one 2000, you actually have four 500 piece puzzles. In order words, divide and conquer. This can be applied to so many of life’s challenges, whether it be cleaning the house before company arrives, preparing the thanksgiving feast, or checking off all the things on the to-do list. Making large ordeals into smaller, more bite-size pieces, makes finishing the meal so much easier.

Once the pieces are separated into their respective piles, you will want to lay them all flat so that every piece can be seen from a birds-eye-view. This will help you in the search for that one particular piece, as we are visual creatures, and need to see the shape and colors of each piece, to compare to the void we hope to fill. When solving a problem, it is best to get all the information that you can in order to make the most informed decision. However, as any puzzler can tell you, just because the color and size appears to fit doesn’t mean it is going to.

Looks can be deceiving, so it takes a lot of trial and error to find the right combination of pieces. Most of the work of a puzzle is seeing which pieces fit together. Some are easy, with a recognizable image so that all you need to do is fine the other half of the face, or a flat side so you know it is a border piece. Others aren’t as simple, like the sky with the ever so similar gradients of blue, or grass where every blade looks like it belongs with the next. This translates to how I walk through life and find my own happiness. Some things are black and white in what goes where. Food, water, shelter, family, those all fit pretty easily in the big picture. But this new job? This new or old friend? This new experience? Where do these additions fit in with my idea of happiness? There’s always a place for everything, just not where you might think it would be. All one can do is continue to work at it until you find its home. Once every place has a home, you’ve completed your puzzle.

Life’s puzzle may seem much more complicated; the way I see it, it is as simple and straightforward as a jigsaw puzzle. You just don’t know how many pieces there are, and they are constantly changing shapes. Nevertheless, the lessons apply. Tackle parts one at a time. Look over what you know, and prepare for the unexpected. And never give up. Some may seem like they fit at that moment, and later on you’ll find it no longer fits. Keep testing out each piece, and sooner or later, you’ll get lucky.

Next time you find yourself at home on a rainy day, stay  in your sleepwear, brew a nice warm cup of tea, grab your comfiest blanket, and start a puzzle. You never know what you might learn on the way.

 

Photo credit: Watercolor vector created by Freepik

Finding my personal happiness is a never ending journey of mine. It ties together all aspects of my life. My first big girl lesson was that I must find a way to be happy on my own in order for all of life’s downfalls to be worth pushing through. Religion, self-confidence, self-worth, parental approval, I’ve worked to find my own happiness in many of them. However, even when I found what I was looking for, the daily to-dos and responsibilities still made it hard to keep that happiness in sight. So, to stay moving forward, I make it a point to remember the little things that make me smile to remind me of the things that are worth the toils and struggles of life:

  1. That first sip of coffee in the morning
  2. The smell of the morning dew
  3. An organized work space
  4. Waking up to a good morning text from your SO
  5. Finding a lucky dollar in your pocket
  6. Cutting into the avocado and it’s perfectly ripe
  7. The taste of perfectly cooked fresh white rice
  8. The cold side of the pillow
  9. The first blooms of spring
  10. Climbing into bed after a long day

It’s important to appreciate the little things in life. There are too many things to bring us down, so count your blessings, smile at life’s little pleasures, and create your own daily happiness. What do you do to find your daily happiness?

The Joy of Exploration

Do you get that exploration itch? That feeling that you want to just go, not knowing where or why. For many of us, traveling and finding those new experiences, venturing into unchartered territories to see what we can find is what we would do if money wasn’t necessary, our careers weren’t in the way, and we didn’t have responsibilities tying us to people and places. In our own ways, we all enjoy a good adventure, and there are many different ways to open that window of opportunity to explore not just the world around you, but yourself as well.
For those that don’t know me, I am a gamer that really enjoys open-world rpgs (role-playing-games). Growing up, World of Warcraft was one of those games that I couldn’t put down. My sisters and I have such fond memories of playing together on the same couch, bumming out during the summers, grinding through quests to see who could max out there level first and trying not to get creeped out in Duskwood while playing at 3am. There are those that played for the community. To me, the beauty lied in the amount of places to explore. The map grew with every expansion, and there were more quests and achievements to do that would take you all over the place. It was impossible to be bored.

Now, in my post-college life, with a 9-5 schedule and commutes totaling up to 2.5 hours in the car every day, unleashing that urge to explore and find new experiences becomes even harder, especially when sometimes all you want to do is enjoy the comforts of your bed and home. But I found the best ways to create your own adventure is to look at your home, your city or town in a different perspective, as it changes your experience and relationship to it.

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Meridian Hill Park in Columbia Heights

I am a lucky soul to work and live in the DMV area. It is hard to be bored in DC, for there are so many places and things to see and experience. For anyone who has done the monuments at night vs the ever crowded day tours can vouch that it creates an entirely different, a much more peaceful and pensive atmosphere, leaving you time and space to ponder bigger thoughts next to Lincoln that you might have had dodging tourists.

For me, wandering through the many residential areas of DC is my adventure. There are hidden gems to find everywhere, from styles of homes and beautifully curated gardens, to unlikely mom & pop restaurants and the many dogs out and about. The best part, though, is the quiet. The serene peacefulness that comes with being away from the main roads. Its during these walks that let me think more about what I’m searching for and being okay in not always following the plan. And, it’s totally acceptable to spend a lazy weekend at home playing Assassins Creed Origins, and not going out and participating in stuff with people. FOMO has no place here.

So, for those like me that look for that spark of adventure here and there, take a saturday morning, and just walk. Don’t look at a map, don’t plan out your path, just go and see what you’ll find. Or, if you still wish to stay in bed, perhaps a little open-world gaming is in order :).

 

 

To Ask Better Questions

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“It is wiser to find out than to suppose.” —Mark Twain

 

Throughout childhood into adulthood, we are all asked the same questions at the same times in our lives. It starts with “what’s your name” and “how old are you”, moving slowly to “what do you want to be when you grow up” and “are you going to college”. Past your college years, we become ever so familiar with “what’s next for you”, “are you dating” and “what do you do”.

We all have almost pre-programmed answers to these questions since we are asked them repeatedly at family dinners, happy hours, and awkward first dates. There are plenty of instances where we are just as guilty, leaning on them as a crutch for small talk, to pretend like we are truly getting to know someone. Most of us could care less about the degree, the job, or the mundane predictable parts of your life. How do we tap into what really makes you tick? What kind of questions truly expose the cogs and bits inside each of us, and make us work for the answer?

These are the kinds of inquiries I love to ask myself and others. Questions that make you think, ponder, consider your answer over and over again until you finally figure out what it is you believe to be true.

The purpose to this blog is to put some of these questions out in the open. These are my considerations of such questions. During school, I truly enjoyed short essays on topics of choice. They helped me build concise arguments, and provided an outlet for my curiosity to flow through. I have always considered myself a student of life, forever learning and observing new and exciting subjects. So! Here it goes, my continued studies into my daily ponderings. I hope these questions stir your cup of curiosity as they do mine.