Converting to Audiobooks

For most of my childhood, I was a huge bookworm. You would find me in the back of the library for hours, with a book in my lap and at least 3 piled next to me, waiting to be taken home. The musty, old paper smell that they would waft over you as the spine cracked, the delicate and rough feel of the pages in between your fingertips, making that swish-crackle sound as you turned one to the next, I loved these little things about reading physical books.

At some point, I think during college, I got converted to ebooks because of how convenient it was to bring a single tablet. I didn’t have a car, so the only way to get around DC was by either walking, metroing, or taking the bus. However, if you do any of these three, you have to carry everything with you wherever you go, and if you ask me, carrying a 500+ page book everywhere doesn’t sound too appealing, for my shoulder’s sake. My kindle was perfect. It fit in my hand, it could carry a huge chunk of my to-read list, and it had a back-light. The back-light was so important since many times I had late night rides from working at a local restaurant. Thank goodness, I didn’t have to depend on street lamps as if I was back in elementary school, trying to catch some dim light so that I could see my pokemon game on my gameboy. For metro and bus, this worked out perfectly. I distinctly remember reading the Warcraft lore on that small screen, going over the times of dragons, before the coming of men. Such an easy escape from the humdrum of everyday life. If only I could go back.

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Once I graduated, I was locked into driving everywhere. I had moved far outside of the beltway, far enough that the metro couldn’t reach. This meant my wonderful city commute before that gave me time to sit and relax was gone, and so was my time with my kindle. Once I began driving everywhere, I barely had time to read, which meant my kindle began to collect dust, along with my other books I had collected over the years, thinking I would read them as soon as I had the chance. Nope. Like so many, I began searching for podcasts, things I could listen to in order to pass the time and make that 1 hour and 20 minutes go faster. Podcasts are fun to listen to, but I didn’t like that you either had to remember to download them beforehand if you didn’t want to stream it, or deal with paying for data usage while you streamed it on your phone. I never remembered, so it always ate up my data plan. Nevertheless, they were enjoyable, with the best ones making a long commute feel like 15 minutes. It took a while though for audiobooks to creep in.

It was only after seeing a friend of mine who had an equally horrendous commute did I consider audiobooks. I always thought audio books were something you listened to at home, while you cleaned or cooked, something to have in the background while you were busy doing other things. However, after listening to the beginning of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with her while doing a puzzle, and Stephen Fry masterfully reciting the first chapter, I was hooked. Signed up for audible, and now this is the main way I consume books. The younger me would be horrified.

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I never realized how important a good narrator was until I depended on them to paint the world I wanted to jump into, like the chalk drawings of Mary Poppins. If the voice didn’t match what I imagined a voice would sound like in my head, it kicked me out of that immersive experience quicker than a child running toward candy. A nonfiction autobiography sounding too off-putting because they chose too young of a reader for an older, more mature content? No thank you. A monotone voice for a children’s fantasy that felt like Charlie Brown’s teacher? Next. However, when you find an addicting story with a narrator that speaks as if they were really there, it’s magic. It feels like when I was a child and my mother was reading to me Anne of Green Gables or Little Women in that comforting yet fantastical style that only a mother could.

Thank goodness I still live close to libraries, where collections of audiobooks are growing, since more and more people are looking to find ways to cram reading in their lives without sitting down in an armchair and blocking off 20 minutes. I don’t know how they do that. Me? I can’t just read for 15 minutes. I must have at least a half an hour to delve into material and get something out of it, or else I won’t feel like I’ve truly read. Maybe this is from my childhood spending an afternoon speeding through a Harry Potter book in one night, or camping in the library reading the next book in the LOTR trilogy. Surprisingly, audiobooks help give me that satisfaction, even if its only for 20 minutes.

So for anyone who is on the fence about starting audiobooks, I highly recommend giving them a try. Perhaps a book you have already read, but could use a rehashing. Harry Potter is a wonderful way to dive in. Check your local library for any audiobooks, or give audible a try. They have a trial that is pretty nice. If you do, I highly recommend Stephen Fry’s rendition of Hitchhiker’s. Absolutely splendid.

For those who do listen to audiobooks, I am always looking for recommendations, so please send them my way. I’d love to hear how you got into them as well. Did they put you off beforehand as well? Let me know 🙂

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Thunderstorms

Midst a thunderstorm, I am most in awe of the world,

most powerless,

most insignificant.

Midst a thunderstorm, I am reminded of my humanity, my place, which is to say, no place at all.

The crack of thunder as Zeus’ rage splits the black above, I am on my knees.

Midst a thunderstorm, the creator’s work is at hand,

the dominoes culminating in a clash of hot and cold, black and white.

Midst a thunderstorm, I cower, in my home of straw and earth, my bed, my blanket, my arms,

waiting for the tempest to acknowledge the mark upon my door.

And yet, midst a thunderstorm I am the most alive;

Lay witness to the immense forces of the universe, incomprehensible power.

Following a thunderstorm, I am most calm,

most at peace,

most whole.

The storm comes to a close as all living things do, making way for the shimmering yellow brick roads to cascade from the golden gates, to welcome peace to the thirst filled masses below.

Following a thunderstorm, I am born again, rejuvenated and filled with a renewed love of life.

My breath held tight, my lungs brimming with anticipation for some ordained release, I sigh my fears away, relinquishing my worries to the abyss.

Following a thunderstorm, my world spins, my sun shines, my faith restored, my love,

my love for thunderstorms and the reminder of how truly small I am in the grand scheme of it all, it grows evermore.

Playing it safe isn’t a bad thing

For most of my life, I’ve tried to follow the standard path to “success” whatever that is. Study hard. Get into a good college. Make loyal and honest friends. Accept a well-paying job. Work on your career. Find a smart partner with numerous job prospects. As of now, these are the milestones I’ve been focusing on and is what is keeping me going. However, lately I’ve been wondering why hitting these milestones are even necessary, and why we put so much emphasis on them.

I’ve been a planner since I was little. What I mean by “planner” is someone who decides on what she wants and creates game plans on how to get it. This meant internalizing all the things a perfect first child should do to make their parents proud. As well, this meant that when things didn’t go to plan, I predictably had a slight melt-down and would once again modify the plan to accommodate the set-back. Then, continue on the same path.

Lately I’ve been living with someone who takes a more laisse-faire attitude towards life. Her perspective towards success both fascinates and irks me. This person doesn’t subscribe to the typical milestones that I set as life goals, so she lives in a very free and whimsical way, untied to any traditional idea of “a successful life”. This difference in definitions threw me off, because it made me further question my own idea of what makes someone successful. Is my idea of “success” a valid and personal one? Do I truly believe in it, or is it because my parents and society tells me that this is what you should want for a “good” life, the way to be “successful”. What do I want? Should I want these things? What are the pros and cons of each of these milestones? Why do we subscribe to them?

After many hours of mulling over these questions, I came to this conclusion (this might sound cliché, but perhaps every generation goes through these questions and comes to a similar conclusion).

I am in control of my own life. My happiness is purely in my own hands. My success is built on my own idea of success, which may or may not include a long career, a rich partner, or children, but if it does, it will be of my own accord. If I want any of these things, it’ll be because I deem them part of my happiness, not because of any parental or societal pressure. In the end, if I want something, I will go and get it myself. I am not patient enough to see if life gives me what I so desire. So, I shall create plans in order to achieve my success. Most importantly, I am happy on my journey. However, there are other forms of success, and it is in my best interest to accept and appreciate the other views of success, so I may continue to re-evaluate my own.

This semester has been a series of personal successes, gaining two research positions and doing well in my work. Hopefully my next mini meltdown doesn’t come until after the semester ends, but who knows. I hope to keep up the hard work, so wish me luck, as I pursue my own “success”.

A Cloudy Savasana

Anyone who has taken a yoga class can vouch that after a long and deep practice, one of the most relaxing (and well-deserving) poses at the end of the class is Savasana, or Corpse Pose. You are on your back looking like a comfortable starfish, and point of this pose is release. Release any tension in your muscles and let your body sink into the earth below it. However, the hard part is not the physical, but the mental. Release thought from your mind. No thinking. As someone who’s trains of thought leave the station at rapid speed, this is the hardest thing for me to do, to meditate and clear my mind.

Every class, I wind up going through a similar experience:

Me during Savasana: Clear your mind. Clear your mind. Clear your mind… Repeating clear your mind is thinking. Stop thinking…. *inhale… *exhale… *inhale… *exhale… You haven’t emailed Vivian about the meeting for Steven yet. I bet she’s emailed your now. You have to email her. Annnnd I’ve probably missed a call from Susan again. Always. Every time. Stop it! Blank! *inhale….*exhale… *inhale… *exhale……… I wonder what I should have for dinner tonight… maybe pasta? Or soup? I still have some stock from this weekend. Ehhh its too warm for that right now. No soup. Stop thinking! Clear your mind. Look at the black…. *inhale… *exhale…………………… Should today be a cheat day? I went to yoga today so that counts as a good day. Do I deserve pasta? Screw it, I always deserve pasta. I don’t have onions. Or garlic. I’ll run to Wegmans after work. Oh. Toilet paper. Remember toilet paper. And napkins. Darn it, time to sit up. 

Does anyone else do this? I hope I’m not the only one…Hi, my name is Becca, and I am a perpetual list maker. For me, to-do lists are hard to ignore. Lists for today, for the month, for the year, groceries. self-development, job opportunities, wines to try, anything. I’ll make a list of it.My mother drilled into me since I was little that there was always something to do and that one should never be idle. If you are smart, you’ll have the next two things already in your mind before you finish your current task. As great at this advice is, it makes it that much harder to be present in what you are participating in the now. 

The one thing I do to try and keep this from happening is keep a list of today’s to-do’s every morning. What do I have to get done today? If there are things I didn’t get to yesterday, I’ll just move them to today’s list. This at least helps get them out of my head before I go insane. But sometimes just seeing all the times you have to do on paper becomes daunting and I get anxious from a huge list. Which, in turn, makes it even more difficult to begin crossing off points on the list.

So, I divy up the list to must do’s ASAP, sometime today, and whenever I get the chance in the next week. That at least makes it less stressful for me. This method has worked so far. However, savasana is one of those moments where I just can’t help myself. It’s a work in progress, but just telling someone to clear their mind is much easier than just doing it, especially for a few minutes. 

How do you manage your to-do lists, and how do you stay present? I’d love to hear your methods and try something new 🙂  

Resolutions

Every year, usually after Christmas has come and go, we find ourselves looking inward with optimism. What can the New Year bring, and what can I do to ensure it’s a better year than last? We all make the inevitable goals of “more gym, more vegetables, more books”, or a different goal that never quite continues past the first two weeks of January. This year I am trying something new. I want to make a game plan that actually lasts. Start small, and make it into a habit. Difficult, yes I know. But I want to see how it goes.

  1. Don’t eat out as much. I’m sure I am not the only one that spends too much money on going out to restaurants and bars with friends and on food that I could make at home. I’ve told myself that there is no reason to eat out when you have leftovers. So this year will be the year of  cooking and leftovers. Why spend money on someone else’s food when you could learn how to make it at home. I love to cook, and it is something I truly enjoy doing. So, cook more! Save money.
  2. Read some more. I have a goal to finish one book a month. It shouldn’t take a month to read a book, especially me who loves reading. I read news articles and fun op-eds here and there, but it would be great to put a dent into my reading list, the list that doesn’t include school readings.
  3. Exercise more. Two years ago, I began exploring the world of yoga. Getting totally sucked in, I committed to getting 200-hr certified, and have loved it ever since. This past year, I had begun rock-climbing as something fun to do with friends, but ended up falling in love with it the same way I did yoga. Lo and behold, the gym close to my home gives me the best of both worlds, offering both a state-of-the-art indoor climbing gym, and yoga classes that are geared towards climbers. I couldn’t ask for more. Therefore, my goal for the year is to go to at least three yoga classes a week, meaning also climbing at least three times a week. Once school starts, I imagine it will be tuesday, thursday, friday, and sunday. Before that though, any time 🙂
  4. Write! I started this blog last year to help encourage me to keep writing. Someone told me that the only way to improve your writing is to write. I can somewhat agree with that. My style for this blog is a mixture of stream of consciousness with a “dear diary” kind of feel, but I want to explore different writing styles. So, the goal is to write a post every week. I’m sure with school I will have plenty of papers and memo’s to write, so I am not terribly concerned over those. However, this year I want to get into the habit of truly practicing and developing my own writing style. I’m excited!

 

These are the four physical goals of the year for me. I don’t think they are too much, and mostly pertain to my physical habits. As for mental, I have two goals I am working on.

Accept that you aren’t perfect, and never will be!!

The hardest goal I have set for myself is to accept my mistakes and own up to them. I am someone who tries to be perfect, and any mistake, I will try to fix right away before anyone knows about it, even though it would be much easier to own up to it, and ask for help. I need to be better about asking for help for things, especially when it’s something I’ve done wrong. This is incredibly hard, since I so badly wish to be perfect (typical oldest child syndrome). However, it’s high time I accept that I am not, and I won’t be. So save the headaches, and just roll with it.

Stop Trying to Get People to Like You!!!!

The second and somewhat less difficult goal is to be less accomodating. When it comes to others, I want everyone else to be comfortable before I am comfortable. This leads to deferential treatment of people when it isn’t necessary. In a business setting, this will only keep me at a lower level than my peers, when I should be at the same. To those around me, I wish to show that I am capable and respectable, without the need to be looked down. In essence, I should stop being so nice just to please people. This sounds like self-flattery, but I don’t mean it in that way. My tendency to cater to others is a bit of an insurance policy, so that they don’t see me as a threat. However, if I ever want to make a lasting mark, I want to be seen, heard, and not forgotten. So, no more bending over backwards to please people.

Welp. It’s down on paper (sort of). So, I’ll do my best, stick with it, and know that it is for the betterment of myself and my relationships. Happy 2019 everyone! Please let me know what your resolutions are this year!

 

 

 

No Room for Seconds

Hello everyone! It has certainly been a while since I have taken the time to sit and collect myself here, and pose more questions for you in hopes that they will bring about that spark of curiosity.

The past few months have been a whirlwind of change, from leaving my job in order to pursue my masters degree, to my sister moving in with me, and finding new hobbies and interests. I feel like everything has gone by so quickly that I can barely keep up with all this change.

Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am a perpetual over-filler. In other words, I bite off more than I can chew. My desire to do everything causes a lot of what I do to be a half-assed effort since I cannot dedicate enough time to each to be great. This has always  been a cycle of decreased self-esteem to rebuilding and committing the same crime in order to redeem myself, which is built on living up to my parents’ example (typical asian first child). It has always left a bad taste in my mouth, so I am working hard to cut down on my commitments and do my very best with the ones that I have.

My grandmother once told me that when you are a kid, you have all the energy and time in the world, but no money. When you are an adult, you have the money and the energy, but no time. Finally, when you become old, you have the money and the time, but no energy. So depending on where you are, use what you have to the fullest. I thought about this a lot, and I came to the conclusion that in today’s world, energy and money comes and goes, but no one has time anymore. Why is this? Because today’s society gives no room for seconds.

As a kid, to be successful, you are expected to get top grades, play an instrument, be a star player on a sports team, be student body president, start your own non-profit or do many hours of community service, along with maintaining a vibrant and healthy social life. With this being the norm for many of today’s youth (American and otherwise), the pressures on our kids and teens today is stifling, since there is always someone out there willing to work harder than you for the same opportunity.

Once you reach “adulthood”, you are expected to know how to pay taxes, manage a budget, take care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and sexually, all without any proper guidance or direction. You’re constantly told that you should be pursuing your career, climbing up your ladder, have a healthy and stable relationship with yourself and with a significant other, manage a family, raise well-meaning kids, all while pursuing your passions and continuing to improve yourself intellectually.

This kind of image of perfection doesn’t exist. And yet, we hold ourselves to an impossible standard. I know I’m guilty of it every day. Life has a way to creating snags in our sweaters, raising speedbumps we weren’t expecting. So, as hard as we try to reach that perfection, there is always something missing.

Pursuing many things isn’t a bad thing per say. However, since time is arguably our most precious resource, it’s high time we treat it as such. Commit our time and energy to things that matter, things that contribute to our happiness and the happiness of others. Nowadays there are so many things that make us “better”. Focus on a few, and only once you find stability in the ones you’ve chosen can you begin to consider adding more. You don’t have to fill your thanksgiving plate to the brim the first time. There should always be room for seconds.

So, I ask you this, how do you choose to spend your time, and it is spent wisely? I’d love to know how you take care of yourself and what your priorities are, timewise. Please let me know!

I hope this stirred your cup of curiosity. It certainly did mine. Have a wonderful day, everyone!

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 🙂

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