You’ve got my love to lean on darling, all the days

Before I left for South Korea three years ago, my older sister told me that she’s a little bit sad that I’ll miss some important “growing up” moments in my niece’s (her daughter’s) life in this next year that I’ll be in South Korea. Well, I’ve been here for three years and it really pains me that I’ve missed out on my nieces’ and nephew’s youths. What if they have their first kiss? What if they get bullied and don’t know who to turn to? What if they get in a fight with their parents and want to talk to me about it? All these what-ifs went through my mind, so I started writing letters to my eldest niece. I put them in a box, and I hope that when the time comes, she’ll pass it on to my other nieces and nephew, and that it will be helpful to them while I’m gone.

This was one of the letters:

To my little one,

There is so much that I want to teach you and tell you and learn from you. I hate to be absent for any part of your beautiful life, but while I’m away, I hope you remember some of what I’ve already tried to teach you.

Be patient and kind, to everyone, always. Including yourself.

Do not believe in luck. Believe in gratitude. Feel it all the time.

Treat every human being as exactly that: a human being. Show respect to everyone, even your enemies, and do not tolerate being disrespected.

Your feelings are YOURS and there is never a need to explain why you feel them.

When you learn something, don’t forget it. Intelligence is extremely attractive and invaluable.

Never, ever, ever, ever assume. Never assume that someone ignored you, or that someone is mad at you, or that something was your fault. Because anything can happen at any time, and we are not always aware of everything at once. Don’t disregard coincidence.

In confrontations and arguments, express only how you feel. Do not tell people what they did, but tell them how they made you feel.

Living well is the best revenge. Don’t believe in revenge.

Work hard. (Be lazy, but only sometimes.)

I once sat next to an old German man on a train and he asked me what my dream is. I told him that I want to travel, and he told me about how he moved to the U.S. from Germany as a young boy with nothing. He went to school, became a doctor, and now he teaches at a university in New York. He offered me this advice: “Keep a positive attitude. Don’t compromise your dreams and something will come and open up your universe. You younger generations need more confidence. Just know that us older generations believe in you. Let the universe come to you—invite it.”

Too much of anything can turn into a bad thing. The keys to happiness at its finest are balance and moderation.

Tell your parents goodnight before you go to bed. Tell the people you care about that you care about them. People need to be reminded of that.

Not everything lasts forever, and that’s okay. Look back and remember the goodness of all things, and be grateful for having it.

Ask yourself questions all the time. It is important to be able to answer to yourself, and be true to yourself.

The earth is a precious place, and you are just a visitor. Treat it well. Save as much life, energy, waste, and water as you can. Nothing is unlimited.

An excerpt from one of my favorite articles: “We have these brief lives, and our only real choice is how we will fill them. Your attention is precious. Don’t squander it. Don’t throw it away. Don’t let companies and products steal it from you. Don’t let advertisers trick you into lusting after things you don’t need. Don’t let the media convince you to covet the lives of celebrities. Own your attention — it’s all you really have.”

Stories are gifts that we give to each other. They can be happy, or sad, or scary. They are real, and they are meaningful. Remember as many of them as you can, especially the magical ones. Hold onto them and don’t forget that they can be very, very real.

“You are responsible for the energy you put into this world.”

Travel opens your eyes and your mind to both realities and dreams. Always keep going.

Try not to raise your voice, and try to always smile. Try new things often.

Know that the world we live in is a big one. There are millions of different souls and perspectives out there. You should never feel alone.

Power comes in many forms. Music, stories, writing, expression, art, thought, knowledge. Power is from within. Use yours—you have so many!

Self-discipline and patience are very necessary strengths. Learn them as early as you can.

Avoid any and all feelings of jealousy. Never wish to be anyone else.

Never burn bridges because you never know when you might need to cross them again.

And most importantly, never doubt that you are loved.

Love always,

Auntie

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Here I am in Amsterdam!

See what I did there? #rhymecrime

Today is Tuesday and my 5th day in Amsterdam and aside from being 50 degrees colder, it’s just as lovely as I remember.  Canals, narrow cobblestone streets, dark buildings, and the liveliest of atmospheres, this city has an empowering energy that I remember  feeling before I even got off the train for the first time.

I’ve been living with a Norwegian friend, who I met at Hofstra a few years ago.  Ironically, I’ve been learning more Norwegian than Dutch during my stay in Holland.  I guess that’s normal.

Over the weekend we went to a place called Pacific Parc and I would really recommend that place if you enjoy music from the mid- to late- 80s.  There were these two ridiculously dressed female DJs that were going wild and I suppose seeing that is an experience in itself.  We also went to an Irish pub by Leidseplein the following night, where I decided to begin collecting coasters from bars.  So far I have three or four different ones.  Not a lot.  Gotta hit up more bars.

What impresses me the most about this city is the mix of people.  You’ve got American tourists who just want to get high and walk the streets of the Red Light District dreaming of the girls in the windows, and let’s be real, is that even something worth dreaming about?  Sigh.  Americans.

You’ve got the locals–people of all ages that have a love for this city that they can only hope is conveyed to visitors. You’ve got international students who probably came here to find the perfect combination of schoolwork and partying, hoping for more of the latter only to find that Amsterdam is about more than just the party.  There are people and places here that matter.  Things to learn and see and do and be a part of.

I learned the most about this city by taking walks that lasted for hours.  Up and down the canals and through all of the little streets that weren’t made to be discovered by tourists.  I met incredible people who wanted to know about me–a stranger–for no reason at all.  Just a little different than the people you’d find on the streets of New York City I’d say.  But then again, NYC is different from every city.

But then again, so is Amsterdam.

To see more photos I took in Amsterdam, visit my flickr page here!