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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How Lucky I Am

I wake up every day and tell myself that I am lucky. Probably the luckiest. And I should have posted this blog when I wrote it a month ago. But I’m lucky, not perfect.

_____

2014 was a weird one.

January was spent doing a lot of reading, a lot of research, a lot of writing, and a lot of asking myself why I decided to write an honors thesis. This first month gave no insight as to how interesting the year would be.

I spent February through April reminding myself that life is short and so is college. It was the time it took me to get over a three year relationship, and also to lose a friend.

I spent the month of May doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Like indulging in ice cream, drinking lots of beer, and kissing a cute boy or two.

June through August were three months of wandering a new city, adjusting to the life of a college grad, and discovering a pure hatred for cubicles.

September was a month of beginnings, where I explored a new job, a new relationship, and a few new hobbies.

In October and November, I spent a lot of time thinking about trust and people and what it means to put the two together. In the end, I found that the process of learning never ends, and that it’s okay to feel things, especially pain.

And here we are now, in December. I’ve just spent the last two weeks traveling through Central America, and I came home to discover that once again, an entire year has come and gone.

It’s always a unique feeling to be in the last few days of the year, stuck between reminiscing the last twelve months and trying to imagine the next. Time moves fast, and we grow exponentially lucky with each passing second. I hope to remember that for the rest of my life. And I hope that I can look back on each year and find my own seasons within the months, instead of what the calendar tells me.

2014—Things I Did And What I Learned From Them:

I said goodbye to my first love. It was eleven months ago and I still think it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I learned how to love the fact that love for someone or something can continue even when it’s over.

I wrote a 200-page honors thesis. It wasn’t easy, but I loved it. And because I loved it, it was worth it.

I took up new hobbies and gained new skills. All it took was time.

I graduated college. We used to think it was cool to not do homework and be lazy in high school, but now I believe that learning is the best decision you will ever make.

I lost a friend over a disagreement and failure to understand each other. Not all friendships are meant to last, but all are meant to learn from.

I interviewed someone who inspires me. Dan Layus and I had a conversation about heartbreak in the most loving way because things are so good. “How could they be so good that it breaks my heart?”

I lived in a new city, and I learned that you can build a home anywhere.

I discovered a new love for running and mountains. There is something about the natural world that can make you feel more at home than four walls ever could.

I worked in an industry that I don’t really want to be in at all. I learned to learn what I don’t like. And that cubicles are the bane of my existence.

I welcomed a new life to the world, my first nephew, and remembered that life is precious.

I went to a TED conference. Ideas and people are more powerful than money.

I watched the sun rise and set as much as I could. This continues to teach me to never, ever take the familiar for granted.

I went bungee jumping. It was this surreal moment, in which I felt an unmistakeable combination of fear, adrenaline, and peace, all at once. During the free fall, I learned that this unnamed feeling is one that I need to chase forever.

I visited 2 new countries, 4 new states, 15 new cities. The world is big, and I will never get enough of it.

All in all, this year was one of discovery, and testing myself emotionally. While I learned plenty about myself, I also learned that there is much, much more to learn.

Not Your Average Post-Grad

One hundred and sixty days ago, I reached a milestone of my life that only about 7% of people achieve: college graduation. Since May, every new acquaintance I make and every old friend I see has asked, “Where do you work?” or “What are you doing now?”

Here’s my problem with that. Why do people think that every college graduate’s success is measured by whether or not they have a full-time job lined up as soon as they toss that graduation cap in the air?

To start, shouldn’t we take some time to celebrate the giant success that is earning a college degree? Shouldn’t we be asking grads what they want to do with their life, not with their degree? Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe that finishing college is a major accomplishment to be immensely proud of. However, I also think that there is way more to my early twenties than competing for a job that secures my spot in a cubicle, likely next to a middle-aged someone who has been there since his or her own college graduation.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I will have a full-time job one day, and I will probably be starting in a cubicle. But it’s not going to be a job that I applied for just because society told me that it was supposed to be the next step in my life. It’s going to be a job that I want for myself; a job that makes me happy, that I earned, and that I love.

So, what do I say when people ask me where I work or what I’m doing now? Well. Where do I begin? Since college graduation, I discovered a new love for nature while hiking in the Alaskan mountains. I celebrated my birthday delivering letters to Senators’ offices on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., went on a road trip to upstate New York with my mom, prepared homemade lobster rolls in Maine, and attended my first Filipino opera. I also began training for a half marathon, assisted an event planner with a medical gala at Gotham Hall in New York City, and started teaching myself Korean.

“I’m just livin’,” I say. I’m doing things I love. I’m learning from others, and I’m teaching myself. I’m traveling. I’m reading books that I could never find the time to while in school. I’m finding ways to make and save money outside of the 9-5 confine. I’m spending time with people I care about. And I’m taking a step back from the pressure that seems to be pushing too many young professionals in directions that they aren’t even sure is right for them. Most importantly, I hope that I’m serving as a reminder that success doesn’t always have to come in the form of a resumè.

Time matches

How do you know when you’re hurt? Or in love? Or that you want something more?

You feel it.

And lately I’ve been telling myself to take it all in a little more, no matter what “it” is.

Next semester I’m going abroad, and surely I’m going to miss everything about being home. The familiar smells I’ve known since I was ten, and how they justify the cycles of the seasons. My friends and the reckless adventures we share. The bad days that serve as reminders that there is no such thing as perfection. Perhaps surprisingly but best of all, I’ll miss the fear of feeling inadequate.

While I’m away next semester, I will not feel inadequate. I’m finally going to be live a dream of mine. I will be doing exactly what it is that made me feel as if I weren’t living enough. Traveling, studying, and learning, challenging myself, and, well, being myself. It’s odd to say that I need to leave this life I’ve settled into just to be myself but truthfully there are other versions of me that I can’t be here. There’s a part of me that doesn’t even exist yet, and I can’t wait to see what it is.

When I return, I will be new again. So I’m doing my best to take in who I am now.

Breathe deeper.

Stay up later.

Sleep lighter.

Life has shown us that it is all-mighty. It can change our paths at any given moment without providing a rhyme or reason, so let’s not forget to treat each moment differently. I don’t want to forget the details because after all, they are what make the whole. I know a change is coming, and I refuse to ignore it. Next semester is mine to do with it what I choose. And I am me to be who I choose.

Feel everything–good or bad–deeply. Make it so that when you look back you feel something, so that you remember. Cause that’s how you know you lived, and that you are living.

Day 9: Pisa / Florence / Rome

Day 9 was a day full of trains, terminals, and traveling.

We started in Florence and decided to take another day trip, this time to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower.  Another bucket list item of mine is to see all of the seven wonders of the world–this would be my first.  There are a few different lists; I wouldn’t mind crossing them all off!

So we took a train in the morning to Pisa, and we were in and out of that little town in no time.  We walked from the train station to the Tower–had some breakfast, shopped a little, and checked out a farmer’s market on the way–and spent just under two hours at the actual site.  Here are some of the photos I have to show for those two hours:

(This very tourist-y picture of me probably took up a majority of the time we spent in Pisa…)

I think I remember the price of climbing to the top of the tower to be about 15 Euros and I really disagreed with that so I had to pass.  Isn’t that a little lot pricey?!  I could go for a 20 minute gondola ride in Venice and have a Euro to spare with that!

Anyways.  Onto more important things that don’t make me so frustrated…

We arrived back in Florence early afternoon and got to go to the Santa Maria Novella.  Of all churches, I think I was least impressed with this one.  The design was beautiful but the inside was average.  Although I may be the only one who felt that way.

I stopped by the Gelato Festival while my mom went inside the church at the Duomo.  I was wearing shorts so I wouldn’t have been allowed in–there is a strict dress code.  Knees and shoulders must be covered.  The Gelato Festival definitely kept me happy so I can’t really complain.  I spent a whopping €8 on my last gelato in Italy.  The largest cone they had stuffed with chocolate and nocciola with wafers on top.  Need I say more?

Our last meal in Florence was at a restaurant called Fool’s Pizza.  I particularly enjoyed their lasagna dish, and my mom had this delicious spaghetti carbonara plate.

We took a train back to Rome in the evening, and I spent the rest of the night packing and getting prepared for the following day–the beginning of the second half of my trip!

So I guess this blog marks the (almost) halfway point of my travels.  In just 9 days I took 2 planes, traveled to 7 cities, rode 2 boats, climbed well over 400 steps, and made more than a handful of memories.  And the best part is that I got to begin again with a new adventure the following day!

It was a pivotal moment in my 3-week journey, and I could honestly say that I looked back on the last nine days of my life and had nothing but good stories to tell and no regrets.

Day 8: Venice / Gondola / San Marco

One of the places I absolutely needed to visit on this trip was Venice; any time I’m close to a destination where I can cross something off my bucket list, it becomes necessary to do so (or at least try).

So we spent one day in Venice, and I’m not sure if I was just rushing or if there really wasn’t much to do there. We got there and walked around for a little while, shopping and looking around. And then we took a boat ride to Piazza San Marco. The boat ride was a nice way to relax, take some photos, and see Venice from its canals.

St. Mark’s Square was such a big plaza, the church was beautiful, and the architecture was pretty unique. Overall, I thought the entire city was colorful and flower-ful!

In the Piazza itself, we had lunch in the shade while listening to the live bands, fed the pigeons (great, fun photo-opp), and walked around to see the shops and stores.

After exploring the Piazza, we took a walk around the area back toward the train station where we arrived. On the way, we saw a lot of small canals where gondola rides were offered, and our logic was this: The further away from the main tourist parts of the city, the cheaper the gondola rides would be. Turns out we were definitely wrong. This is the real logic: The further away from the main tourist parts of the city, the meaner the gondoliers (gondola drivers).

Many of the gondoliers we spoke to (deeper in the canals) charged above the average rate (an angry gondolier charged us €120), which is €80 for a 40-minute ride. We decided to go to the main canal for a ride because we knew we could bargain a cheaper price. Luckily, as we were waiting on line for the ride, a man approached us and asked us if we wanted to share a 20-minute ride with him and his girlfriend so that our per-person rate would be cheaper. After we said yes, another couple joined our group and we had the maximum number of persons allowed: 6.

The ride was very rocky which made it kind of fun! I enjoyed getting to see the architecture, buildings and bridges up close from the water. It was a great experience, and I really felt like I got my money’s worth. We each paid about €14–I think they charge more than €80 for a 40-minute ride if the gondola is full. Tip: I definitely recommend going with a group, or at least for a shorter amount of time if you’re looking for a bargain.

If you or someone you know has also visited Venice, ask them what other activities they did or spots they visited–I’m super curious. When we did everything we wanted to, we even had time to kill before our train left.

Maybe it was because we were time-pressured but I really felt like there wasn’t much to that city. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful (my favorite spot for architecture and color), but it was a little quiet in some areas and it didn’t seem like there was much to do.

Definitely want your feedback/thoughts on this post!

EUROPE

I’m going to Europe TODAY!!!!!!

I’ve been waiting six years to go back and I couldn’t be more grateful or excited. For ten days, I’ll be exploring Italy with my mom. It’s her lifelong dream to go there, so in many ways I’m more excited for her than I am for myself! After the first ten days, she’s going to head home and I’m flying to Germany to meet up with my friend, where we will then take a flight together to her home in Norway.

I’ll be with her for ten days, and we have a trip planned for Amsterdam, where we will be staying in an apartment graciously offered by her friend who is actually here in the States right now. We may also go to Paris, Germany, Sweden, and Belgium. Our plan is not to plan. Good one, right?

The important thing I have to say about this trip is how infinitely blessed and thankful I feel. There aren’t enough people who absolutely deserve to see the world and just don’t get the chance to. It breaks my heart knowing that there are people who have hardly been farther than 500 miles from their home.

Traveling is one of the best, most self-fulfilling experiences a person could have, and to be afraid of that is almost sinful.

How could you pass up an opportunity to visit a place like the Colosseum in Rome, where Imperial history practically fills the air?

(Colosseum)

Why would you ever say no to hiking to the top of Preikestolen, a cliff formed during the Ice Age?

(Preikestolen)

How many opportunities do you get to visit the red-light district in Amsterdam, a place some imaginations couldn’t even dream up?

(Amsterdam)

The message I’m trying to get across here is that you should always walk a road that leads to other roads. Don’t hold yourself back if you have the opportunity to visit a new place. Take in as many moments as you can, and never turn down an adventure.

Just remember that life is so much better when you’re actually living.